What Does Blockchain Technology Mean for Social Media Marketers?
By Freddie Haydn-Slater
Since the mid 2010s, blockchain technology and the popular cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, have been a big part of the pop culture conversation. To some self-described HODLers*, these cryptocurrencies are the money of the future – here to set us free from the shackles of the Federal Reserve and unavoidable inflation caused by quantitative easing devaluing the mighty dollar… To others, cryptocurrency is a worthless Ponzi scheme touted by basement-dwelling Redditors, or a tool used by drug dealers and criminals on the Dark Web.
Despite the temptation to dive into the contentious coin debate, we’re here to focus on the technology that underlines it and the potential use-cases blockchain has outside of DeFi (Decentralized Finance). We’re here to talk marketing, specifically social media marketing. So, if blockchain is being talked about as “Internet 2.0”, what does that mean for current and future social media platforms? And what does it mean for the wider digital marketing space?
What is Social Media? And What is Blockchain?
Social media is defined as a “form of electronic communication through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages and other content”.
Blockchain is defined as “a digital database containing information that can be simultaneously used and shared within a large decentralized, publicly accessible network”.
So already, it’s clear that there are some overlaps here. Both social media and blockchain are designed to connect people and provide a network for data to be shared and accessed online. So, what about some of the differences between the two?
A unique feature that blockchain brings to the table is that it is decentralized. This means that unlike existing social media platforms, there is no governing authority owning the framework. Another feature of blockchain is that it cannot be corrupted. Every node within the framework has a copy of the digital ledger which adds transparency and security to the platform.
Okay so enough about decentralized frameworks and cryptographic ledgers. Let’s just speak plain English. Blockchain presents us with something for the people, owned by the people. Imagine a Twitter, but with each user owning all of their data. Not only a decentralized social space, but a much more democratic one. This will give much more power back to consumers in terms of collecting user data.
During a recent Timothy Ferriss podcast featuring Ethereum** founder, Vitalik Buterin and entrepreneur Naval Ravikant, Naval gave a nice example:
“You could use Ethereum to build a Twitter that everybody owns and it’ll require social consensus to operate but multiple people can put their data in… It’s decentralized, it’s open source, but it’s still used to coordinate and bring people together.”
What does blockchain technology mean for marketers?
At first, it might sound like blockchain will make things harder for social media marketers to do their jobs effectively. But really, it just changes how we can communicate with consumers with an emphasis on transparency and building authentic online communities.
Social media, unlike many other forms of marketing allows you to engage in a direct dialogue with your audience, rather than pulling the strings behind the curtain. That’s what attracted me to the social media space to begin with. There’s much more opportunity for authenticity and true human connection. While more protections of consumer data might seem like a challenge for marketers (especially given the new privacy protections from Apple and how these have impacted Facebook advertising), but really, we have some interesting opportunities:
- Transparent Marketing: Blockchain technology can create transparency around your client’s products. If you’re promoting a CBD product, for example, and want to let people know that it has been rigorously tested and is safe, it becomes a lot easier to audit supply chains with this technology and ensure product claims are verifiable and can be trusted.
- Cheaper Ads: Without having to go through a centralized company, not only would digital advertising become less costly, but it would also realistically give marketers access to better tracking and measurement, making it easier to show the ROI of a given campaign.
- More Democratic: As stated earlier, blockchain presents us with platforms that can be designed to be owned by the people. This would mean that decisions over how to run the platform and how to respond to individual cases can be a democratic decision governed purely by social consensus.
- Fewer Data Breaches: One of the main features of blockchain technology is how secure it is. Unlike current social media companies, this means that users will have much more control and security when it comes to handling and sharing personal data.
- Good News for Content Creators: Another benefit of booting out the middle-man is for content creators. Currently, creators like YouTube Vloggers get paid for the content they produce via the social media platform that serves ads to its viewers. With blockchain-based social media platforms, content creators could be directly compensated for their efforts.
Blockchain technology is still very much in its infancy, and it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. All technologies can be abused in different ways, so users must do their own due diligence and remain wary. We won’t see these changes impacting our daily scrolling or marketing activities in the immediate future, but it’s always good to stay on top of these fringe technologies that eventually have a way of governing large chunks of our lives.
Ironically, social media isn’t necessarily the best place to research blockchain, given the keyboard warriors on either side of the great crypto debate. But if you’re interested, it’s worth looking at some of the social media platforms that already exist in the space (I’ll include some links below). Full disclosure, I’m of the mind that blockchain is here to stay whether we like it or not. It might be nothing, but it’s far more likely to be something.
Blockchain-based social media platforms:
*HODLers: Internet slang misspelling of “hold”; adjective used to describe the buy-and-hold strategy in the cryptocurrency space. Sometimes referred to as an acronym “Hold On for Dear Life”.
**Ethereum: Decentralized software platform used for its own cryptocurrency, ether. 2nd largest cryptocurrency after Bitcoin. While Bitcoin is used as a medium of exchange and store of value, Ethereum is also intended as a platform to facilitate “smart contracts” and applications via its own currency