Everything You Need to Know About Community in web3 — An Interview with Drew Coffman

Drew Coffman is a community and NFT strategist for SuperLayer and a governing member of Friends with Benefits**. After cultivating community in web 2.0 for Unsplash and Creative Market, Drew started his journey in web3 creating NFTs and community projects. As an expert in community management and strategy, he has contributed to several significant web3 projects including Aave, Scab Shop, Frens, and more. You can learn more about Drew here.

Travis Zane is a creator and web3 specialist with a focus on social media, content, and marketing. After building social and marketing fronts for the likes of Rally, Oasis Network, and over 20 Web 2.0 brands, Travis brings his expertise to SuperLayer with the goal of expanding web3 utility to consumers worldwide. As a creator focused on queer empowerment and social equity, he is passionate about community-oriented, interdisciplinary projects. You can learn more about Travis here.

Travis: Community itself has become a buzzword in many ways. To start us off, I’d like to tackle what the word “community” means…

Can you define “community” in the context of web3?

Drew: In general, I’d define community as the voice of the group of people who are going to shape the future of the web3 project that you're working on. People who are vocally saying, “This project means something to me and I want to help create the trajectory of what it will look like in the future.”

It is important to really think through what it means from project to project. There are builder communities, investor communities, and communities for each space within the web3 ecosystem. Community for an NFT collection is going to look different from the community of a DAO, which will look different from the community of a web3 tool.

Travis: That’s a great definition that resonates with the decentralized values of web3, and it makes me wonder how you view “community” in the context of web 2.0…

How is community perceived and managed differently in web3 than it is in web 2.0?

Drew: In web3, community management is about being a real advocate for the community — there isn't an “us vs. them” mentality that we see in web 2.0 because the community is the entire lifeblood of any web3 project. web3 recognizes the immense responsibility and potential of building a strong, engaged community with real agency over project direction and governance.

In web 2.0, the “us vs. them” or “corporation vs. the people” mentality is very evident when we think about community. While community is important for web 2.0 brands, the importance doesn't ever translate over to those communities having effective control over the organization. More often than not, community managers in web 2.0 must deliver news that is beneficial for the company and not the community itself, like “we’re increasing the commission that we take off of every piece of art sold” or “now we’re introducing ads onto the platform.”

Travis: Right — Marketing and community are two core pillars of any successful web3 project…

Do you think the career prospects of both fields have improved in web3 compared to Web 2.0?

A visual concept of the word community (1) — Created with DALLE-2
A visual concept of the word community (1) — Created with DALLE-2

Drew: Absolutely. You can tell that web3 values community more than previous versions of the web by just looking at the demand and respect for community roles. In web 2.0, a community manager is often one of the lowest positions on the marketing team, a team which isn’t valued much to begin with.

In web3, community management is given its own space that works side by side with marketing, and both teams are highly valued.

The joke in web 2.0 is that you give the Twitter account to the intern, whereas in web3 you hire entire teams for community and social media that create and execute high-level strategies for growing and sustaining social ecosystems.

Travis: I’m glad that the fields of marketing and community are both regarded in web3 with importance. But before hiring community managers, a project needs to identify and grow its community first…

What are the initial steps you would instruct a web3 project to take in order to grow a sustainable, engaged community?

Drew: You have to decide who you're looking for. Are you looking for people to build alongside you who are frustrated with current technologies, are you looking for people who want to use something new that you want to build, or are you simply looking for people that share a similar interest?

You want to find people that are looking for something specific — something you’re also looking for — that is missing within the current ecosystem, and then decide, collectively, where to go from there.

So much of web 3 is about building in public and finding social spaces to connect, share ideas, and identify a path forward. Predominantly, in web3 right now, that’s being done on Twitter or Discord — though I’m also excited to see new web3 native social spaces like Taki and Lens pop up.

Travis: Right — So you find your people, but then what? In web3, it’s become apparent that user experience (UX) not only applies to the design of an app but also to the design of a community. I see a lot of projects that struggle with engaging their existing communities, which can result in the majority of that community becoming ghost-members…

How can web3 projects create easy onramps for to grow and scale engaged communities — specifically for new members to join and participate in a meaningful way?

A visual concept of the word community (2) — Created with DALLE-2
A visual concept of the word community (2) — Created with DALLE-2

Drew: I think the biggest part of the “community growth playbook” is recognizing where communities are already forming, and then making your project available to them.

Twitter and Discord are the most valued spaces to build community right now. Creating a social and community culture that feels friendly, open, and engaging is important. That can be achieved by creating accessible content for people to learn about the project, creating a clean and user-friendly Discord guide and FAQ, and encouraging live conversations around the project that new members can dive into.

It’s a lot of work to do all of this on the social and community fronts, but it's absolutely necessary if you're trying to find new people to adopt into the community effectively.

A great example of community UX done well is the Nouns project. If you purchase the Nouns NFT you gain access to the community’s governance, whereby you can create proposals, vote, and impact the project in a bunch of meaningful ways. When you enter their Discord, it’s structured in a way that makes the onboarding process easy — it’s like a forum of governance where many things are being proposed that you can instantly become a part of.

A lot of projects that create social media and community accounts without a clear strategy or UX plan end up with Discords and Twitters that are ghost towns or pandemoniac messes, which are more detrimental to the project than if the accounts never existed in the first place.

It is crucial to make understanding and navigating your project crystal clear for somebody who just learned about it thirty minutes ago, and to remove potential hurdles to participation.

Travis: Now that we know what founding teams of web3 projects should do to grow community, let’s dive into what they shouldn’t do…

What are the most common pitfalls projects face when building and managing their communities — and how might founders and community leads avoid them?

Drew: One major pitfall is going after immense community growth at the expense of quality members, and therefore achieving a saturation of members who are in the project for the wrong reasons. We have a lot of people in web3 who are speculators, and that can result in a lot of new projects being flooded by empty community spam. If there's no one to help guide new waves in the community or shift runaway narratives, it can hurt the project in the long run.

Another major pitfall is a complete lack of community. A lot of projects try to launch and move forward without engaging with the existing ecosystem. For example, if a successful artist from web 2.0 tries to launch an NFT collection in web3 without ever interacting with the community, that collection will most likely flop. If a project’s founder is perceived as someone who isn’t a part of the web3 space, people will see a lot of red flags and can dismiss the project entirely.

It is important to build a community organically, starting with the existing web3 community itself. In web 2.0 it’s very common to build in stealth mode and then launch out of nowhere, which is the wrong strategy for any web3 project.

web3 communities value being able to see a project grow in public, so it’s important to let as many people know what you're doing, how you’re doing it, and why you’re doing it for as long as possible, in order to grow the community organically until you're ready to launch.

Travis: Definitely, organic growth is always key. However, many new projects face an issue when it comes to social proof. The more numbers you see behind a project — whether its Discord members or Twitter followers — the more likely people will be to give that project a chance…

How can projects strike a balance between growth and quality when it comes to community?

A visual concept of the word community (3) — Created with DALLE-2
A visual concept of the word community (3) — Created with DALLE-2

Drew: I think we're in an interesting space, because it seems like more and more people are starting to understand that these numbers have become gamified — that a project that has 1M followers doesn't really mean that it has 1M followers. However, you’re right, those signals are still really strong. When you look at a project that doesn’t have many followers, it’s easy to mentally dismiss it in a way that you wouldn’t with a project that has a “K” at the end of its count. It’s a reality that people have to deal with.

However, I think we're also starting to see new metrics that the web3 community cares about just as much as numbers. For example, if I’m using Twitter and I come across a new account, the first thing I notice is who I follow that also follows that account. If I come across an account and it's not being followed by anybody that I know, that's a way bigger red flag than it having a low number of followers.

I think the most important thing projects can do to strike a balance between quality and quantity is to ensure that inroads into significant web3 communities are being established alongside general growth in numbers. Where are your web3 people hanging out? What are they interested in? How can you establish relationships with them? Answer all of these questions and you’ll be on the right track.

The allowlist strategy that really dominated 2021, that focused on getting as many people as possible onto the lists and thrived off of the element of exclusivity — is starting to be phased out. It's not as valuable as it used to be, as people are starting to settle into the web3 ecosystem in a more meaningful way and choose projects that they actually care about long-term.

As opposed to just doing a huge giveaway and getting a bunch of people to follow your account, you can identify ways to thoughtfully connect with web3 partners that might share a common value or goal. Figuring out how to organically connect with important web3 people who can share your project will be more beneficial than accumulating 100,000 bot followers.

Personally, if I were to start a project from scratch today, I would rather have 1,000 followers who are all web3 builders with their own connections than 100,000 followers who are a mix of speculators and bot accounts.

Travis: That’s a great line of advice — Go for building a smaller, foundational community of culture-creators and leaders in web3, as opposed to a huge group of speculators and bot accounts…

Can you give some examples of aspirational web3 projects that achieve integrity in community quality and engagement?

Drew: In my eyes, the ‘FairShare’ feature achieves the heart of web3 by putting ownership into the hands of the community. In web 2.0, we are constantly being monetized. In web3, we are constantly being rewarded and recognized for our contributions.

FWB really focused on establishing a community of genuine, talented, diverse people who could actively contribute to the health of the community, which is a huge reason why being a part of the membership extremely rewarding. People are constantly sharing really interesting perks of FWB membership through conversation. There are global channels where people organize IRL, share recommendations, and collaborate on new ideas — I've gotten some of the best food recommendations in Los Angeles from the FWB-LA channel.

Travis: It’s awesome to have seen the FWB community launch their own brand too. Collective action like shared investing, founding, and project ownership is one of of the main functions of DAOs that excites me most. FWB is a great example to strive for, but studying the most well-known web3 projects can also be a bit daunting for new founders…

What would you tell someone who has an idea for building a new community project in web3, but is unsure of whether or not the idea has legs to stand on?

Drew: We’re still so early in web3 and the opportunity field is immense. If you have an idea that you don't see being executed, it can be yours. You’re able to own an entire component of the web3 ecosystem because you aren't really competing against other people who are trying to do the exact same thing.

If you have an idea, champion it, especially if it fits the values of web3: Decentralization, community ownership, and innovation.

A visual concept of the word community (4) — Created with DALLE-2
A visual concept of the word community (4) — Created with DALLE-2

SuperLayer is a Web3 venture studio that builds and supports new multi-chain, tokenized consumer products and applications powered by the RLY Protocol. Led by Managing Partners Kevin Chou and Mahesh Vellanki — who have more than $1 billion+ in exits between their combined venture and founding experience — SuperLayer works with partners and teams to facilitate the launch, staffing, go-to-market, compliance, and fundraising for Web3 projects. The Web3 venture studio’s mission is to attract and support the next 100 million people using crypto. For more information on SuperLayer, visit superlayer.io. ••• Mirror | Blog | LinkedIn | Twitter

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