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How to think about building web 3 communities
“Community” is a buzz word that is thrown around a lot. It sounds simple, but it’s not.
Having grown Guild of Guardians from 1 to 200k+ community members, and having been a part of over 200 other Discord groups and NFT projects, I would like to share some insights into building web 3 communities.
Community management in web 3 is a relatively new topic. Most people learn via observation - by being part of communities and seeing how they develop and grow.
However, community management is constantly changing. What was ‘best practice’ one year ago may no longer be relevant. In addition, there isn’t a single formula or strategy that can be applied. There are many different communities which all thrive, despite having different vibes, people and styles.
Therefore, instead of going into the strategy & tactics of building a community (i.e. setting a brand & vision, channels, content etc), I think it would be more interesting to share some conceptual lessons which are more likely to be broadly relevant.
Lesson 1: Gaming leaders should understand community
It’s relatively well known by almost every web 3 gaming leader that “community” is required to succeed.
However, I suspect it isn’t given as much importance as it should be by some. Based on observations, there are a few types of responses from gaming leaders:
Those who understand communities and get involved, often publicly and vocally
Those who appreciate that communities are complex, but ‘solve’ for it by hiring a community manager or deferring to ‘web 3 advisors’
Those who see it as something that must be done to ‘check the box’ rather than something that should be over-invested in (more typical web 2 approach)
I would suggest that both #2 & 3 could be traps.
There are a few reasons for this:
Community is super impactful on projects - many of them live or die based on their ability to build, engage and reward their community. Almost every successful NFT brand is built off “community”, and understanding WHY they are successful (and why people are willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on JPEGs) is incredibly valuable.
Community management is a relatively new area, and relying on someone who claims to be an expert because they’ve joined a few Discord groups could be dangerous.
Leaders must at least recognise good community management so they can hold others accountable to the quality standard that is required to succeed.
Community management starts with decisions, which are often made by the leaders. The most controversial or engaging topics in the community are usually reward, game or product decisions, which means understanding how decisions will be received by the community is a critical part of a leaders job.
Lesson 2: Don’t Manage, Empower
Community “management” is a misleading term. Communities in web 3 aren’t a group of people who need to be managed. Management implies restriction and limitation.
However, the role of community in a web 3 game is quite different. It’s about growing and empowering the group of people who share a common vision. The community itself should be thought of as a force to be reckoned with.
When thinking about communities, I’m not thinking about how to maintain a status quo. Instead, the objective is to empower supporters and evangelists. The job is to find ways to unlock and incentivise creativity and participation among the community, by creating the right systems, rules (or lack thereof) and reward mechanisms.
In the future, I expect that gaming companies will see community building as a major advertising expense, and instead of spending billions on paid advertising (see graphic below), they will be spending billions on the community.
Lesson 3: Deeply understand sub-communities and adapt accordingly
Communities are not singular in terms of their profile. Not everyone in a community is going to have the same interests, joys and complaints.
This is particularly true for web 3 gaming communities which feature different types of community members, some of whom may have conflicting interests. For example: pure gamers will be different to NFT investors who will be different to content creators who will be different to token liquidity providers.
The challenge therefore isn’t to just understand “the community” as a collective, but to understand each sub-segment of the community.
As a developer, building deep empathy for the needs and interests of each of your community segments, and genuinely adapting your decisions based on this empathy can go a long way.
To make things more difficult in practice - sentiment and community perspectives for each sub-segment will change over time, which means it takes effort and time to be in tune with the community. Further, as a leader, the bigger the game and community gets, the less time you will have to engage and be up to date. To solve for these last 2 challenges, it’s important not to lose sight of the value of community, and to build these values as part of the culture of the entire team - NOT just the ‘community manager’ who has been hired.
Communities can be a ‘super power’ and unique differentiator for a game.
Even for Guild of Guardians, one of the most well known innovators in the gaming space, I believe we are still at the very beginning of unlocking the true potential of web 3 communities.