Web3 has reached a complicated point in its buzz cycle. As the idea of Web3 expanded beyond founders and funders, it began to attract a lot of negativity. For applications such as DeFi, that negativity has become a part of mainstream media, with stories of hacks and exploits in the headlines of major global and national outlets. It fits a larger easy narrative of “crypto winter.”
The high degree of community and collaboration within the world of Web3 makes it easy to dismiss all that negative buzz. But, in reality, doing so may be a mistake. Negativity is on the cusp of becoming a risk to project success. If it colors a critical mass of perceptions, it jeopardizes wide adoption by fostering fears about safety, risk, legitimacy, and longevity. In such a climate, project teams and other Web3 champions need to focus on potentially unfamiliar skills and tactics from the world of marketing and communications.
The following four techniques can help counteract these shifts toward the negative.
Ignore the Bait
Wanting to dispute and refute negative claims is a natural inclination. Unfortunately, it is also often the wrong thing to do. Given how most social networks and online communities function, engaging with comments can amplify an original post. It turns into a mud fight that boosts the negative with each positive counterpoint.
Worse, it tends to come across as defensive. Someone attacking a general statement about Web3 gives the impression that it somehow applies to them or their project personally. In the somewhat irrational world of communications and perception management, trying to “win an argument” creates a mental association with the argument, regardless of pro or con positions. It is a common tactic in politics to bait an opponent as a way to link them to a broad negative idea, and it works the same in other domains.
As hard as it seems to allow untruthful statements to go unchallenged, it is often best to ignore the bait instead of getting hooked.
The only exception to this principle is counting direct, false statements. When someone explicitly attacks a project or individual with false claims, it is important to respond with simple, neutral facts without getting pulled into a heated debate.
Avoid Lazy Branding
Critics of Web3 do have one legitimate point. “Web3” has too many vague definitions. The term is often used to make something more interesting than it is. While it made sense for the earliest days of decentralized, blockchain-enabled projects, it no longer has enough meaning to contribute to a project’s messaging and branding. For a while, it was convenient shorthand, but now it is no longer sufficient.
Diminishing or stopping the use of “Web3” creates a valuable opportunity because it forces projects to be much more precise about the problem they are trying to solve and the value of what they are building. These questions are critical. They create a stronger proposition for both investors and users because they tie a project to real-world needs, revenue streams, and growth opportunities.
Moving away from Web3, even literally deleting it from a project home page and other materials, is the first step away from lazy branding and toward clarity on the reason why a project is worth building, funding, and using.
Be a Thought Leader
Project teams have specific reasons for committing so much time and effort to what they are building. Solving the day-to-day problems of building something can make it easy to forget that it exists for a reason. An innovative project only makes sense if it allows people to do something in a better way or do something they could not do before. Inside every worthwhile project, there is a case for change.
One of the most significant negatives of Web3 is that it is just fluff. Demonstrating why that is false has a lot of power. Instead of arguing with Web3 bashers, founders can become vocal advocates for something better.
For example, imagine a project making it easier for small businesses to raise capital outside traditional stocks and bonds. Talking about Web3 and decentralization would only appeal to people who already believe in those principles.
Instead, that project team could create high-quality content that talks about the limits, challenges, and opportunities of funding a small business. They can talk about the inefficiencies of traditional finance, the gaps in regulation, the exclusion of people who have not been able to participate, and more.
Being a thought leader will do much more to reshape perceptions, highlight unfamiliar challenges, and shed light on why a solution is necessary. Such thought leadership does not even need to mention Web3.
Get Out of the Bubble
Web3 is a tight-knit community based on mutual support and shared values. Those elements help make it compelling to people inside the community, but they also create unfortunate blind spots. Although it is fair to say that many reporters, bloggers, and other commentators are ill-informed, paying attention to what they say helps avoid surprises.
Even though ignoring the bait is still the best approach, knowing where the hooks are helps to avoid them. Also, even without directly refuting misleading conventional wisdom, it can shape communications and marketing. For example, a lot of commentary has created a strong association between NFTs and scams. Knowing about that linkage helps to anticipate such concerns by highlighting the elements of a project that prevent scammy exploits.
Getting out of the bubble of the Web3 community provides valuable intelligence for a project’s messaging in written communication but also in conversations with influencers and investors.
Marketing and communication are less rational domains than engineering. As a result, they can seem somewhat foreign, especially when a project team has a technical orientation. However, there are practices that experienced marketers and communicators use to manage the complexities of public perception. These practices have one thing in common—staying positive even when the tone gets negative. Given the potential negative tilt of perceptions of Web3, the time for adopting such practices has arrived.