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Inspiring Others To Grow
Demonstrating the art of possible through showcases
“The creator economy isn’t a thing”
I am taken aback early in my conversation with Patrick, VP of Growth and Partnerships at Unlock Protocol. His declaration on the creator economy is surprising, especially given his background - growth and marketing roles at creator-centric platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, and even co-founding a social music platform.
“If you look at the music industry, the top 0.7% of Spotify artists earn more than 90% of pay out revenues. The top of charts are always the same few artists, and outside of the top 1,000 songs, the number of plays drops very quickly,” explains Patrick. “The same can be said across the creator economy - less than 1% of artists earn over US$50K annually. We often proselytize the promise of profiting off creating content on these online platforms and how creators can earn a living, but if you dig into how many creators can provide for themselves on an ongoing basis, the number is very small.”
Truly, the power law for creators - across art, music, content, film - means that it “isn’t a thing” for the majority of contributors. If that is the reality we live in, and Unlock Protocol exists to help creators, then how can they “make it a thing”?
More than just providing an open-source, contributor-owned, community-governed, peer-to-peer system that creates time-based NFTs, Unlock Protocol has to go above and beyond to inspire creators on the art of the possible. Only then will more creators be inspired to create, and consider utilizing Unlock Protocol’s time-based NFTs to create recurring revenue through subscriptions and membership.
That is where showcases come in. Patrick and his team figured that evoking inspiration among creators and to-be-creators is one of the most critical drivers of growth, and one of the most effective ways to inspire is to showcase.Showcase the utility of creator NFTs. Showcase the tools that allow ownership of audiences. Showcase how rewards can be shared between creators and consumers.
In what follows, Patrick introduces the showcases and tools Unlock Protocol has experimented with to foster inspiration, and offers practical advice on how to do the same.
Habit Building - An advent calendar
During Christmas 2022, the Unlock team created an Advent Calendar for participants to claim a new NFT daily for 24 days, and learn about Unlock Protocol. The key was consistency - individuals could only open the day’s door if they opened the previous day’s door. Occasionally, some of these NFTs contained surprises. While seemingly simple, the goal was clear - encourage more usage and increase familiarity with the blockchain. While the minting of a NFT might seem straightforward for the web3 native, it still remains intimidating, and a low-barrier approach of Advent Calendar NFT minting led to more than 250,000+ transactions.
Festive Jacking - Red packets for friends
Fast forward a month, the Unlock team decided to try a more social showcase. One of Unlock’s designers proposed an idea of minting and sending a gift of hongbao during the Lunar New Year in January 2023. In addition to adorable art, the red packets acted as raffle tickets, with some containing mini-surprises. The mint price of a hongbao was designed to reflect the tradition - small token sums to express goodwill and well wishes, and all 1,680 NFTs were minted out for individuals to send to friends.
Event Jacking - Treasure hunt for socks
Beyond the virtual realm, Unlock Protocol also ventured to the physical world during ETH Denver. Across various Discord and in-person events, they decided to showcase a novel way to create an episodic experience with rewards at every step. Throughout the course of the conference, participants could embark on a treasure hunt to collect 6 NFTs, and those who accomplished the challenges could redeem Unlock Protocol socks.
While the above campaigns might seem “gimmicky” to some, these showcases were not just activations, but were demonstrations of Unlock Protocol’s core product - a protocol for creators to generate smart contracts, add original artwork, craft content, and set up exclusive experiences. Most, if not all, of the tools were designed for simplicity, and are explored below.
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Tool #1 - Smart contract to own audiences
Unlock Protocol built Flocker, a no-code smart contract deployment tool. By entering one’s Twitter handle, the tool generates a membership smart contract in less than a minute. Unlock Protocol’s message to creators was this - don’t just rely on a single platform. Own your audience.
By “duplicating” a creator’s Twitter profile on a Polygon smart contract, the creator would receive the contract and a message to followers on how to participate and support.
Tool #2 - Event organization
Another tool the team built was an “Eventbrite for web3”, except the event was on a smart contract. The inspiration behind the tool was to allow event attendees to register for events with their wallet addresses, collect POAPs upon attendance, and token-gate mini-communities post-event. By creating these wallet-aware gates, it ensured exclusivity - one can only join the Telegram group if they registered and attended the event.
Tool #3 - Membership management
The natural extension from events was then membership management dashboards. The team recognized that these dashboards were key interaction points for most creators as they configured memberships, view member information and interacted with the key functions of the Unlock smart contract. As such, the tool was designed to be intuitive.
Tool #4 - Certification issuance and authentication
Unlock recognized the opportunity to bring credentials on chain for simplified validation, having learnt that the process for document verification today is a nightmare. (Don’t believe us? Try to get your college diploma verified). Through the blockchain, the ambition Unlock has with their Certification tool is to turn that process which takes days at minimum to seconds.
Tool #5 - Reward sharing with audiences
The most recent and major tool Unlock introduced was ALPHAtweet - an experiment to help both creators and the community members who share the creators’ content get paid. Without Unlock’s smart contracts, this would not have been possible - where not just the creators, but those who share the creators’ works get compensated.
The tool allows creators to set their own price for unlocking exclusive content - not unlike Patreon or OnlyFans. What is different is the split with the sharer - creators set a referral percentage bonus that is split with those who amplify the content. When sharers bring eyeballs and consumption to the content, they automatically get a split of the rewards.
Perhaps most impressive is how some of the creators on Unlock Protocol proactively created content using ALPHAtweet, and even created a walkthrough video to demonstrate the experience.
The number of showcases and tools Unlock Protocol have built in a short span of time is breath-taking. When asked on how a small, distributed team of 7 is able to achieve so much, Patrick shares his advice:
Draw ideas from your community - Unlock Protocol identified their “power users” and assembled Unlock DAO that frequently submits proposals on showcases that can be built
Figure out quick wins - Events and certification tools were created as a result from speaking with event organizers, and realizing that they were quick wins to build atop the existing membership management tool. In a span of days, the apps were created.
Focus on the top of the food chain - At the start of his journey with Unlock Protocol, Patrick would take up to 16 meetings a day and met with 700+ companies in a short span of time (essentially anyone who might need a smart contract). Over time, he realized that this was unsustainable, and began to focus on the larger players. In Unlock Protocol’s case, it was collaborating with the largest advertising and media networks globally who give access to notable brands including Nike, LV and Roblox. This improved scalability and Unlock Protocol has now set its sights on the ambitious goal of 10M transactions as a result.
To sum up, Patrick shares, “We can shout all we want on social media and our website on how things work. That is not inspiring. Inspiring is doing it ourselves, building things to showcase how it can work, and encouraging others to follow our lead.” In short - talk less, do more.
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