As associations everywhere look for ways to engage with their members, create communities and experiment with emerging technologies, Web3 is the potential intersection. However, with so many buzzwords and startling headlines, how can organizations know where to experiment and whether or not it’s safe?
For day 2 of digitalNow 2022, we set out to answer some of these questions.
‘Be skeptical, but hold it in the same place as your inner visionary.’
Day 2 opened with keynote Alison McCauley and a deep dive into the world of Web3. For starters, she talked through the evolution of the internet, moving from a read-only platform to a place where we can now share information and interact with others.
However, Web3 adds new layers to our capabilities and it starts with four components:
- Digital Ownership – using blockchain, or a virtual ledger, we’ve added a level of transparency to the ownership of everything.
- Direct Access – our ability to circumvent intermediaries. While there will still be middlemen — and associations are powerful examples of that — their roles are changing, as is their role in providing value.
- Data Control – the ability to grant or revoke access to your personal data. Chances are you don’t know who has access to your data and how much of it.
- Programmable Money – money will now be able to dictate its movement, with software protocols, in the form of smart contracts.
Also, this control over content and data moves organizations away from creating content for the masses, with growth and attention gained by virality, to creating content specifically for our most engaged and committed community members.
While these concepts can be hard to imagine and concerns over security and complexity remain for all of us, as McCauley puts it, exploring Web3 requires a combination of skepticism and visionary thinking.
Cryptocurrencies’ impact on the changing global economy
Part of the challenge of conceptualizing the use cases of cryptocurrency is the assertion that we’re still years away from mass adoption. Although there are still some kinks to work out, the reality is it’s already accounting for major changes in the economy.
In his keynote, Ian Andrews explained that in 2021, there was nearly $13 trillion in economic activity using cryptocurrencies – a 500% increase from 2020 – and those numbers are trending up.
One of the reasons cryptocurrency plays such a pivotal role in Web3 is, as Andrews says, “the internet made the distribution of information instant and universal. Cryptocurrency will do that for value.”
Not only does cryptocurrency have a monetary value, but also it can be used for a range of transactions. For example, event NFTs can be used for conference ticketing or as a token to access special events and sessions. Those same tokens can provide voting rights in a DAO and organizations can even create their own forms of currency — though he doesn’t necessarily recommend doing so just yet.
And more importantly, the underlying blockchain technology secures that data, value and identity for everyone to see.
Web3 gives creators back the control we lost to algorithms
For all associations, we are all dependent on platforms to connect with our members. While these platforms, like Twitter and LinkedIn, allow us to connect, they also create a barrier to our growth. We are completely beholden to algorithm changes and updates that can reward us one day and stop sharing our content the next.
This is where Web3 can give back some of that control. In his presentation, content entrepreneur Joe Pulizzi explained that brands could build scarce assets and experiences with tokens. And those tokens also provide creators with ownership rights to their content.
In other words, associations can create exclusive content, certifications and experiences on their own platforms, giving them more control over engagement, growth and community.
Experimenting doesn't mean going all in
From destabilizing government-scale hacks to lost and stolen cryptocurrency, there were also plenty of cautionary tales of crypto investments gone wrong and the strange world of metaverse events. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn't be experimenting with what is likely the next evolution of the internet.
One constant throughout all of our sessions on Day 2 was that the time to experiment is now – but you can still take it as slow as you need to, just so long as you’re continuing to learn about what’s becoming possible.
These technologies have vast applications and also vast risks. In other words, minting new cryptocurrency for your association may not be the best strategy to get started. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room to experiment. Whether it’s setting up your crypto wallet, buying your first NFT or joining a DAO, there are plenty of ways to start exploring Web3. Why? Because it isn’t a matter of if these technologies will impact the association space but rather when. And the leaders that already have a foundation of knowledge will be able to help move their organizations forward.
October 6, 2022