Far from a buzzword floating around a crypto Discord server, Web 3.0 is here and it’s going to change the game for event marketing - possibly forever. Event marketers prepared to dip a toe into the world of blockchain tech, NFTs and the metaverse will find themselves handling new challenges while reaping the benefits of a more robust, secure, privacy-friendly approach to digital marketing. So, where to from here?
- Hold up - what the NFT is Web 3.0?
- What do NFTs and the metaverse have to do with it?
- How will Web 3.0 transform the events industry?
- What does this mean for event marketing?
- What do event marketers need to know?
- How event marketers can thrive with Web 3.0
- Web 3.0 in the real world - who’s doing what?
1. Hold up - what the NFT is Web 3.0?
To explain it properly, we need to do a little time travel.
The earliest iteration of the web (hereby referred to as “the good old days”) was for people to get information. We Asked Jeeves and Yahoo’d our way across the World Wide Web, used questionable IRC servers and yelled at our parents whenever a phone call interrupted our sweet sweet internet time. Back then, events were still very much an “in person” thing.
Enter Web 2.0. Seemingly overnight, the game shifted. Instead of using the internet to find information, suddenly the internet was getting information from us. What we bought (and more importantly, what we didn’t), where we went, events we attended, what we liked, disliked, who we hung out with, and every time we so much as sneezed in the direction of a website was suddenly in the hands of very powerful faceless entities.
What’s more, the events industry exploded. Now, not only could we watch events being live streamed from our living rooms, we could tell the world we had tickets. On the other side of the coin, companies like Facebook could see all the events we attended, talked about, and showed an interest in, and popped us on an audience list for similar companies advertising future events.
Turns out, some people don’t love having their every move monitored and advertised back to them.
And so, Web 3.0 was born. Web 3.0 is all about building a more robust and powerful internet, taking back control of our personal data, separating our digital and physical identities, and making digital ownership crystal clear (and governed by the people, not big business). And we’re doing it with the help of blockchain technology, the metaverse, and NFTs.
What do NFTs and the metaverse have to do with it?
NFT stands for Non Fungible Token, which is a digital record representing ownership (note: not copyright) of a digital asset. NFTs usually cover assets like images and videos, but in the near future we’ll see them move into other areas (like ticketing, metaverse property ownership and digital identity verification). If that makes your eyes glaze over, you’ll want to unglaze them and pay attention - the NFT industry is exploding, going from an estimated market value of 40 million in 2018, to over 40 billion in 2021 (source: Bloomberg). The point is in the previously murky waters of digital ownership, there’s suddenly a concrete way to tell exactly who owns what online.
The metaverse is an entirely virtual universe/ecosystem (not to be confused with Meta, the company), removing the more traditional barriers to in-person, virtual and hybrid events (like capacity). We’ll see huge changes and opportunities for metaverse involvement in corporate events, especially now that distributed teams are a global standard. Combining augmented reality with virtual reality, the aim of the game in the events industry is to take the user experience to new immersive heights, creating an ‘in person but at home’ feeling.
How will Web 3.0 transform the events industry?
Thanks to COVID-19, we’ve already seen a shift towards hybrid and virtual events. The metaverse takes it a step further, with an entire virtual universe making end-to-end virtual events a reality (and in time, the expectation). As anyone old enough to remember gaming platform Second Life will tell you, the metaverse makes it possible to virtually interact and socialise in a way that feels damn near close to the real thing. This creates a whole new world of opportunity for virtual events, where attendees can do everything they’ve done before with virtual events, like attend virtual stages, network with other attendees, participate in virtual games, and catch up on past streams. But better - think more interactive, immersive, and engaging.
With the metaverse, we’re only scratching the surface of what’s possible for events. In time, AR glasses and holograms will elevate the industry to a new global standard for virtual events. It won’t change everything overnight, but for the few prepared to experiment - the opportunities are limitless.
What does this mean for event marketing?
Where previously the focus was on collecting data from attendees and using it to create better event experiences, now the focus will be on building community, and empowering and rewarding attendees by making events more valuable and engaging than ever. Now, not only will speakers and experiences be a drawcard, event organisers can woo web-savvy attendees with NFTs and the chance to earn event-specific rewards.
With digital privacy at the forefront of the Web 3.0 experience, users will also be able to choose who they want to interact with, who they want to see, and how they want to engage with brands. The good news? Event marketing will become more about attracting great-fit attendees, and less about being a catch-all for huge market segments and fence-sitters in the name of selling tickets.
Other benefits include:
- Easier payments for creators - commissions and other payment conditions can be built into NFTs
- Future-proof events - hybrid events including the metaverse will be more resilient in the face of disruption due to global issues (like pandemics)
- Sustainable events - less impact on the environment than in-person events
- Infinitely customisable options - more brandable elements including digital skins and virtual real estate will mean events are more attractive to sponsors and speakers
- Fewer logistics - maximise attendee reach with fewer logistical issues like travel, transport, accommodation, schedule changes for speakers, hosts and attendees.
What does this mean for event marketing?
It’s not all Nyan Cats and unicorns. As with any new tech there’s a lot of debate about actual vs perceived value, and for some, the idea of metaverse events and NFTs is met with a hefty dose of skepticism. The good news is, Web 3.0 doesn’t actually change a lot for the way we market to users. Not yet, at least. The same marketing principles still apply the way they always have - now there are just a couple of extra things to keep in mind, namely:
Your attendees have the right to be forgotten
Event attendees can (and will) revoke your access to their data. Then they’re gone. Probably forever. To keep them in your systems, you’ll need to deliver value.
Try this: rather than stressing about the loss of individual metrics, or the potential future loss of a customer, focus on how to improve the way your participants experience your events from first exposure, to registration, to post-event follow up. Success is more than a metric - it’s an experience.
Data and the way we use it will change
With Web 3.0, your digital identity isn’t tied to your real identity. With Web 2.0, looking at a product on a Shopify website was enough for it to appear in your Facebook, Instagram and YouTube ads. In Web 3.0 you can choose to look at pages, products, and make purchases without it becoming a part of your social feeds and overall user experience.
Getting consent to market to your customers will be the next big challenge - you’ll need to make a compelling argument for why users should opt in to sharing their data - and if they do, you’ll need to follow through on your promises to keep it.
Moderation is key
Censorship is difficult on Web 3.0 because it’s not managed by any one entity - this has both upsides and downsides, but the main thing to keep in mind is moderators (AKA virtual reality bouncers) will become an essential part of virtual event staffing to keep things running smoothly and hassle-free. No moderator? No event. It’s not worth the risk.
Know your audience
NFTs won’t wow everyone in the early days - you’ll need to know your audience. Techy crowds? The hyper online folks? Sure. But tread carefully when promoting them as a value-add with folks who won’t appreciate them (think older audiences and tech-averse crowds). And if you’re including them in swag bags, think about the long-term gain. Assets - even digital ones - that come riddled with logos won’t be as valuable as those without.
Work within your budget
Unsurprisingly, fancy tech comes at a price. If you’re working with a tight budget, put your funds towards the event experience rather than trying to wow with an impressive tech stack. NFTs for example, cost to mint (create) and sell on the Ethereum main network, with the minimum cost at around $70 per NFT as of December 2021 (source: Marketrealist). This will put them out of reach as a standard ticketing option for all but the most well-funded events.
How event marketers can thrive with Web 3.0
You don’t need to understand how it all works, but understanding what the possibilities are, how you can use them best, and what might get in your way will work to your advantage. It’s about educating (yourself, key stakeholders, and attendees), staying relevant, and delivering value for attendees when they engage.
Learn early and experiment
The internet rewards fast movers, so if you can prepare yourself for the ways Web 3.0 will change event marketing and start testing early, you’ll see fewer negatives and far more benefits than your competitors.
Start simple - and provide support
It’s important to remember that most event participants won’t be experts in the metaverse and Web 3.0 - they’ll need guidance, especially at first. Start with simpler, small-scale elements, and provide guidance so speakers and attendees can understand how to take part, and troubleshoot when things don’t go as planned.
Use new tech strategically
While minting NFTs for regular tickets is probably a fair way off for most events, making NFTs a VIP-only perk could be a more accessible and budget-friendly solution.
One option is POAP, which stands for Proof Of Access Protocol, which uses NFT badges to verify event attendance. Without getting too technical, because they’re not minted on the Ethereum main net (instead they use an Ethereum sidechain called xDai), they’re a relatively inexpensive way to leverage NFTs for events. POAP protocol was first used at the ETH Denver Convention hackathon in 2019 as a reward for participants. It worked, because the convention was full of attendees with a vested interest in crypto tokens and NFTs - so an NFT reward was a huge value-add.
For the majority of events it’s likely we’ll see them being used to reward attendees, with random prizes assigned to NFT tickets - swag, digital assets like albums and art, and meet and greet experiences with VIP guests. You can even award guests bonuses for attending the full duration of an event.
Go where the interest is
When attracting attendees, don’t try to make people care about something. Instead, listen to what they already care about, and focus your efforts on that. Epic is a great example of social listening done well - their Fortnite concert featuring Ariana Grande was just a taste of what’s to come in the world of not only gaming, but live music. The takeaway? Learn what (or who) your ideal audience cares about - and deliver it.
Focus on community - but don’t forget connectivity
Web 3.0 makes it easier for event organisers to run truly diverse, inclusive and equitable events. One of the biggest barriers? Fast, reliable internet access - so make sure you plan carefully around where your attendees are based, and take device usage into account (not everyone will operate on the latest tech).
To build community, encourage conversations in shared spaces, and make it easy for people to get involved, find each other, and have fun together.
Partner with experts
Don’t assume virtual event experience will translate to metaverse events - when the time comes, work with experts who specialise in custom VR and AR experiences to make sure you deliver the goods.
Hot tip: before launching an event in the metaverse, attend one as a guest via a platform like Decentraland. That’ll give you some insight into what works, what doesn’t, and what you can do to make your events a success.
Web 3.0 in the real world - who’s doing what?
Fashion is as forward an industry as ever, with Gucci going viral last year for their foray into fashion as a virtual art installation in Roblox. The event engaged attendees in their “Gucci Garden” by stripping them of their avatars upon entry, with the idea that “we all begin our journeys through life as a blank canvas” (source: Roblox, 2021). As visitors moved through the experience, their avatars absorbed elements of the exhibition, resulting in a one of a kind creation comprising different fragments of the installation. Fashion house Balenciaga has also been experimenting with the technology, creating digital outfits for Fortnite users to buy.
Roblox seems to be the platform of choice for big brands dipping a toe into the metaverse, with Warner Bros using it to host a launch party for their film In the Heights back in June 2021. The main attraction? A virtual flash mob dance event, including special choreography to make participants feel like “they’re a part of the movie”.
Ultimately, the advancement of tech like this presents us with new ways to build communities and connect with others. What’s more, we’re heading into totally new territory - so there’s no shortage of ways to experiment. Instead of worrying about how Web 3.0 will change or restrict your marketing efforts, if you focus on how to use that tech to nurture and grow your community, you can’t go too far wrong.
We’re here to help you get more attendees and sell-out your next event, whether it’s in person, hybrid, virtual or even in the metaverse. Get in touch with Gleanin, the community marketing platform, to find out how we can help.