You can build and invest in web3 projects but if there’s no one to write about them, it may never see the light of day. We’re not even joking.
Content creation is by far one of the most underrated but crucial aspects of the web3 space with content creators blazing the trail for increased awareness and adoption of web3 technologies. Recently, we gathered some of the best minds in content for an insightful discussion about strategy, trends and hacks for the web3 content space.
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This session featured Pete Huang, Business Operations and Strategy at Coinbase, Ivan Hong, Content Lead at Request Finance. It was moderated by Nigel Lee, Strategy and Operations Lead at Immutable.
How did you get into web3 content?
Pete: My web3 journey started a year ago and I began reading about the space at the peak of the bull run where there was speculative energy in the market. On the whole, content has always been an important part of the web3 journey for me because it served as the first point of entry into the space. However, I realised that there were so many technical documents and white papers about projects but very little for the average person. Therefore I felt that simplifying the content was important. I wanted to start writing content for folks who don’t have the time and energy to keep up with the industry’s developments. To me, content has now become the gateway towards making web3 as accessible as possible.
Ivan: As a development economist by training, I got into web3 pretty early as a result of requests from people asking whether I could advise and write for them on issues such as token economics and the design of certain incentive systems for utility tokens. I did some work for the Singapore regulators, was editor for the Singapore Blockchain Ecosystem Report, then moved into more content focused roles in layer 1 and 2 blockchains and finally to my current role at Request Finance. I’ve had the benefit of seeing how content has evolved within the space, becoming more accessible and less technical.
What’s been happening in web3 so far and where do you think we’ll go from here?
Ivan: We’re definitely in a bear market. A lot of what’s happening in crypto cannot be delinked from the macroeconomic outlook. I’m not going to deny that we’re in a recession but it’s going to be a good period for people who are looking to build something in web3 or at least join a project or team that is serious about building something in web3.
Pete: It’s fantastic to be able to observe the space now from a historical, scientific and technological perspective. From what I’m seeing, it’s a reflective period for the space. You’ll even see trend pieces like ‘What are the latest problems we need to solve in web3’, ‘What has been frustrating about the progress of web3 so far’ or even ‘Why weren’t we asking those questions before?’ For me it’s one of those turning points where we will have a shot at doing something great if we take this moment seriously and channel our efforts to the right places. Ignore it and we may see the same situation happening a few years from now.
Why do you want to create content?
Pete: After spending lots of time on Twitter, I noticed that there were only two types of content. You either have very technical or general content. With this clear knowledge gap, the question for me was ‘What does it look like if someone were to write about crypto and web3 for someone who is explicitly not in it?’ For example, my target audience would know that bitcoin exists but nothing beyond that. However, they’re also super excited about developments in the space. How would I strike the balance between technicality and accessibility of the subject matter? This thought experiment turned into me sharing my thoughts with the people close to me and then now with a bunch of people who have found me through the internet.
Ivan: The reason why I wanted to focus on being a content person in web3 was that I wanted to bring clarity to the space and talk about the real use cases for developments in web3.
How do you connect with different audiences?
Ivan: The audience profile I’m targeting are your regulators, those in tradfi, investment banking or even fintech. They don’t necessarily understand how this technology can eventually impact what they do and my job is to convince them. This group needs to understand in a deep way because they need to see how it relates to their specific industry concerns. Unfortunately, it’s something the 101 content out there does not necessarily cover. For me it’s not so much about bridging the gap between people who don’t already have a background in tech or web3 but it’s really about connecting with the people in web2. Where I focus my efforts is to be able to address the concerns my audience has with a deep understanding of web2 and what has been done there. It’s therefore important to have alot of domain knowledge from web2 or tradfi to be able to say, ‘Here’s why web3 is different’. On the whole, the problem in web3 today is that most people are just nerds talking to nerds. And they’re just using all these terms that are incredibly alienating to someone who is trying to understand that space. Frankly, anyone who is new to crypto twitter thinks they’re speaking a foreign language!
How do you figure out the right content strategy for your audiences?
Ivan: It starts with empathy and figuring out how your audience feels about something. What pain points do they struggle with? What’s their perspective and what do they want to know? Once you have a deep understanding of your audiences’ needs, you can begin to develop content that addresses their concerns. Basically, the point of content is about reducing the cost of information. It could be a digital cost and it could even be a cognitive burden if you have to spend hours on crypto twitter sorting through the information. So even if you are just rehashing content in a simple way, that in itself creates value.
Pete: A fundamental question I think about is, ‘If I could keep someone curious and interested, what would I share with them?’ Perhaps it’s the latest attempt to find that killer use case in web3 which would keep someone interested or maybe it’s about having an interesting discussion about what NFTs really are. At the end of the day, I just try to engage the audience in a more thoughtful conversation and see where that takes me. In terms of content curation, I keep a running list of topics that I’ve seen in the news or interesting use cases. My objective then is to post once a day and do it every day, picking topics off the list in a pretty adhoc manner and to demonstrate breadth in the content I post.
How do you know that what you’ve written is good and ready to be published?
Pete: Most times I’ll have a post that I’ll have to trash and find a new angle on. And more often than not it’s because I didn’t think it was landing. If it’s not landing with me, it’s obviously not going to land with the people who are reading it. Each post also needs to make one point. That point has to be very interesting and resonate with the people who fit that audience profile. Sometimes when I’m writing halfway I will realise that I’m falling into the trap of writing a whole lot about how this thing works, but not going into the ‘why’. The questions I ask myself are, ‘Am I teaching someone and getting them interested in something?’, ‘Am I inspiring them?’ and ‘Why is this post going to be interesting?’
Ivan: You don’t! I think when you start writing content, you gradually figure out what works and what doesn’t. It’s part of the process of trial and error. Over time you get better at understanding what your audience wants and what they’re reacting to. In the end it comes down to knowing what’s your point and then delivering it in a targeted manner to your audience.
What’s your writing process like?
Ivan: Similar to Pete, I have a repository of drafts and ideas that I tap on. On the writing process, the trick is to write fast and edit slow. The moment you have an idea, come up with a working framework and pad out your key ideas and points. It’s a great way of figuring out whether you have something valuable to say. In the process of doing that you create a framework for a post or an article. Along the way you may feel, ‘I’ve got to think about this part more’ or ‘I’m not so sure I’ve got the data to support this’. So you iterate and keep working on it till you’re finished. To give an analogy, I would say that the process of writing is very much like cooking. You’ve got to keep a fridge stocked with ingredients. From time to time you’ll open it and figure out what dish to make. It’s exactly like how you need to gather all those ideas and facts before you can piece something together.
Pete: I saw a tweet recently where someone asked for advice on how they might write better fiction stories. An author responded by saying, ‘Write everything that happens in the story and then write it again as if you knew what was going to happen the entire time’. Drawing this back to web3 content, we need to assemble all our ideas on these topics and ask ourselves, ‘What is an interesting way to tell a story in a manner that resonates?’
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start creating web3 content and be taken seriously by their audience?
Pete: Asking yourself why you want to create content would be a good start. In terms of the approach you would like to take, it depends on the audience type you know, what you know very well, what you’re personally interested in and the tone you would like to adopt in telling a story. The content creation goal you set for yourself will lead to several tactical decisions affecting the topics you write about, your audiences’ needs and the kind of platform you want to publish on. All that being said, the most important thing is just starting with something. It’s an uncomfortable but necessary process. You’ll write and rewrite pieces and feel it’s not right until you press the publish button and see what kind of feedback comes in. To get better at it, publish something first. Then come back in a few days and compare your post with another post you really liked. Asking yourself what the difference is between the two helps you to view your post with a more objective eye. Overall, the mindset to have is to do something that resonates with you and motivates you to keep doing it.
Ivan: The thing to do if you want to start writing specialised content is to read alot. It’s to be really familiar with the subject matter because it’s impossible to write well about something you don’t understand deeply. Until you do that, you’re just not going to be able to produce content that is credible. Not only should you try to write alot, you should also spend alot of time reading. To me that’s the key differentiator. And it’s not just reading things that are purely crypto in nature. Being able to have that depth of knowledge and sense of history is critical to being able to write well. If you’re doing more marketing oriented writing, it’s really about zoning in on who your customer is and figuring out what they want to know. However, if you are writing to an audience that has alot of reservations about new web3 technologies — regulators being one example — you’d want to be able to speak to their concerns and perspectives.
What are the different kinds of web3 content that you are seeing and have you seen any geographical differences?
Ivan: I haven’t really seen too many differences in the content produced in various geographies. However I do see geographically specific discussions on regulations and application specific things. For example, content in the emerging markets may focus on the stability of the US dollar and stable coins being the superior alternative to local currency but apart from that I don’t really see many geographical differences. In short, don’t discount localising your content if there is a very strong use case tied to geography.
Pete: Like Ivan, I don’t really see many differences across geographies. In terms of the question around types of content, there’s many different kinds out there. The very common thing you’ll see on Twitter is the breakdown thread which is essentially a reworded version of the project information to create an easier read for most people. There’s also the curated project list type of content where people can discover various projects out there categorised by theme. Then you have news outlets that will cover the latest happenings in the web3 space and also the VC type of posts which get a bit more conceptual about what web3 is meant to do. Regardless of which type of content you go for, the question to ask yourself is, ‘What am I trying to get the person reading the post to do or think by the end of it?’
What are some tips you can share on getting better at writing?
Ivan: I see content as a bridge between people who have that in-depth knowledge and a more general audience. In order to bridge the gap in your writing, you have to read alot in order to know what you’re talking about — whether it’s different aspects of the crypto ecosystem, DeFi or NFTs. The other thing is to write. There is no substitute for writing. You’ve got to get started. It’s going to be difficult because writing is not natural or easy and is a craft that has to be practiced. But there’s no substitute for that and you just need to start.
Pete: One thing I did some time in the last 5–7 years was going down the YouTube rabbit hole and watch all these videos where they break down the language used by comedic acts and public speakers. When I watched those videos, I realised just how passive people usually are in receiving those sentences and it challenged me to be more active in thinking about the way I write. It made me realise that I was not thinking deeply about the way I communicate and that I needed to make more intentional word choices.
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