If you follow certain influencers in the crypto space, you might have seen the debate that flared up over the weekend regarding marketing, or shilling as it is known. It isn’t a new topic. We have discussed it before, and I consistently ask people within the space their views. This is based upon the wider industry of marketing, a massive industry that is pivotal for many companies not just in cryptocurrencies, but in practically every other industry nowadays.
With the rise of social media and YouTube stars, Instagram influencers, and Twitter profiles with thousands of followers, companies are willing to pay them for promotion. Unlike television adverts, paying for influencers to promote your product is relatively cheap. One of the most prevalent issues with these adverts though is that it is often hard to determine whether they are even adverts at all.
In the UK, the Advertising Standards Authority have recently released new guidelines for influencers that they need to follow. Advertising for a product but not disclosing clearly that you are being paid for such is being removed from the space as this typically breaks advertising laws. A famous reality TV star from the UK has been critcised for promoting a baby formula without clearly disclosing it was a paid promotion.
Clearly, this isn’t just an issue for cryptocurrencies, but part of a wider space that has emerged with the rise of social media and influencers.
How is marketing affecting cryptocurrencies?
There are thousands of cryptocurrencies, and unfortunately, the vast majority of coins are scams. There are different levels of scams, to be fair. There are the outright scams, and then there are teams that truly believe in their project but ultimately the project doesn’t have a chance to work and therefore is more of a delusional scam.
Within the community of Crypto Twitter, there are numerous accounts with thousands of followers. For many projects, the easiest way to get their name out there is to use these influencers to tweet about their project. Having been to conferences for Coin Rivet, I have personal experience of these companies. As a media outlet, they realise that they can use our platform to get their name out there.
Since 2017 (and earlier, to be fair), individual marketers have entered the cryptocurrency space. They have professional experience of building social media profiles and gaining followers. If they are unable to gain a natural following, there are many tools that they can use to buy followers to make themselves look more influential than they actually are. Their own experience of cryptocurrencies however is never going to be as great as those that have been in the space for five years or longer. Cryptocurrency is a complex and confusing space that can take years to learn.
The Wild West of cryptocurrencies means marketing isn’t generally overseen by a body such as the ASA. Instead, members of the community feel responsible for calling out what they view as unethical shilling. This can go overboard, as it did over the weekend. Personal insults or threats are unacceptable in any form of life. Calling out the unethical behaviour of shillers, however, is not.
Those involved in such shilling argue that what they are doing is no different to advertising for McDonald’s. Yet, with the amount of scams and new people uneducated in the space, questions must be asked. By taking payment from any project and promoting it, you do have questions to answer over ethics. If someone new to the space pours their life savings into a coin that you have advertised, surely there is some responsibility on the shiller’s behalf?
New people within the space see these marketers as experts even though their knowledge might not be as extensive as they state. New people could buy these coins and soon find their money quickly gone. The worst part about this is that marketers are advising certain projects in the cryptocurrency space even whilst they admit they are not even experts.
Shilling or marketing?
Where you stand on the debate of shilling/marketing depends on your viewpoint. Having personally lost lots of money in my early days from a variety of trash (mainly through my own stupidity more than anything), I am sceptical whether it is such a good idea to ever shill coins if you are being paid to do so. Those against this argument would state they are making money and hustling. Yet there is money to be made within this space that doesn’t require you to take money off scammy ICOs or companies. By learning to trade, educating newbies, or even buying projects with solid fundamentals, you should be able to find yourself in profit within a year or two without the need to be paid to shill.
During a bear market, attracting new people to the space is vitally important. Pushing them towards poor projects which will likely lose them money in the long run isn’t going to help this. The aggressive personal nature of some of the attacks these marketers face isn’t particularly going to endear new people to the space either. However, calling people out on shilling I think is a valid question, when done properly.
Sure, there is an ethical way to shill. Rather than being paid in a $ amount, if you are going to shill a project, why don’t you get paid in the cryptocurrency asking you to shill for them? Of course, this must always be disclosed as well. For new people in the space, I would avoid following all shillers, at least to begin with. Their aim is to make money for themselves. Most aren’t bad people, but some are a bit of a plague on the whole community.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author should not be considered as financial advice. We do not give advice on financial products.