Social Currencies are a new form of collective investing and community building. This post will help you quickly understand how they can benefit you as a creator, community member and investor.
Social Currencies bind creators with their followings through a token and through token-mediated behaviours. We'll help you go deeper through the lenses of talented creators Julien Bouteloup and Connie Digital.
I first came across the concept of social currencies when consulting on a project at the intersection of live streaming and crypto. It very quickly became clear that the potential was huge.
It's a great time to be a creator. Digital platforms have popped up left, right and centre to service them – Twitch, YouTube, Medium etc. There's a strong sense, though, that platform business models are forcing creators to leave a lot of money on the table. And that the value creators are generating in their communities is difficult to leverage for more growth.
Creators are in large part financially rewarded through advertising. Advertising based on the content and attention they're generating. Creators also find means to supplement their revenue through things like tips, merchandise deals and digital goods like Twitch emotes. Advertising is probably suboptimal, but the really very interesting question is about the suitability of the supplemental revenue. Why can't members buy in to a community directly?
Creators are also unable to leverage the value of their community. They can't reward community members for, for example, creating an unexpected piece of fan art. Or creating a bounty for a video of their top 10 Call of Duty kills (real Dr. Disrespect use case). Maybe they could use something like Twitch's bits, but these lack the benefits of a crypto token – composability, permissionless innovation, community governance etc.
Up until now, it's been ephemeral to "be a part of" a digital community. Social currency promises to solidify and objectify your status.
The solution which emerges to these problems seems to me to be social currencies. That's based on the initial design which came to me during the consulting project I mentioned earlier, and also seeing them in the wild today.
In essence, social currencies are no different to other crypto tokens we've seen. Maybe the networks are much smaller. But they're still fundamentally tokens that bind a network of actors together. Same as any fungible cryptocurrency or ERC-20. Some call them social currencies, some call them social money, personal tokens, issuer tokens – the list goes on (it's early days).
They're issued by the main figure in a community. The person or group that the community formed around. Later on we'll discuss Connie Digital and Julien Bouteloup – they're the creators at the core of their communities, the issues of their social currencies $HUE and $JULIEN.
Recently, Spencer Dinwiddie made waves in announcing his plans to create a tokenized bond built on his NBA contract. This is different to a social currency in that it's a security – a direct promise of revenue from Spencer's contract.
It's technically possible (and not that difficult) for individuals to roll their own personal tokens. But the traction thus far has really come from people releasing their tokens through Roll. Roll is a company pioneering social currencies. They help creators to create and distribute their own social currency. $JULIEN AND $HUE were both created with Roll. The company is backed by Spencer Dinwiddie himself, as well as Arthur Hayes and Gary Vaynerchuk.
For each social currency, a total of 10 million tokens are launched. They are then drip-released, much like vesting in the traditional equity world, into the market each month.
A couple of concerns here. I presume Roll could inflate the supply. And also there's nothing stopping creators from spinning up a new token, leaving you in the cold. Will look to chat with the co-founders about this.
Once creators have their creator coins they need to distribute them to the community. Distribution has proven itself to be a critical component of building successful networks. And it's likely the same for creator communities. My feeling is that distribution should be done directly by training people to perform the behaviours the network finds desirable. Want your community to buy artworks? Reward them with newly minted creator coins when they buy. Want your community to be super cool and chill? Distribute your token to early people who are setting that tone.
Thus, creators hold extreme power to set the tone and culture of their communities. This is in quite severe contrast to the kind of control creators have on current platforms, where their tools are diluted by the incentives of the underlying platform. This is truly a fascinating binding and coordination mechanism for digital communities and at the heart of what has always excited me about crypto.
One thing is for sure – we're going to need a lot of infrastructure to realise this vision. How does a streamer create a bounty for someone to create videos of their best headshots? How does a writer scalably reward people for feedback on their articles?
I think this is a major opportunity for Roll and for other startups. Roll takes a fairly steep 12% of your social currency when you issue through them. This feels like a seed-stage equity investment.
Roll's promise, which you can hear about on this excellent podcast with co-founder Sid Kalla, is to bring value to their social currencies by building out this infrastructure around them. Thus far, they've built the ability for community members to hold tokens by creators. They also enable creators to issue 'rewards' – tokens in exchange for various tasks. This ties into the distribution I talked about earlier.
Next let's take a look at a couple of the hottest social currencies. This should help you understand them better.
$JULIEN is the social currency of Julien Bouteloup. Julien looks a lot like Justin Bieber but he's actually a technical founder of several projects. Most notably, he is a co-founder of Stake Capital, a validator on several high-quality Proof of Stake networks. We recently covered their new StakeDAO. $JULIEN is issued through Roll, and is an ERC-20 token.
Julien's said you'll be able to redeem the tokens for various special things he has access to
Julien also mentioned to me recently that he plans to make staking available for $JULIEN. As we've seen with large-scale crypto projects, tokens suffer in valuation when their only purpose is as a means of exchange – a payment currency. Staking slows the movement of tokens down, locking supply which leads to improved valuations. Julien has said that many of the goods and services above will soon be made available through a staking mechanism.
You can trade $JULIEN through the Roll app or here on Roll's own exchange. Learn
$HUE is the community token of Connie Digital. Connie Digital is one of, if not the, forerunning crypto artist. He's notable for his constant pace of innovation, always ahead of the curve, and his rich, nostalgic artworks.
Side note – I have another business called Hua which deals in art. We're gearing up to launch a crypto sub-brand – drop me an email – jay[ at ]rebase.foundation – if you're interested and I'll add you to the mailing list for announcements. Disclaimer – we own some $HUE.
Connie Digital has been doing some groundbreaking work to spread and make their token useful. You can use $HUE to redeem rewards through Roll and even to pay for certain NFTs on OpenSea. Example rewards include being able to buy certain artworks or buying a unique ENS subdomain, hueman.eth.
You can pick up some $HUE today on Roll's own exchange. See more of Connie's artworks and writing on his website.
Check out some dank artworks by Connie Digital which you can buy today—
The implications of personal tokens in the art world feels pretty profound. If you want to own a stake in an artist in the normal world today you can only really do so by buying their artworks. The ability to buy social tokens leads to an incredible opportunity to own a stake in something that much more directly tracks an artist's actual trajectory.
Stake in Entrepreneurs This also applies in exciting ways to other creative people. Entrepreneurs, for example. Similar to artists, there isn't currently a very good way to gain exposure to an entrepreneur's growth. Practical questions arise about what the token actually should track—
ISAs Social currencies clearly have a strong connection to ISAs – but in which ways are they different? At a high-level it feels like ISAs are much more transactional – "here's some money, go away and make me some more". Social currencies though feel a bit more committed and, well, social. As with many crypto tokens it is unlikely to simply be a case of buying and forgetting. Concrete applications will spring up for "supply-siders" in the individual's network. "Stake your tokens in order to help write content for my site."
Guilds I'd be really curious to experiment with the idea of "guilds". The idea is that platforms could mint or take portions of multiple social different social currencies – for them to work together. This is a bit like the function of a high-end, taste-making art gallery at the moment. The gallery places bets on individual young artists in order to help them rise through the ranks. They get exposure to the artist's increasing notoriety and value by making deals to sell exclusively, by buying works, investing in marketing etc. But what if they could just mint a token for their artists?
Flippening It's easy to see a flippening on the way in the way that digital communities organise. Why would you support a streamer on Twitch where you're only notionally a part of the community, when you could literally show your stake in the community by buying or earning personal tokens and related NFTs?
Social currencies are likely an incredibly powerful innovation and we're excited to track them and contribute to their growth. What are your thoughts? Reach out and let us know on Twitter.
Thanks to Bradley Miles, Connie Digital and Julien Bouteloup for their feedback, comments and inspiration.
Header image courtesy Connie Digital.