3 ways your business can build a community economy

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Tiffany Xingyu Wang, Chief Marketing Officer, OpenWeb

  • The way we interact online is shifting away from creator-led content, and towards a community economy.
  • This gives brands the opportunity to become community builders.
  • This will involve creating safe spaces for respectful dialogue, protecting customers’ data and encouraging engagement.

The way we interact online is undergoing a massive shift, away from an emphasis on creator-led content and towards more community-driven connection. Web3 is the next iteration of the internet, in which users will be the ultimate builders of content and experiences, and value is decentralized in the form of tokens, distributed ledgers, cryptocurrencies and computing power.

Web3 offers a more equitable and open web – one where “users” are people first, with rights and dignity. It has the potential to address some of the more negative aspects of online life, such as lack of privacy and the prevalence of disrespectful discourse. In this new phase, decentralization, democratization, and unfettered access will create an emerging community economy. In this new online landscape, brands have the opportunity to become community builders.

From the creator model to the community economy

The creator economy dominates much of the internet today. This model elevates one person above the rest, as the arbiter of conversation. Communication flows in one direction, from the creator down to followers; the creator acts as a celebrity ruling over a fandom, rather than a participating member of a collective. Under this system, we’ve seen power concentrated in the hands of a few Big Tech platforms.

The community economy, in contrast, is a product of the decentralized ethos of Web3. In this model, everyone has an equal opportunity to contribute to the conversation because the value lies in the collective community instead of the individual creator. The power and influence of each community, in turn, is based on the number of engaged participants. People are free to make their own choices about how they interact with brands and platforms – whether they’ll pay to access sites with limited advertising, whether they’ll register their information on an app for exclusive benefits or loyalty programs.

In the emerging community economy, all constituents – people, advertisers, publishers and brands – are on equal footing. Brands and media serve as the impetus or starting point for connection and can play an active role in cultivating the communities that build up around them. These are the three pillars brands need to adhere to in order to build a thriving, healthy community:

1. Create a safety net for civil dialogue

People should be able to expect civil behaviour when they comment on articles, videos or social posts. In order to earn the trust of their customers and followers, brands must create safe places for quality conversations. They should maintain civility on their websites, on social media and in their comments sections by modeling good behavior and monitoring user-generated content.

2. Build systems to protect customers’ data

Users need to have ownership over their data. Under the current system, social media giants use data for gain, but a community economy allows users to decide what they are willing to exchange for access and operation. Brands that give users this freedom will be best equipped to build trust and encourage people to return again and again to their site – a foundational element of an active community. This might mean allowing users to replace subscription pricing with advertising, as Netflix has. Or consider Brave’s approach, which rewards users who watch ads with Brave coins.

3. Become a destination for diverse engagement

Media and brands need to shift their mindset away from a focus on content or product production, towards community building. After all, people don’t return to a publisher’s site simply because they like one particular writer, or repeatedly return to a brand simply because they liked one purchase. It’s about a bigger picture, involving shared values and interests. It’s about connecting with the community and trusting the brand.


What is the World Economic Forum doing about the metaverse?

Experts believe that the metaverse will come to represent the next major computing platform, transforming consumer experience and business models across industries.

Fashion brands are one example. Over years, apparel companies have perfected the design, manufacture, and distribution of clothing to anticipate consumers’ wants and needs in line with seasonal changes. But today, most of their revenue is surpassed by the $3bn worth of sales of digital cosmetic items in Fortnite, which have a cultural significance that extends far into the physical world.

This is one of the economic opportunities of the metaverse – the possibility to “assetize” digital content, creating a framework of digital ownership for users. If it is replicated at scale and across sectors, then entire industries will be reshaped by changes to their traditional value chains.

However, the promise relies on the advancement of several key technologies, including augmented, virtual and mixed reality (collectively known as XR), as well as blockchain, connected devices and artificial intelligence. How should these be governed in a way that promotes their economic upsides while protecting individuals’ safety, security and privacy?

The World Economic Forum is bringing together leading voices from the private sector, civil society, academia and government to address this precise question. Over the next year, it will curate a multistakeholder community focusing on metaverse governance and economic and social value creation.

It will recommend regulatory frameworks for good governance of the metaverse and study how innovation and value creation can be strengthened for the benefit of society. Updates will be published on the World Economic Forum website on a regular basis.

Whether you’re a sports league or an ethical cosmetics company, you have an opportunity to make your brand a destination for engagement. Brands can create metaverse experiences where people can convene and connect; they can build spaces for their customers to converse on their own website or app. They can launch creative activations that merge the experiences of people at their physical locations with the experiences of customers online.

Imagine, for example, if the NBA chose to reclaim the center of conversation from social media and bring fans to its own website to encourage interactions. It could offer custom avatars, host virtual games and develop exclusive features, or create a rewards program for fans that build out their profile and network on the NBA’s website. I call this BYOW (“bring your own web”) and brands that adopt it will be at the forefront of building the decentralized community economy.

The community economy model promises a new chapter in online engagement, which is built on trust rather than authority. Now is the moment for brands to start mapping out their blueprint for the future.

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