Staking is the New Following
The concept of leaders and followers, influencers and the influenced, is as old as humanity itself.
Go back to the earliest reaches of history, and you will see a recognisable pattern. A few people set the trends, and the majority of people followed them. The earliest kings and queens would set the fashion at court, for example. So, what is fashion, if not a trend set by the few, that the masses adopt for themselves?
If you lived in Ancient Greece (ancient times), you would have most likely worshipped the athletes at the Olympics as heroes. They, in turn, would be well fed and clothed by those seeking endorsement. This practice would continue with the rise of the Roman Empire.
This pattern continued throughout the second millennium until the late 1600s, when the age of media was born with the printing of the first newspapers, heralding the first form of mass communication. Now the many could read about the few.
The growth of romanticism in the 18th Century, particularly in London and Paris, depended upon the celebrity of the artists that collectively formed the basis of cultural centres in these cities. An example would be Covent Garden, which still acts as a centre of entertainment to this day. Celebrity Journalism, better known as the gossip pages, dates back to this time, as does the desire of the huddled masses to know what these celebrities were up to.
Enterprising companies realised that featuring celebrities in advertisements would be an excellent way to get the masses to buy their products. So, in 1905, Murad Cigarettes featured Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle in their print ads, one of the first known celebrity endorsements. And with that. An entire marketing category was born. Who wouldn’t buy Chesterfields if a future president of the United States said it was a good idea?
And then there were stars
The impact of cinema, and the publicity machine that developed around it, changed everything. Celebrity moved to its new phase with the invention of The Star.
In the 1940s, a war-torn west would seek respite from the world around them in the Cinema. Women, who often wore their husbands’ clothes because of materials shortages, could marvel at the glamour of Vivien Leigh or Hedy Lemarr. Cary Grant and Clark Gable were the epitomai of manliness and sophistication. This is to name but a few of the many names that would emerge in this golden era. Companies would pay fortunes to have these stars eat, drink, drive, wear or smoke their products.
During the 1970s and 1980s, the concept of stardom expanded to include professional sportspeople. In 1984 Nike introduced the Air Jordan, endorsed and worn by Michael Jordan. When Nike launched the shoes to the public, the NBA banned them because they conflicted with their strict uniform codes (not white enough!). So, Jordan wore them anyway, happily paying a US$5000 fine after every match. Nike was equally happy to reimburse him. Sales of the Air Jordan reached $126 million in the first year alone.
In the 1990s, the next group of people to join the stars were the supermodels. Pepsi debuted their redesigned cans in 1992 at the Superbowl in an ad featuring Cindy Crawford. It is considered by many to be one of the best Superbowl advertisements of all time. After that, Versace would hang just about everything he ever designed on Crawford, Helene Christensen and Claudia Schiffer.
Things arguably started going downhill in the 2000s when many of us first encountered reality television and our next type of star, the Reality Star. Shows included Jersey Shore, The Kardashians, The Simple Life, and many more. There were so many product placements and endorsements in these shows it was impossible to keep count. And they were successful. The stars of these shows became some of the most influential figures in show business. The fact that many of them were scripted and not reality at all was irrelevant. And this phenomenon was the perfect pre-cursor to what was to come next.
But, before we talk about that, it is worth noting that up until this point, the dissemination of influence was very much in one direction. The famous did. The unfamous copied. Print, cinema, TV, and the earliest websites facilitated this. But short of hanging around outside hotel rooms, there was no forum for fans to interact with their idols. Also, at this time, celebrities and influencers were arguably the same things. But, the arrival of Web 2.0 and social media would change that forever.
And Then There Was Social Media
I don’t wish to rehash the entire history of social media in this article; else, I will be writing paragraphs about MySpace and Friendster when what I want to do is get to Twitter and Instagram.
Twitter (launched in 2006) and Instagram (2010) added a direct feedback mechanism into the relationships celebrities had with their fans or followers. A celebrity could tweet something, and then the masses could reply. At some point, celebrities realised they could tweet something that would put money in their pocket, and the masses would buy.
At the same time, a whole new generation of creators started to emerge. People who were not famous, but had access to platforms such as Youtube and Instagram, began to build followings online even they were not celebrities or stars as you would have defined them in earlier times. Instead, they would become the influencers we know today, and some of them would become celebrities as a result. At this point, influence and celebrity started to separate. You could be one, or the other, or both.
The Power of the Following
In the past ten years, we have seen just how powerful a large following on social media can be and how it can move markets. Those with the largest of audiences can drive their followers to spend billions of dollars. For influencers with their products, for example, Kim Kardashian, or Paris Hilton, this seems perfectly natural. However, many influencers push other companies’ products in return for compensation, and thus there can be the perception of inauthenticity.
Note that commercial imperative does not drive all social media. Some celebrities positively use their influence, for example, David Attenborough, who does nothing but encourage his 6.1 million followers to care for the world they live in.
The power of social media influencers, or clout as we would refer to it, is easily measured through the number of followers they have and the willingness of those followers to like, comment and share posts. It is also measured, of course, by the amount of money they spend on the products touted by the influencers they are following.
However, influencers on social media face many frustrations, even if they are making lots of money because they have a vast, monetizable audience.
- First, they don’t own the medium. They cannot monetize it directly, and they cannot charge for access. It can be monetized because they can take third party goods to their audience, but this then leads to authenticity issues. How often do you hear an influencer say they don’t like something?
- The channel is only as good as the next post. Once it has done its thing, even if it is the beneficiary of thousands of likes, comments and shares, and even if it gets posted in the Daily Mail as its own news story, the post will quickly fade into the past.
And Along Came the Blockchain
The question becomes, is there another way that social media influencers can monetise the same creativity that earned them large followings on last decade’s social media platforms? And is there a corresponding alternative way in which their followers can connect with them?
We believe the answer is yes, and the answer lies in the new marketplace that we call the Creator Economy.
In our last article, Social Capital, a New Asset Class, we introduced the PROPS token, which will power the Clout.Art marketplace. Content Creators can reach into their past, take a memorable moment in their social media history, and turn it into a unique NFT.
On Instagram, a forgotten social media post has no intrinsic value and sits on a website over which the content creator has little control. As an NFT, it can be a monetisable asset worth investing in for its unique combination of historical value (to the right person) and the simple fact that only one human being can own it.
But this is not the clever bit.
What is clever is how followers, or collectors, can not only buy or bid for an NFT. They can also demonstrate their belief in the creator through a dedicated staking pool. They can send a market signal directly to the influencer that their content is demanded by staking their PROPS token against that creator. Then, as the creator sells their work as NFTs, all of those who stake in those pools earn a share of the proceeds.
Now, Creators don’t just profit from their audience. They profit alongside their audience.
It is for this reason that we believe staking is the new type of following. Through the power of Blockchain technology, Creators can monetise their content, and their followers can share in the rewards if they are willing to demonstrate their belief by staking against those creators in an open marketplace.
Update 7/28/2021: Clout.art has transitioned from $PROPS token ticker to $SWAY. Read more
Read more about Clout.art and the creator’s economy in our whitepaper.
Got questions? We’re happy to answer.
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Clout.art powers the creator economy of the future by turning the most valuable content, such as your most successful Instagram posts, into unique NFTs. As a microservice, a marketplace, and a staking platform, Clout.art is where creators and fans come together to create, grow or exchange social capital through the $SWAY token.