Friend or Foe? The next era of social hubs

By Jerry Shi

Published September 06, 2023

Reimagining social platforms has been a constant on our minds at Synergis, as the existing traditional options are plagued with centralization, data privacy concerns, and poor creator incentive alignment. Blockchain integration offers the potential to solve some of these issues, with digital ownership creating a more dynamic fan/creator relationship and new economic models around embedded finance and content ownership. As teams iterate on new ideas of what the future of social may look like, there will be many approaches to take, with key tradeoffs to be made on sustainable growth strategies and overall user experience. We wanted to look at the hot project of today — Friend Tech and offer a comparison to Medallion, one of our emerging portfolio companies in the social apps space.

Friend Tech

FT has quickly burst onto the scene over the last few weeks, as a platform that allows for users to speculate on and own tokens linked to individual creators. Creators benefit from trading fees in their name and general token appreciation, while fans who hold tokens are given exclusive access similar to platforms like Patreon or Only Fans. The idea itself is not particularly novel with earlier versions such as Bitclout and Rally quickly burning out due to poor go to market strategies and fragmented liquidity. FT stands out so far with stronger backing from crypto influencers as well as airdrop speculation helping to drive adoption. The high earnings of crypto native creators that were early to the platform may entice more traditional creators to follow and onboard their fan bases, potentially boosting adoption in the coming months. FT’s unique bonding curve and instantaneous reward mechanism will no doubt bring in lots of speculators thanks to it being a literal PVP market, but this approach also brings with it lots of questions as well.

Speculation driven hyper growth fueled by tokens has been a common crypto playbook that typically ends in tears. Can a network be sticky if its early adopters are primarily there for monetary reasons? Most ‘normies’ simply don’t care to constantly speculate on things.

Similar to hyped NFT mints of last cycle, up front riches in the form of a social token can lead to a lack of engagement, and failure to deliver on the roadmap as incentives are not geared towards the long term. Can FT iterate on past failings and move to a membership model or less steep bonding curve mechanism to bring better alignment to fans and creators?

Social applications must be able to match a traditional Web2 user front end experience if they are going to achieve mass adoption. Key bottlenecks for new users are primarily centered around on ramp, mobile first, and wallet/key security. FT’s PWA approach is helpful for mobile adoption, but the early versions of the project lack clean UI/UX and cater to crypto native users, not the mainstream simplicity needed.

Medallion

While FT has rapidly emerged on the scene, Medallion has been quietly building up its platform over the last year. Medallion offers a space for artists to build and curate unique fan club experiences. Today Medallion has on boarded 15 artists including: Illenium, Tycho, and Greta van Fleet, the pipeline for new artists is strong with the team targeting 50 total artists by year end before eventually opening up the platform to all creators in the future. These early artists have brought over 150k fans to their unique communities so far. In most cases an artists’ Medallion community has outpaced the size and activity of those on Reddit or Discord. These communities have become hubs for fan/creator interactions as well as fan/fan interactions. Once inside the platform each community can be shaped by the artist, allowing a range of offerings from Season Passes to Behind the Scenes Access to exclusive merch. Artists benefit from exploring new economic models around digital collectibles, while getting unique insights into who their most active fans are. Fans are able to benefit from a more dynamic and bespoke relationship with the artist, allowing for exclusive access and items as well as the ability to join in with their own user generated content. Some of the keys to Medallions success so far include:

Emphasis on Onramp

A high percentage of new users to Web3 applications disappear when required to create a new wallet. By leveraging Magic Link’s wallet sdk solution, Medallion users can sign on with email and pay via more traditional means. Limiting onramp friction and avoiding the need to bridge into the ecosystem makes it easier to grow the platform towards a Web2 audience.

Low Barrier to Entry

The free mint entry to each creator’s community ensures a wide potential audience and limits gating issues that a more speculative token would bring about. Medallion’s goal is to bring as wide of an audience in as possible and is building for millions of future fans to enjoy the platform.

Creator/Fan Alignment

Once inside the community, artists can offer a range of collectibles and access passes to help customize the fan experience. Broadly these items are not meant to be cost prohibitive, but instead create reliable income streams similar to a membership model. Digital collectibles are a blue ocean for artists to experiment with, and offer a new potential revenue stream as well as unique access and insights to the loyalist members of their community.

Digital Deluxe Albums

Medallion’s newest feature is the Digital Deluxe release — this includes a digitally signed album cover, high definition audio downloads, and exclusive behind the scenes access — all in a first class listening and viewing environment. Sales of these digital signed albums will count towards Billboard charts, all while offering collection in a deeper and more immersive format than ever before.

Medallion and Friend Tech are taking very different approaches to a new creator driven social platform, and time will tell which is able to build the most sustainable network. Importantly, both projects share commonalities in being built on ETH scaling solutions (Polygon/Base) each benefiting from lower fees and faster transactions that mainnet simply couldn’t deliver. They also both offer new sources of monetization for creators and the chance for a more balanced future playing field between content platforms and creators. At a time when most blockchain metrics are trending lower in the depths of the bear market, it makes us optimistic about the next cycle to see pockets of growth in the massive social vertical. We are excited to see how the future of social evolves, and believe that blockchain technology will deliver solutions to both fans and creators to create a better aligned environment that allows creativity to flourish.

To learn more, visit: https://www.medallion.fm/

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