Most people building consumer products think their main competitor is the incumbent in their market. For example, if someone's building a short-form text-based social product, they'd say their main competitor is Twitter. Sure, there's some truth to that. But the reality is that their main competitor is people not giving a shit.
In the world of consumer products, it's important to think in terms of a consumer’s time. How much free time do they have? What do they do during that time? No matter what you’re building, your potential customers are probably on TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, Netflix, etc. Those are your real competitors.
The so-called "attention war" isn't about having more features than other products in your market. It’s about competing with the entire internet for consumers' time and attention.
Nowadays, one way to fight the attention war is to start with a distribution strategy, and then build a product. Justin Kan famously said: “First time founders are obsessed with product. Second time founders are obsessed with distribution.”
What do we mean by distribution? Develop an audience. Create interactive experiences for deeper engagement. Build viral loops to help the brand grow.
Teams that start with this approach are “distribution-first products”. There’s three core pillars to distribution-first products: content, community engagement, and virality.
Content marketing has long been a popular distribution channel. Traditionally, it focused on blog posts to improve SEO and rank higher in Google search results for relevant keywords. However, modern content marketing looks a bit different. Today, social networks like TikTok and Twitter are the go-to platforms for initial distribution.
Building an audience on social networks is easier said than done, but a few successful teams have figured it out. They typically:
Focus on a niche. Becoming an authority in a specific area makes it easier to attract a loyal following and establish credibility. Examples of web3 niches include NFT trading, gaming, and DeFi.
Share a mix of entertaining and educational content. This approach keeps audiences engaged, informed, and entertained, increasing the likelihood of content being shared and reaching new users. Frank DeGods and 9gagceo are two of my favorite founders to follow on Twitter because they understand crypto culture (i.e., memes and shitposts) but also share insightful content on what it’s like building a top NFT project.
Be consistent. Feed algorithms tend to prioritize creators that consistently share content. On TikTok and Twitter that means posting multiple times a day. Of course, that’s not super practical for most busy people. But if you’re looking to get prioritized in the feed, you should at least be publishing high quality content multiple times a week. You never know what content is going to pop off so the best strategy is to keep publishing.
In the age of social media, engaging with consumers is essential for building strong relationships and fostering brand loyalty. In the world of web3, there are several ways to drive community engagement:
Twitter Spaces. Hosting discussions on Twitter Spaces can broaden reach and increase awareness of the brand. I’ve seen some teams host a weekly show with guests, while other teams are more casual and host Spaces late at night or just for big announcements.
Discord voice chats. This is a more intimate setting for in-depth discussions, granular project updates, and alpha. Discord is ideal for nurturing a strong community that genuinely cares about the project. Chat channels can get extremely messy but curated voice calls are a great way to build deeper relationships within the community.
IRL events. In-person events can create deep connections between community members and forge lasting, emotional memories. However, they don’t scale given they’re limited by physical proximity and can be expensive to run on a consistent basis.
Web3 projects are known for going viral (everyone likes free money). But the tactics (whitelist giveaways, drop your ENS, ponzi airdrops, etc.) usually attract low-value community members like airdrop farmers and bots. Here are few other options for helping your project develop sustainable viral loops:
Drops. Successful drops in the past have included free NFT mints, web-based mini games, collabs, meme contests, and Discord activations, to name just a few. These drops are usually time-limited events where community members can participate for the chance to earn exclusive rewards. To go deeper into specific tactics and strategies, study how game developers approach live ops.
Influencer marketing. Instead of resorting to low-effort influencer marketing by paying people to shill your project for a few seconds, find influencers who genuinely believe in the project and will share it organically. Have them on a Twitter Space, collab on an NFT drop together, allowlist their biggest supporters for your project. Learn from influencer collectives like Barstool Sports, FazeClan, and 100Thieves to understand how to drive deep collaboration between influencers and products.
Study viral mechanics from other industries. Studying massive content creators like Mr. Beast, streetwear brands like Supreme, and meme accounts on Twitter can help spark your creativity and inspire ideas for your next viral campaign.
When building a consumer product, consider these key questions:
Where does our target market hang out online?
What's our content strategy for reaching potential customers?
How will we engage the community?
What viral loops will drive growth?
By adopting a distribution-first mindset and addressing these questions, builders can better position their products to win the attention war and succeed in a world that often doesn’t give a shit.
I’m building a new type of NFT project + web3 brand with a few awesome viral marketers, designers, and engineers, and will be launching this summer. We have open roles across design and engineering so feel free to DM me on Twitter if you’re interested :)