Social Media, Bitcoin, Blockchain, & the Cryptosphere
At this point, 2 of my first 3 blog posts involved writing about Bitcoin. By now, most have heard the word "Bitcoin". Some may even know a thing or two about it. But still, few know how it works. I won't be explaining that, here, but I will share a few resources.
1. (blog) I wrote a blog post about Bitcoin in order to explain it to beginners.
2. (website) Coindesk is an excellent resource for understanding Bitcoin. (more technical)
3. (video) John Oliver recently did a segment to explain it, and the general consensus in the cryptosphere is that his take is pretty fair and well done. (more playful)
4. (video) A great explanation of how Bitcoin works under the hood! (more technical)
Social Media and the Cryptosphere
I was introduced to cryptocurrency initially because I have a friend who invested some money and earned a 50x return on his investment, which is 5000%. He basically contacted me and said, "Hey! You need to get into this NOW!" So I started looking into it, but it wasn't Bitcoin. It was an altcoin, which is a term commonly used to discuss anything that isn't Bitcoin.
When I started into it, there were few places I could go to talk or learn about it, so my first attempt at finding a community of likeminded people was naturally on the internet, and specifically, on social media. First I tried Facebook, but I couldn't find anything good. And this is how I got into Twitter. I've had my Twitter account since 2009, but it sat dormant for years because I just never enjoyed it. That all came to an end in 2017.
Having no other interest in Twitter besides engaging with the cryptocurrency crowd (the "cryptosphere"), I began by clearing my account of all previous tweets and follows. Then I began searching for suitable names to follow. I set up my Twitter to feed me ALL my cryptocurrency news and information, and that is literally the only thing I used it for. And from the interactions I had, I discovered I wasn't the only one. I can only imagine the large number of people who ran into the same problem and found the same solution. This underscores the importance of social media usage in the cryptosphere.
One of my favorite memes that floats around social media is one that I think truly applies to my own journey. It starts with a person hearing about Bitcoin and realizing how innovative and important the technology is. From there, they discover altcoins and all sorts of projects that use Bitcoin technology to try and accomplish different goals. It's like a bigger world. In the third picture, the person has begun to learn that a lot of those altcoin projects aren't so great, and that only a few are at all promising. And in the end, after learning about the best that cryptocurrency has to offer, the person comes to the realization that none of it is comparable to Bitcoin.
Seoul Bitcoin is a Bitcoin meetup in South Korea that was started in February, 2014 by a young Dutch man, Ruben Somsen. You can read a little about his history in my first blog post. An autodidactic Bitcoin and cryptocurrency expert, Ruben started this meetup stemming from his desire to be in a community that didn't exist, at the time. My first interaction with Seoul Bitcoin came through social media. I reached out to the only friend I knew on Facebook who talked about Bitcoin. Using a popular instant messaging app in South Korea called Kakao (equivalent of Chinese WeChat or Western WhatsApp), my friend invited me to a chat group: Seoul Bitcoin. From chatting with some of the people there, I made my way to one of the meetups and loved it. Since then, we've been meeting up regularly and have been trying to help out however I can.
Social media is how I was introduced to the Seoul Bitcoin and the cryptosphere, and it's also how I found a way to contribute.
Building a Social Media Presence for Seoul Bitcoin
When I joined up with Seoul Bitcoin, they already had some social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, Meetup.com, and Kakao. However, all of them were gathering digital dust, except their Kakao chat group. So I began asking questions to Ruben and the other organizers.
Do you have a Facebook page?
Yes, but nobody uses it.
Do you have a Twitter account?
Yes, but we don't use Twitter.
Do you have a Youtube account?
Do you have a website?
We used to, but the guy who ran it left and we couldn't get the domain back.
That's where I saw a way to help out. I could use my interest in Bitcoin, social media, and my studies in Rhetoric, Writing, and Digital Media Studies to help build up a social media presence for Seoul Bitcoin. I would begin with Twitter, and I would do so not as myself, but as a representative of Seoul Bitcoin. All tweets, likes, and follows would have to keep in mind the Seoul Bitcoin organizers, their opinions, and their goals - not simply my own. This would normally be a much more difficult task if I didn't have constant communication with the organizers through a private Telegram chat, which is another instant messaging app. Because of our close communication, I'm able to represent them accurately by sharing links that they share, and taking words of theirs to represent their views.
The Audience of Seoul Bitcoin
The Seoul Bitcoin meetup provides information and is welcoming to anyone who wants to come, but we do target a very specific audience. The idea is to draw in people who are interested in the technology and learning more about how it works. So it's important to build public exposure with that in mind. If those are the people we hope to draw into the meetup, then our content needs to speak to those people and our likes and follows need to appeal to those people as well. All organizers are very explicit when giving a presentation at a meetup that the views being presented are their own, and that people who attend are free to ask questions at any point during the presentation or disagree with something that is said.
Swan argues, "One size doesn’t fit all. Using a one-plan approach for every channel and region won’t get results." This argument is misleading and not always applicable. I'm not sure Swan would disagree, in our case. We are organized in South Korea, and our primary audience is of a certain profession and mindset, perhaps, but all English speakers. The common factor in our audience is the interest.
Ruben, Mario, and Sanket frequent Reddit, which is a great destination that is thick with our target audience. Twitter is also a prime medium for our target audience for several reasons. When techies aren't reading articles or developing ideas, they can hop onto Twitter for a moment. Tweets are short, and they have a direct line of communication with very important people in the cryptospace. It's also a source of news. Mainstream news is simply not reliable (just today, CNBC posted an article with false information about Bitcoin mining not being profitable). The entire space was quick to point it out. Twitter is come of many big names, Bitcoin protocol developers, software engineers, economists, mathematicians, cryptographers, and other early adopters of Bitcoin who have been involved since the early days.
It's also worth noting that in Christopher Swan's article, he provides a section on "Who's Using What" in order to make the point that different regions in the world are using different platforms. However, take a look at how many are using Twitter. Seven out of nine countries listed in his article are using Twitter, and I would say that's outdated because Ruben is from the Netherlands and they use Twitter there, as well as India.
The ConversationsOnce a week, I meet with the organizers of Seoul Bitcoin together with some friends and we have conversation about the technology. There's always something new to learn, because developers of Bitcoin are always looking to improve on the code to make it run more efficiently. Current projects in development help to increase Bitcoin's scalability (Lightning Network, Coin Join, Taproot) and privacy (Coin Join, MimbleWimble), which are two of the biggest needs.
During the week, we regularly interact via instant messaging app, Telegram. In this chat, we briefly discuss the latest developments, some ideas for our weekly discussions, breaking news, and anything else.
Twitter is used for news, to interact with our potential audience as well as respected members of the community whom we admire. Information often makes its way from Twitter into our instant messaging chat apps. We monitor and participate in important Twitter conversations between some of these reputable names in order to develop relationships and keep up-to-date on ideas that might appear in a future paper or proposal.
ConclusionsIt is a lot of work to build and maintain a presence on social media. Twitter is most important for the meetup because it's a hotspot for our target audience. Facebook is much, much lower on the radar. It appeals much less to those interested in innovative technology, from my experience. The audience is pretty specific for us, so it's important to target social media mediums which fit our criteria. Our audience is multi-cultural, yes, but not in a way that would require extreme sensitivity in our social media usage, and not in a way that would really call for changing content much.
The funny thing about Bitcoin is that it has no central authority running it. They hire nobody, and nobody works for any Bitcoin corporation. There are only independent corporations or individuals contributing for their own various reasons. Therefore, social media definitely plays an even more important role in the community. How can these individuals communicate or cooperate? They do so through IRC, Reddit, Twitter, Youtube, Telegram, Discord, and by traveling a lot to meet face to face. Barbara Fagan-Smith talks about the importance of communication in job searching and running a company, but this can't fully apply to Bitcoin except to say that it applies in the most extreme way. Everyone must be a leader and a great communicator.
Helene Solomon says that, "A successful foray into social media requires at least 10 hours a week; avid social media managers spend between 50 and 60 hours a week tweeting, following, liking, friending, monitoring, contributing, sharing and then some." So helping in the way that I am is a big task that I'm sure helps a lot for those who don't have nearly as much time to do it.
Swan, Christopher. "Connecting the World through Social Media." https://www.iabc.com/connecting-the-world-through-social-media/
Solomon, Helene. "Social Media for Nonprofits."
Howe, James."10 Social Media Basics Every Nonprofit Needs to Know." https://www.iabc.com/social-media-fundamentals/
Fagan-Smith, Barbara. "The Changing Role of the Communication Professional." https://www.iabc.com/changing-the-role-of-the-communication-professional/