How to Create a Shitcoin: 5 Valuable Lessons from ICOs

5 marketing methods that already bit the dust two years ago.

While working on community management and content creation for blockchain startups launching their ICOs in 2017, I got a front-seat view of how the demand for ICO marketing went hand in hand with the bitcoin price charts. After the first quarter of 2018, everything went into a hibernation period that only appears to have ended a couple of months ago. Looking at current projects after this break, I can’t help thinking how a good deal of them get away with using the same marketing tactics as two years ago.  

ICOs have given way to STOs and IEOs, but browsing ICOBench seems to bring you back into the cozy crypto bubble. The feeling is very similar to looking at ads from the 90s or killing some time at

A reminder of what it was like: visualising the power of the Internet during its hype stage from Imgur. There’s more wonderful imagery if you’re into that sort of thing.

But the hype is now over; long gone are the times when you could create a project from scratch and start collecting funds within a month. The good news is, people are now free of their gold rush mania and have a better understanding of what it’s all about. Nobody’s trying to stuff their crypto wallets full of all kinds of coins in the fear of missing out. Instead, we now have an educated niche audience. 

The interest for “how to invest in cryptocurrency” from December 2017 to September 2019 on Google Trends :

So, the short answer to how to promote your cryptocurrency project would be – like all other normal businesses promote their software. It’s time to grow up and get into developing long-term marketing strategies and building your online reputation. 

As the cryptocurrency market is changing pretty much every 3 months, all the marketing agencies that sprung up during the heady days of the crypto craze will not necessarily have an advantage based on their successful cases in the past. There’s more sense in working with people who can demonstrate that they have extensive experience in digital marketing for tech companies. 

Here’s the thing: in 2019 investors are not around every corner. If you analyse the traffic for cryptocurrency campaigns, it becomes obvious that some of the marketing efforts are failing to hit the spot. Here are the things that don’t seem to make sense anymore:

1. Creating accounts on 100500 social media networks and messengers

Bitcointalk, Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, WeChat, KakoTalk – all these icons are still occupying too much space in the footers of too many landing pages. The majority of social network users shouldn’t be considered investors just because they happen to use social media.

Getting paid followers, comments and likes might’ve seemed ok for projects that would use any quick and dirty method to raise funds in a flash, but it might be difficult to impress someone with this kind of community now:

Sadly, this is still happening. A randomly picked project among the ongoing Initial Exchange Offerings from The site shows you a suspicious spike in engagement rates (on the left) and some of the comments to one of their posts on Facebook.

Blockchain and cryptocurrency ads that were graciously unbanned by Facebook amidst the  news of their own coin launch would also look like dinosaurs in their previous incarnation. ‘Last chance to take part in ICO’ callout isn’t likely to make anyone hit the button and even less likely to result in them sending money.

Looks like it’s time to put some effort into identifying your target audience and finding relevant groups and communities on social media and beyond. Doing AMA sessions on cryptocurrency exchanges is proving to be more useful than trying to turn random Instagram users into investors.

2. Bounty campaigns and airdrops

In the good old days, you could ramp up your Telegram channel from 1 000 to 100 000 followers in a matter of one week by announcing a bounty campaign or doing an airdrop. But the interesting thing is – usually 99% of those people are not investors, although they are more than happy to participate in every signature campaign or retweeting task out there. 

Does it all really come down to growing a community of people who will never open your site to read what the project is about and flood your social media channels with ‘hodl’ and ‘to the moon’? Sounds weird if you actually have a useful product (or at least an MVP) with a clever token economy, can demonstrate how it works and onboard early adopters who are willing to talk about their experience.

3. Lists of cryptocurrency investor leads

Surprise, there are no investors in those lists. You might easily find yourself a target of email spam just because you were careless enough to use words ‘trading’ or ‘exchange’ online.

A healthy alternative to buying investor databases out of sheer desperation during the ongoing tokensale is building partnerships with successful projects and working with their community.

4. Press releases in every crypto media

As large-scale International enterprises like Google, Amazon and Facebook are starting to issue their own coins on blockchain, there is no way an out-of-nowhere startup can grab readers’ attention with the promise to save the world if people buy their tokens.

[Insert project name here], the revolutionary Innovative trading platform goes global to solve all your traditional and crypto problems!

Instead, these platforms could focus on creating engaging content that answers user questions and addresses their needs.

5. Celebrity endorsements

Previous campaigns with Paris Hilton and Steven Seagal did a lot to discredit the idea. We don’t remember the platforms they were advertising; all we’re left with is a permanent facepalm. 

When it comes to opinion leaders, there’s no shortage of YouTube crypto influencers out there. They are among the few people in the blockchain industry whose previous experience is still relevant, and they’re better equipped to persuade investors than film stars and athletes.

Bonus point: Crypto imagery

Google Images search result for cryptocurrency pattern

Connected dots are popping up on literally every other landing page. Can you think of any other industry that would overuse the same pattern at this scale?

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