Money is a network effect produced by social confidence in an abstraction. The more confidence we inspire that an abstraction is “Money”, the more valuable it becomes. After a while, collective confidence reaches critical mass, and the premise turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Likewise, if efforts to inspire confidence fails, that abstraction will never become Money, regardless of its merits.
In trying to introduce a new kind of Money to Malaysians, the challenge is getting the ball rolling. This is especially difficult since Malaysians already have the Ringgit (MYR); which most of us are quite comfortable with. Past experiments to introduce new kinds of Monies to Malaysians achieved nowhere near enough critical mass to rival the Ringgit. Most ended up only achieving limited traction (Celcom’s Aircash, MOL’s MOLePoints), or decent traction only in a limited context (TouchNGo).
Obviously when compared with these archaic iterations, the merits of cryptocurrencies are almost universally superior. Most cryptocurrencies are designed to be fungible across platforms and are tradable on bitcoin/alt-coin exchanges, therefore users have no fear of being trapped inside the ecosystem of centralized providers. While we won’t have much trouble arguing for the technical merits of cryptocurrencies, we too would not be able to produce network critical mass if we are ignorant of the social marketing required for propagation.
Producing a network critical mass requires vast resources, primarily because users demand incentives to participate. These incentives can range from free services, to subsidized pricing, to preferential treatment. Without generous VC investments subsidizing customer acquisition costs, networks such eBay, Uber and Facebook will never grow large enough to mature. The market forces governing the growth of these networks is also true for cryptocurrencies.
While we don’t have access to billions of resources like they do, what we do have (and they don’t) is a distributed, aligned, passionate grass-roots movement willing to spread the cryptocurrency gospel. For the moment, it seems word of mouth is our most viable marketing tool. Not to worry, with some push and guidance, even the most reticent amongst us can be galvanized to be effective preachers.
In marketing lore; it is said that is easiest to sell existing products to existing customers, harder to sell new products to existing customers, and hardest to sell new products to new customers. In proselytizing cryptocurrencies, we should focus on the second category and avoid the third. This means starting with friends, families and clients whom we can personally handhold throughout the on-boarding process, instead of public recruitment drives.
Allow me to illustrate. Signing up for cryptocurrencies is easy, but the journey towards proficiency is long. Typically newcomers go through several phases before their level of engagement can produce a multiplier effect on network propagation:-
Proficient peers are most effective in aiding us to achieve network critical mass, much more so than simple evangelists. Increasing their ranks should be top priority; if you notice your circle of friends, families and clients being stuck at a particular phase, then I implore you to aid them in escalating their engagement.
The hardest part of course, is convincing a total newcomer to start experimenting in the first place. Most of us enthusiasts are willing to immerse ourselves in the homework required to appraise the technical merits of cryptocurrencies. However contrary to impulse, diving straight into the deep end is not the best way to make an elevator pitch to a newcomer.
We are going to need some… conversational finesse if we escalate engagement without sounding like a hippy cyberpunk fanboy. People have diverse backgrounds, and will be most receptive to our proposition if we take the time to tailor our message to fit their archetypes. For example…
If the newcomer is a rational capitalist, then cryptocurrencies are one of the best technology bets available to retail investors right now.
If the newcomer is a libertarian right wing, then cryptocurrencies are a viable personal insurance against degradation of the nation state.
If newcomer is an edgy teenager, then cryptocurrencies are a cool way to leapfrog age restrictions when trying to participate in the internet economy.
…and so on and so forth. Proselytizing cryptocurrencies, like everything else in life, requires attention, homework and practice to do well.
Lastly, I advise against including any disclaimers in your pitch, for the same reason you don’t hear disclaimers during Friday prayers or Sunday mass. When you are preaching a complex subject matter, it is best if your sermons are passionate and unwavering. Those who hesitate garner few followers.
It is not unwarranted nor immoral to demand a modicum of faith when guiding newcomers to the door. Once within of course, they are free to judge for themselves.