NFT 2.0: Building fan communities and creating user engagement

By: Dante Pacella

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NFTs - electronic certificates of authenticity for digital content, acting as a registry of who created it, how many were created, and who possesses it currently - are still nascent and evolving rapidly. In part one of this series, we discussed how NFTs, or Non-Fungible Tokens, have the capacity to energize content creators, enhance networks and marketplaces, and empower customers and fan communities. But how NFTs can do all of this is through an expanding array of forms - often referred to collectively as NFT 2.0.

Up until now, users acquired NFTs primarily by buying and selling them on marketplaces. But soon we’ll see an evolution that involves earning them through user actions or other engagement incentives. By engaging users and incentivizing them to earn NFTs rather than purchasing them outright, we can build better and more active fan communities, with an outcome of rewarding the most passionate fans with special experiences and stellar bragging rights.

Beyond the elusive and expensive NFT content: NFT 2.0

The phrase NFT 2.0 is often used to describe new forms of NFTs that have led to a second surge in their popularity through the second half of 2021, and are allowing users to interact with the content they’ve purchased or earned. These new forms include generative, composable, interactive, and experiential.

In generative forms of NFTs, we’re seeing creators introduce algorithmic randomness into NFT-linked content along a set of constraints using a base creative asset or style. If we compare this notion to another creative field, like poetry, we can compare it to a haiku: there are certain rules, such as the 5-7-5 syllables pattern to create something recognizable as a haiku poem. The poet still creates a unique poem, but has followed rules to create a certain recognizable aesthetic, compared to another form of poetry, such as a sonnet. Essentially, generative NFTs use AI to create controlled randomness so that it fits an established pattern.

Many generative NFTs select thousands of permutations out of millions of combinations. Generative can use a common thematic element or style and derive permutations off of that. Take for example a blue cartoon cat. Different facial expressions, a beard, a bow, or a beret can create a new character suited just for you, but be based on a common aesthetic. Fans can select the one that resonates with them, creating more personalization and emotional connection to the work, as if it were crafted just for them among the thousands of creations. 

Composable NFTs are designed to be combined with a base NFT in a configurable manner. A simple example would be an NFT with a base image of an athlete wearing a home jersey. A separate away jersey NFT could be obtained that can be combined with the base athlete image to make it seamlessly look like they are wearing the away jersey. Fans can be more active in the customization process by selecting which elements to specifically compose in the composite incarnation.

These composable NFTs could even be configured into a new NFT, crafted by the user with a new creation date, linked back to the component NFTs that comprise the originally composed collective asset. Further customization could be formed through a published specification for composable templates, such as defining the dimensions for the aforementioned jerseys, the region for jersey numbers, athlete name, team name, and logo.

Generative and Composable can also be combined using these templates. These new personally-constructed composables can tap into the fan community’s creativity, where fans can create new works for other fans, with a predefined royalty going back to the rights holder.

And while the two seem to have overlapping traits, there is a key distinction between the generative and composable NFTs. Where generative are machine-driven customizations, composables are user-driven customizations. Generative are a single assemblage NFT that can't be broken apart. Composables start as separate NFTs that can be combined or mix-and-matched by the user.

Interactive, reactive, and intelligent NFTs take input from users, environments, or other sources, and alter the condition or aesthetics of an original piece of content. They can be impacted by fan engagement through calls to action, learning and adapting over time, or even leveraging conversational AI.

Interactive NFTs prompt fans to directly modify content. For example, a celebrity NFT (content such as a photo, video, or AR capture of a celebrity,) can provide the fan with a conduit to their favorite star by allowing the user to request an autograph and then receive that autograph as an update to their digital content.

Similarly, by taking environmental or ambient input, reactive NFTs can be shaped by controlled randomness. Consider music players with visualizers where extracted waveforms and frequency information form patterns based on the audio characteristics. This can be extended quite a bit using inputs such as user camera captured content, user mood, heartbeat, or other biometrics, time of day, seasonal, or even local weather to affect what is being viewed.

Each of these NFT forms are potent on their own, but they can also be combined to form even more powerful content and engagement vehicles.

Experiential NFTs: pioneering a new fan engagement

When discussing NFTs with those new to the concept, a phrase we often hear is “What do you do with an NFT?” Here’s where it gets really exciting: by leveraging experiential NFTs, creators will be able to establish a threshold to earn content or reveal new content, as opposed to only having an NFT that can be acquired through purchase. In this way, experiential NFTs can engender more emotional attachment for fans as well as help rising stars encourage fan community growth.

At their core, experiential NFTs are collectibles that immortalize fan experiences with personal keepsakes, quintessentially tapping into special moments, and forming new ways for fans, celebrities, and content worlds to interact and engage. The experiential form of NFT has significant potential for expansion: from collectible tickets and exclusive backstage passes to “earned” content through gamified fandom.

For instance, an exclusive NFT backstage pass could be granted to select fans based on social likes, comments, or retweets. These fans could be permitted access to rehearsal sessions, one-on-one conversations with celebrities, early content previews, or other exclusive material. Another example would be compositing social media interactions into a “fan score” or a form of karma, measuring positive impacts and fan community building. This gamification can also take the form of attending every event in a season or tour.

Finally, Experiential NFTs can be collected and shared between friends, similar to a scrapbook, highlighting your most memorable shared moments. Imagine recording and commenting on mementos from your last baseball game attended with your grandparents or your favorite concert with a best friend during high school. Social engagement within such a community could earn additional content or account badging.

Autograph NFT Experiences

There are a few different emerging experiences for NFTs and autographs. These can take several forms, such as having an image previously signed by a celebrity and using that single asset as the base content. In a more interactive version, the base content remains unsigned until the user requests for the celebrity to sign it through that celebrity's own blockchain account. Each autograph is then indelibly bound to the corresponding digital content using that celebrity’s digital credentials. These autograph interactions can take on three basic forms: in-person, virtual, and asynchronous.

In-person signings are the most similar to a traditional celebrity signing event where fans can be face to face with a celebrity, but instead of passing a physical item, they make their autograph request on their device, the celebrity receives the request in real-time and signs the digital content on their mobile using an interactive autograph capture pad and a smart pen. As soon as they press “sign”, the celebrity’s digital wallet signs the transaction on blockchain. The user can now display the autograph as a transparency over the unmodified original digital content, with the date and time of the autograph displayed in the NFT metadata, all in real-time.

For virtual signing events, a celebrity can host a teleconferencing session or over social media live sessions and have fans submit autograph requests during the event. Similar to the in-person experience, the celebrity’s credentials are used to digitally sign the blockchain transaction that bonds the autograph to the original content. The virtual signing video can also be added to the original content being signed - like bonus content, creating an even more memorable experience to share with others and rewatch for years to come. Not only do these virtual events expand fan access to celebrities but they also create their own unique fan engagement opportunities.

Finally, asynchronous events offer the biggest opportunity to engage a wider audience. With asynchronous, fans request autographs during an event window, such as a weeklong timeframe or shorter windows, like one hour events. Through these events, a celebrity can reach many more fans, where both the celebrity and the fans engaged can be anywhere. 

The new NFT invites users and fans to engage

With all of these emerging forms of NFT, the space is undergoing rapid innovation. This exciting technology is already providing new ways to engage with fans, unlocking user customizations, choices, and incentives for fan communities to interact with creators, brands, and influencers. There will undoubtedly be new variants yet to be discovered that will energize fan communities even more in the coming months. 

We’re excited to showcase a brand new way of looking at NFTs, and for celebrities and their fans to experience exclusive content. This is just the beginning of how far experiential NFTs can go in expanding fan communities. 

This is part two in a multi-part series on NFT’s.

Learn more about Verizon Digital Collectibles

About the author:

Dante Pacella is a Fellow in Verizon's Technology and Product Development Applied Research Lab, leading efforts in blockchain and Web 3.0. He has been involved in building telecom applications of blockchain, contributing to Global Leaders' Forum (GLF) Communications Business Automation Network (CBAN) and GSMA's Blockchain Wholesale Roaming Working Group over the past two years.


Prior to his current role, Dante was lead architect for Verizon's global backbone network. He has co-authored several standards for the internet, including Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) standards drafts and Request for Comments (RFCs). He is the co-founder and leader of Verizon's Blockchain Competency Center as well as Verizon's Blockchain Forum.

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