All Your (Advertising) Models are Broken
The modern advertising model on centralized social media platforms is, to put it mildly, a shitshow. It’s annoying for users, gives barely any monetary value to creators, and is questionably effective for advertisers.
What’s the Problem?
Social media platforms collect vast amounts of user data and use that data to offer companies “targeted” advertising, allowing them to spend their marketing dollars to deliver ads to specific audiences based on their demographics, interests, and behaviors.
While this model might be beneficial for some companies (and certainly for the platforms who are selling the ad space, like Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc.), it is a disaster for social media users. The entire model relies on extracting as much information as possible about users, and bombarding them with algorithmically chosen ads. It’s a nightmare for data privacy and ruins the user experience.
Additionally, value creators on centralized social media platforms rarely receive any compensation for their content being used as the vehicle for targeted advertising. If they do, it’s a tiny fraction of the amount being spent by the advertiser, with the majority of marketing dollars going to the social media platform.
Imagine a new advertising model where advertisers could pay content creators directly to get their ads featured on the creator’s post.
The more they pay, the more visibility their ad will receive; a truly free market. No middlemen to take a cut, just an advertiser giving value directly to a creator so that their ad will be seen alongside top-tier content produced by the creator. This would reduce costs for advertisers and increase value given to creators simultaneously.
Sounds great, right?
Now imagine this all happens on an open, decentralized protocol and the value given to the creator is an internet-native money, sent and received at the speed of light.
Well, you don’t have to imagine it. This is possible right now on Nostr using the Bitcoin Lightning Network.
I’m calling this new model “zapvertising.”
How Does Zapvertising Work?
For those who are unfamiliar, a “zap” on Nostr is Bitcoin payment made directly to the creator of a note, sent via the Lightning Network. It’s a way of giving value for value, and many Nostr users on Damus (an iOS Nostr client built by Will AKA jb55) are already using zaps exclusively instead of “likes.”
You can watch zaps in real time on https://zaplife.lol
When you zap someone, you can opt to “send a reply with your zap.” This could be a simple message, an image, a video, a link to your website, etc. Zaps on a note are ranked with the highest zapped amount at the top, so the more you zap, the higher up in the zap list your comment will be.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve tried the zapvertising model out myself with my website Footstr. Whenever I send a zap, I include the link as a comment (https://footstr.com/). Without posting the website link anywhere but on Nostr, it’s already received thousands of unique visits.
For those of you who are not familiar with footstr, it’s a viral Nostr trend I started where people post pictures of their feet with the hashtag #footstr.
Yes, it is absurd, but its purpose was to showcase the potential for trend virality on Nostr, and test out the effectiveness of zapvertising.
Let’s Go Deeper
Naturally, there are some potential drawbacks to this. For example, given Nostr is an open protocol, anyone could advertise anything on a creator’s post by sending them a zap, including a product or service that the creator personally finds abhorrent.
However, this is also a problem with the legacy advertising model; creators on Twitter have zero control over what ads are shown to followers on their posts or on their profile. At least with the Nostr model, the creator actually gets paid.
The Nostr zapvertising model creates a truly free market for advertisers, while allowing creators to simply keep doing what they’re doing. Creators don’t need to be blatant shills for brands, they just have to create high quality content people find valuable, and companies will naturally want to zapvertise on their posts.
In contrast to “influencer marketing,” Nostr marketing doesn’t require creators to sell their souls and shill products they don’t believe in just to make a quick buck. However, if a creator sees that your company is zapping a lot of people, they may decide to create content that promotes your brand, in the hopes that you will in turn zap them for the value they’ve created.
Companies can also use zaps as a way to directly target a specific person who they want to see their product. These types of zaps would be higher in volume and have a lower value attached, given your goal is simply to be seen by the receiver, not to get your message to the top of the zap list.
Additionally, companies that zap Nostr developers will receive dual benefits:
- You will be viewed positively by the Nostr community for supporting open source developers building solutions used by a worldwide community.
- You can embed any brand message you want in your zap to increase visibility.
Zapvertising will allow companies to support people building open source freedom technology and gain greater brand recognition in one fell swoop.
Zapvertising is Bigger Than Just Ads
So far I’ve focused on companies promoting themselves and their offerings via zapvertising, but the potential is so much greater than that…
Are you a content creator who wants a prominent figure to see your latest video? Zap it to them.
Are you a non-profit who wants to get visibility on your latest campaign? Zap the link.
Are you hosting an event and want people to sign up? Zap the form.
Are you a developer who wants people to beta test your app? Zap the invite.
Are you crowdfunding an idea on Geyser and want to drive traffic to your donation page? Zap it around.
Are you a startup founder who wants Jack Dorsey to take a look at your project? Zap it to him.
Zap Replies vs Regular Replies
Why is zapvertising superior to ordinary replies in terms of gaining visibility? There are currently no algorithms to boost your reach on Nostr; notes are all chronological. So, when you comment a link, image, etc. on a high-traffic note, chances are that comment will be lost immediately in the deluge of other comments.
With zapped comments, you can guarantee that your link will stay at the top of the list, because zaps are ordered by amount, with the highest value zap at the top. Zapping is also a great way for people to discover your profile on Nostr; people pay more attention when there is value received.
Additionally, simply commenting your link repeatedly on different posts is no different than spam, and will not be well-received. But when you attach value to your message by zapping it, you are directly paying the note creator to see your message, with the added benefit that others will see it, too.
If you’re not yet on Nostr you may be thinking “that’s nice and all, but isn’t Nostr pretty small? How much reach can I possibly get?”
That’s a fair question. Nostr only popped onto most people’s radars in December 2022, but the network is growing rapidly. There are very few businesses using Nostr right now, so you have an opportunity to be an early adopter and set yourself apart from the competition.
Users are also highly engaged compared to centralized platforms, and a massive amount of monetary value is already moving across the network.
According to primal.net, there are almost 500,000 active users on Nostr, over 600,000 zaps sent, almost seven bitcoin zapped, and approaching 100 MILLION total events.
All of this growth and value transfer happened organically. No CEO calling the shots, no marketing team, no investors. Just ordinary people around the world opting in to an open network because they believed it might be better than their walled garden.
Gradually Then Suddenly
Every new idea seems crazy until it isn’t. If I would have told you in November 2022 that in less than six months we’d have a viable value for value workflow for Bitcoin built on top of an open, permissionless social media network you’d probably have laughed and gone back to tweeting.
But that’s exactly what we have now with zaps on Nostr.
The rate of development on Nostr is truly something to behold, and it’s thanks to the open nature of the network. On Nostr, no one needs permission to build something that might change the world.
Will zapvertisements change the world? Probably not, but they might make it just a little bit better.
Whether you’re a company or just an individual promoting a project, zapvertisements allow you to give value and get value in return.
A Note to Fellow Nostriches
For those of you who have been using Nostr for some time, you may be thinking “why is Walker trying to encourage companies to advertise on Nostr? We don’t want any corporate crap on our immaculate protocol!”
I’ll tell you why: it’s the best way to bring more attention and monetary value to the network, drive more zaps to developers, and incentivize creators to try Nostr.
As the network grows in value, value accrues to each user on the network (especially to early adopters).
If you believe, as I do, that Nostr will be the dominant protocol for social media (and much more) in the years to come, then it logically follows that every company will need to have a Nostr strategy, as they have social media strategies across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok today.
Personally, I would like to see as much monetary value as possible flowing into Nostr to give developers a fighting chance at remaining independent; I think zapvertising is one way to achieve that.
The purpose of this article is to share a vision for how we can change the current advertising paradigm by using Nostr to make zapvertising the norm.
You can find me on Nostr using any of the following: