Written by Adam Bai. Adam is Chief Strategy Officer at Glimpse.
Crypto world is a place characterized by extreme excitement alongside immense confusion. We call this condition the ‘excitement/understanding gap.’
This blog is the first in a planned series of reports from the wilds of crypto world, based on agile pulse studies using Glimpse, a self-service platform enabling users to garner quick, conversational, and open-ended feedback—at scale.
Welcome to The Crypto Sentiment Project!
We’ll share the actual language, sentiment, and hopes and fears of diverse global audiences when it comes to crypto, blockchain, Web3, and associated applications. The goal is to move beyond the ‘what’ revealed by traditional research techniques to the ‘why’ animating people’s evolving relationships with these technologies.
This initial post explores areas of crypto frustration and confusion—and related opportunities for trusted organizations to provide learning and educational experiences.
Subsequent posts will dive more deeply into each of the territories that comprise crypto world, from DAOs to NFTs, ICOs to PoW/PoS. They’ll all be connected by a common thread: focusing on real human understanding and emotion, and not on the acronyms.
Crypto and the Excitement/Understanding Gap
If you listen to the breathless hype from the crypto community, blockchain is already catalyzing rapid technological innovation and unprecedented social evolution. In this account, cryptocurrency investing is just the leading edge of a far broader transformation between Web2 and Web3.
According to a Pew Research survey from last year, 9 out of 10 Americans have “heard at least a little” about cryptocurrency. Yet according to the same survey, only around 16% of Americans have ever invested in, traded, or used a cryptocurrency themselves. And only 10% of American women have taken the plunge. The numbers are far lower in most other countries.
That’s a huge gap.
Within the population of crypto investors, the number of people who have interacted with blockchain in any way (aside from investing in crypto or dabbling in NFTs) is vanishingly small. That makes sense! Investing in major cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum is pretty simple these days using platforms like Coinbase or even Paypal. Doing anything else is still well beyond the ability of average users.
Another huge gap.
We’re still at the earliest stages of the adoption curve. So what’s next? Will the number of crypto investors increase? If so, how sophisticated are they likely to be? Will existing crypto investors become early adopters of other blockchain-based technologies and applications? If so, what will they try first? And what’s the best way to even ask these questions?
The Pew poll is great for presenting yes or no questions like, “are you currently a crypto investor?” But multiple choice questions are less useful if we want to learn anything new about how people think and feel about crypto, blockchain, and Web3—and why people feel that way.
Most surveys build in too many assumptions and, even more importantly, don’t provide much access to sentiment and human emotion. (Conversely, traditional interviews and focus groups are just too slow and cumbersome—and narrowly-focused—to keep pace with evolving experiences of technological change.) Tracking conversations on the /Cryptocurrency subreddit or across the myriad crypto Discord Servers is a great way to understand public statements of vocal crypto diehards; neither site is particularly representative of general opinion, however.
We needed a tool that could give us access to the opinions of diverse global audiences, in their own words. A tool that could accelerate the path to useful insights about crypto and Web3.
Enter Glimpse, a self-service platform allowing users to garner quick, conversational, and open-ended feedback—at scale.
We planned a series of agile pulse studies designed to gather natural language responses, and get at the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ revealed by traditional research approaches. We call the series, "The Crypto Sentiment Project", and will be publishing new insights about public perceptions of crypto and Web3 on a regular basis, across a range of channels, and with a varied set of partners.
This time, we worked with a major Venture Capital (VC) firm with substantial investments in the crypto space that wanted to know how crypto investors thought about other potential applications of blockchain. What would be the next big thing? What were the most important barriers standing between the public and its adoption?
We asked 3-4 questions of around a hundred people on two separate occasions in November 2021 and in January 2022, and each time started receiving fascinating responses within minutes.
Here’s what we discovered:
Based on the Glimpse sentiment dashboard, the majority of current crypto traders are positive about their experiences so far.
At the same time, many of them are new to the game and slowly feeling their way from investing in Bitcoin or Ethereum on mainstream exchanges to other parts of the ecosystem. They value trusted educational content as sources of guidance.
• Here’s a low-income 42 year-old Republican who identifies as male from the midwestern United States:
“It first was very confusing to me and it still is in a lot of ways. It's way above my head but typically the sites I go to offer some type of education and help desk has been generally good so if I have any questions I'm able to get those answered. It's been a good experience overall.”
• And a 35 year old female-identifying liberal woman from the northeast:
“I didn't understand anything at first but Coinbase helped teach me a little. So every week I put about $5 on Coinbase and bought crypto.”
• And a high-income southerner in his late 40s:
“I started about 2 months ago. I’ve opened up quite a few accounts to get a better understanding of each of the exchange platforms and to get the free Bitcoin promos. I’m slowly dipping my toes into the cryptocurrency waters—50 dollars here and 100 there. I’m primarily focused on Bitcoin but I’ve found several speculative coins that I’m following and have purchased.”
But the dashboard from a later Glimpse study demonstrated relatively high levels of anger and even sadness when it came to barriers preventing respondents from diving any deeper into the space.
Using the “merge topics” functionality on the Glimpse dashboard to group similar answers revealed that variations of “confusion” and “complexity” were the most common frustrations, at least after “price fluctuations.”
These specific frustrations were fairly widespread:
• Transaction costs (gas fees)
"The small, sometimes tiny, amounts that are left behind when you have to figure up your own gas fees to swap or transfer. Just make a solid formula for that, I don’t understand. I’d have a lot of money if I could consolidate all of those small amounts."
• Lack of trust and dependability
"How some crypto currencies can be rug pulls or very vague. also just all around if someone has a following on any social media they can create a coin, people buy it up. The next day comes and the influencer sells the majority and leaves the rest of the holders with their now valueless crypto currency.”
• And general difficulty navigating due to the ecosystem’s decentralized nature
“The number of apps, wallets, exchanges, etc. The decentralized nature is exciting but it's also a bit of a pain.”
When questions moved beyond the domain of crypto investing to other uses of blockchain technology, responses were even more complex. Glimpse revealed that general sentiment about the future of blockchain and Web3 was quite positive but that most people (from the audience of regular crypto investors) couldn’t name any specific applications of the technology.
We dove more deeply into this excitement/understanding gap by exploring attitudes toward Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs), likely one of the most important innovations enabled by blockchain and one that includes lots of real-world examples already.
This is just one example of blockchain applications that we’ll be asking about over time as part of the Crypto Sentiment Project.
When asked a traditional multiple choice question, a surprising majority of respondents said that they were “very likely” to join a DAO in the next year.
But Glimpse’s open-ended and natural language capabilities allowed us to get at the reality behind the superficial excitement by asking another question as well: “Tell me what you know and think about DAO's (Decentralized Autonomous Organizations).” Some of the same respondents who said that they’d join a DAO within the next year weren’t able to describe any salient features of DAOs (despite the provided link to an article about DAOs!).
• Responses ranged from general confusion and the rote repetition of words from the question
“Not heard much, but I think it is an industry that specializes in blockchain tech.”
• …to a persistent focus on crypto investing as the only lens through which respondents understood all of blockchain and Web3
“It is a means of security for crypto... I think.”
“These are organizations that run independently to achieve a better cryptocurrency position.”
The excitement/understanding gap when it comes to DAOs mirrors similar gaps across the entire crypto/Web3 ecosystem. Lots of people have heard of crypto but few of them have invested in cryptocurrencies (heretofore the gateway experience for Web3 and blockchain-enabled technologies).
Of those who have invested in crypto, there is enormous inchoate excitement combined with growing frustration about barriers preventing exploration of additional possibilities. And many of those respondents most willing to explore specific applications of the technology aren’t able to articulate in the most basic terms what they are.
The bottom-line: There’s a valuable opportunity for trusted institutions to educate audiences about Web3 possibilities beyond crypto investing. The incredible visibility of crypto combined with the complexity and inaccessibility of most of its applications means that large investments in education and thought leadership are warranted right now.
The players that are able to direct the excitement of current crypto investors (and potential investors) in new directions will also shape the future of this nascent ecosystem. Forthcoming Glimpse pulse study will explore these directions much more concretely.
Forthcoming Glimpse pulse studies will explore these opportunities more concretely.
Want to see the data? Contact Us now to get free access to our public dashboards and explore them on your own.
If you want to contribute ideas or future audience questions to help shape the Crypto Sentiment Project, reach out to us here.
Adam is Strategic Advisor to Glimpse and SVP of Research and Insights at at Nomadic Learning. Adam is a Cultural anthropologist by training, and has created and taught courses on innovation and leadership for MBA and Executive Education students at institutions like Columbia University and the MIT Sloan International Program in Beijing.