We are building digital campfires, gather around!

For as long as humans have existed, communities have been integral to our survival.

Here at STEPN, we consider community one of our most important pillars, and a massive amount of our resources and time is dedicated to ensuring that we are growing our community of STEPNers thoughtfully, prioritizing quality over quantity.

With the advent of the digital world, online communities are becoming more and more important, but how these communities actually form is starting to shift significantly.

Today, we’re taking a look at how we’re fostering an online gaming community that delivers value to all of its members.

The Digital Age

In modern times, online communities have all but superseded IRL communities.

We are undoubtedly in the online era, and community formation is no longer bound by geographical limits. Anywhere there’s internet, you can interface with people from all corners of the globe.

Comparing this to how communities previously formed, this is a vastly different situation. Before, you could only find a relatively small amount of like-minded people on the internet. Even in the 2000s and with the proliferation of the web, it was tough to actually find people in your area that may share your very niche hobby or interest. Underwater basket-weaving, anyone?

Fast forward a couple of decades, and all that has changed. According to a report from PeerBoard, a plug & play community platform, 2/3 of users say they are visiting community platforms more often than they did a few years ago.

With worldwide lockdowns and social isolation, the pandemic has only catalyzed the shift to online.

Further, online communities are not only becoming more prevalent, but they are also becoming more and more important. 77% of respondents identified internet communities as their most important group communication between people with the same interests.

Just think about the way you stay in contact with most of your friends — it’s likely through social media platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, or Facebook. Or, if you’re deep in the web3 world, you stay connected to your virtual mates through Discord and Twitter.

Connection vs Community

But let’s step back a second. Why exactly is community so important to us?

Loneliness, especially after COVID, has become a full-blown epidemic, and it’s damaging our health. Scientists have found that social isolation is linked to higher risk of all-cause mortality, from heart disease to stroke, depression to suicide. In fact, heart failure patients who experienced significant loneliness were nearly 4x more likely to die, 68% more likely to be hospitalized, and 57% more likely to have emergency department visits.

With the advent of social media, we seem to have more communities… yet we’re lonelier than ever. A report done in partnership with Harvard’s Graduate School of Education found that 36% of all Americans — 61% of adults and 51% of mothers with young children — feel serious loneliness. And those numbers are rapidly rising.

What’s going on?

The issue here is that we often mistake shallow connections for community. That is, we may be very online and able to see what our friends are doing — we can “like” their photos and comments briefly, but those connections may not be very meaningful when you’re swiping through a bunch of them for seconds at a time… without digging deeper into those relationships.

At the end of the day, most social networks online aren’t “real” communities, and especially across generations, interest is dwindling. People can feel that they’re not being able to truly connect and bring their authentic selves to online platforms, especially painstakingly curated stages like Instagram.

Writing for HBR, Sara Wilson coined this phenomenon “Antisocial Social Media,” elaborating:

“…after years spent constructing carefully curated online identities and accumulating heaps of online “friends,” [younger generations] want to be themselves and make real friends based on shared interests. They’re also craving privacy, safety, and a respite from the throngs of people on social platforms.”

So what’s next in true online community-building? The answer: digital campfires.

Digital Campfires

According to Wilson, digital campfires are online micro-communities where experiences can be shared and discussed. This takes place in many forms. There’s the different sides of TikTok (i.e. PlantTok, FoodieTok, FitTok, and more).

In web3, we’ve already seen this sprout up across the landscape — Discords are prime examples of digital campfires, a sort of town hall for like-minded people to come together.

On the brands side of things, companies are getting creative, using these campfires to connect with their most dedicated followers. For example, Marvel and Nike have used Fortnite, debuting custom skins and limited-education product drops, to reach audiences.

Another example, Pizza Hut has worked with Twitch streamers to create a weeks-long “Friday Night Bites” series that pitted pro gamers and influencers against each other in friendly competition, with games and pizza-themed challenges.

Here at STEPN…

We’re building a digital campfire for web3 exercisers across the world. We believe that community is the panacea to loneliness.

Having a good social circle that you can depend on, turn to for when you need help, or even just have fun with is… priceless.

To foster true community — a sense of belonging and connectivity that goes beyond likes and comments — we’ve done a number of things to go above and beyond. Particularly, we want to ensure that the people who are on STEPN are passionate about walking outside, developing healthy habits, and making connections… not just earning.

Focusing on quality, not quantity, STEPN has built bots to remove unnecessary spammers and scammers from Discord. At the same time, we organically source Discord managers and ambassadors directly from our user base, seeking our most enthusiastic community members.

These are people who are the most active of the community, who have displayed a tremendous amount of passion and excitement for the platform. In addition, we’re constantly fielding feedback from our community on how we can help them learn and build connections. And we also reward our NFTs to people by testing knowledge of our whitepaper through quizzes.

Finally, in the future STEPN also has plans to implement a rental system, where users will be able to rent sneakers out to other users. This will effectively create thousands of small, tight-knit networks within the game itself as renters and rentees create small economies of their own, adding more value on both sides as more and more people join the marketplace.

Win-Win for All

Finally, not only is a strong community good for everyone involved, it’s also simply just good business sense.

According to a McKinsey report in 2021, community-focused fitness apps saw growth that was 4x faster than apps that were more focused on training and tracking.

And, as Jeffrey Bussgang and Jono Bacon wrote for HBR, businesses that focus on building community “unlock extraordinary competitive advantages and both create and support a superior business model.”

That’s a win-win for everyone. For our users, for our team, and for the world at large… as more and more people get healthier and spend more time outside with their loved ones.

We’re thankful for our community and for this opportunity to give back. Go STEPNers!

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