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State of Lens Protocol: 2023 Annual Onchain Report

A New Engagement Feature is Reshaping Social Media

GM DOers!

Web3 social IS the future. 🔮

…and Lens Protocol is leading the way after recently celebrating their 1st birthday. 🥳

For those living under a rock 🪨, Lens is not just the #1 sponsor of our newsletter, they are a social graph built on top of the blockchain in order to utilize NFTs for accounts, social content, follows and more.

It’s essentially the protocol that apps (think Facebook or Twitter) can be built upon.

Why? Simple… for interoperability and ownership of social assets. 🔗

In web2, we don’t own our accounts, our followers, or our content, and this results in 2 main issues:

  1. Content creators are at risk to lose their hard earned assets 😨

  2. A broken internet experience by trapping creators inside the apps they create on 🔐

With social assets as NFTs, you own your assets and can take them wherever you please (and users can consume them wherever they please too).

In the last year, more than 200 social media applications and tools have been built on top of Lens Protocol, sharing the social graph amongst them. 🌐

This is truly revolutionizing how social media functions. To learn more about Lens Protocol and web3 social media, check out our article from exactly 1 year ago: Own Your Digital Roots or listen to our conversation with Brad from Lens here.

The focus of today's PRO report, however, will be to look onchain to understand just what Lens Protocol and its open-sourced ecosystem has built in the last year.

When we look at Facebook or Snapchat “earning reports” each quarter, we have to trust the companies to provide us details on its earnings, user activity, most popular features, and more. 

However with web3 social, we can simply look onchain and decide for ourselves. The days of sitting and waiting for earnings reports from companies are a thing of the past in web3.

For Lens, by looking onchain, we can uncover things like:

  • Amount of total users

  • Amount of active users

  • The most common type of engagement

  • Which apps are used on the social graph and how

  • How much money content creators earn and from what types of content

  • And even the growth and key metrics of specific accounts (we’ll show a deep dive on @stani.lens)

Did we mention that we can see all of this live without asking permission? We don’t need to wait for earnings season or trust a company, we can simply look onchain whenever we want. 👀🔛⛓️

That’s the power of web3 technology! 🚀

👉 Quick note: Today's PRO Report, showcasing Lens Protocol's AMAZING 1st year achievements, is a free treat for all! 🤩

Usually, this is exclusive to our PRO members. So we hope you relish this report because the next one's going back to PRO territory. 👀

Want to stay on board for next week's report too?

Check out the bottom of this report for a free 7-day PRO trial.

Now, let's dive in! ⏬

Lens Protocol Activity

Lens Protocol went live (officially) on May 18th, 2022, on Polygon.

Since their inception, they have accumulated 117,691 profiles (which of course, have all been minted as NFTs on Polygon).

It’s important to note that Lens is still a closed ecosystem, so their profile growth has been slow by design and is currently being throttled while they focus on UX and other components of the protocol.

Only select individuals can mint a Lens account currently and this likely won’t change until at least the end of the year. Let’s keep this in mind for the data being shown within the rest of the report.

Among Lens' 117,691 profiles, we witnessed an activity rate of 31% this May.

Remarkably, an impressive 83% of all profiles on Lens have engaged at least once since their creation.

And it’s not like they’re just testing the waters either… If we look at the total number of profiles and the total number of follows, comments, collects and mirrors, we see that, on average, each profile:

  • Follows 104 accounts

  • Leaves 13 comments

  • Collects 32 posts

  • Mirrors 31 posts

We’d love to compare these averages to Twitter accounts but unfortunately, there’s no Dune Dashboard for engagement on Twitter… Wonder why… 😏

Let’s get back to active profiles.

The big spike you see in February, March and April in the chart above came from a rumor that was spread about a Lens token dropping soon.

Thus, as we often see in web3, unfortunately people started acquiring Lens accounts to “farm” the airdrop via fake activity. 🤦

This rumor was debunked last month, which is why we see numbers in May more inline with the previous activity before the rumor.

Moving on, let’s take a look at the quantity and type of activity happening across Lens Protocol and its many applications.

In terms of all activity, below we can see the total and a breakdown by type, which includes posts, mirrors (like retweets) and comments.

And here’s the all-time distribution of each activity type for a broader perspective. We can see that most people prefer to mirror (retweet) and post over commenting.

Now… You may notice that Lens’ engagement has stagnated over the past couple of months (with June not looking promising either). But the numbers may deceive you. Because Lens is still growing strong.

On March 25th (1.5 months ago), we tweeted this: 

And said:

Fast forward 1.5 months later, and we’ve seen an increase of 20% in total follows on the protocol and a whopping 50% surge for total comments across all platforms built on Lens.

So it’s safe to say that Lens is still growing. Though not exponentially, please remember that they’re still a closed protocol in beta! 🔒

A NEW Type of Engagement: Collect

Maybe you noticed a new type of engagement above… collect

This is a brand new type of engagement that doesn’t exist in web2.

In web2 we have: like, comment, retweet, and share.

In web3, we have ‘collect’. Collecting a post means that we are minting it as an NFT and custodying it in our own wallet. We can pay to collect or we can collect for free, it just depends on what the creator decides.

The creator can also create scarcity by allowing only a certain amount of people or certain people (based on other onchain interactions) to collect.

For example… If I go to upload our latest short video on LensTube, I’m able to set parameters on who can collect this post.

So I can choose between anyone or my subscribers only, I can set the duration of the ability to collect to create urgency, I can limit the amount of collects that people are allowed to mint and I can even ask for money (which we’ll talk about later in this report).

Collecting opens up a whole new world of engagement, experiences and monetization on social media. 

Let’s take a look at how this new form of engagement is doing.

In the first year, we’ve reached over 3.8 Million collects, which is more than both comments and mirrors across Lens Protocol, showing how excited people are about this new feature.

Of those 3.8 Million “collects”, 94.3% were free and the remaining 5.7% were paid.

From those 5.7% that were paid, there was a total earnings of $342,897 USD.

We can go much deeper on the monetization strategies, but we will save that for later in the report. First, let’s zoom in one layer and look a little more granular at the application level. 🔭

Which Apps Are Winning on Lens?

An interesting concept that doesn’t exist in web2 social apps is the ability to post content on one social media app, and view it in a feed on a completely different social media app.

On Lens Protocol, this is possible. That’s because creators are not posting their content in a database of the application itself, instead they are posting it to the blockchain and the application simply showcases that content.

With this in mind, we can see that the most popular application to post content is Lenster, followed by Phaver, Orb, LensTube, and then the rest.

If we look at where users are commenting on content, Lenster remains number 1. However, interestingly, Orb moves up to number 2 in terms of overall market share, with Phaver in 3rd followed by LensTube and the rest.

Finally, we can also look at where people are mirroring content. Again, Lenster takes the top spot, however there seems to be a larger distribution across many apps, with a new app “Wav3s” joining the top 5 and the “others” category (a conglomerate of 83 different social apps which allow for the mirror feature) sitting in second place.

Ok now that we have looked into the application layer, let’s zoom in further and take a look at the creator layer and understand where money is being made across Lens Protocol.

Who’s Making Bank on Lens and How?

Time to pull back the curtain and see who’s turning Lens into a solid revenue stream...

The income distribution is heavily concentrated, with a staggering 66.8% of all earnings funneling to the top 3 profiles: 

Two of the top three earners are Yoginth, an engineer at Lens, and Lens protocol themselves - a testament to Lens’ focus on making ‘collecting’ a good experience. 

They experimented with it a lot (as you can see above) to raise awareness and improve the UX.

But coming in second is the intriguingly unconventional Pussy Riot, aka Nadya Tolokonnikova. This activist artist has used Lens as a tool for fundraising, collecting posts as a means to finance her causes.

She accumulated a tidy sum of $92,000, primarily from just 3 posts, which you can check out here and here and here.

These 3 posts alone garnered a massive 13,000 collects, with the first one costing 2 MATIC to collect and the other costing 20 MATIC.

But… The interesting part is that Pussy Riot raised ~$25k from a post that got 145 collects. The price to collect was 300 MATIC. 🤯

Keep in mind that Pussy Riot did this fundraiser back in July 2022, almost 1 year ago.

Now… you might think that $340k revenue from collects isn’t a whole lot. But let’s not forget that this is a new feature that still has limited capabilities and is available to only 117,000 profiles!

Imagine what happens when billions of people are on top of Lens and collecting content has developed features like showing in galleries, access to groups or events and much more.

That said, there is a sector of the Lens economy where some serious money is being made… selling your assets on secondaries!

Lens NFTs On The Secondary

A common practice in web2 social media is growing accounts or groups and then selling them. The problem in web2 is selling/trading these are very sketchy, as you don’t own them (the platform does), and there is no marketplace to facilitate this.

Fun fact: I once bought a Facebook group with 60,000 members off a random person on the internet and had to hire and pay an intermediary to facilitate the transaction. 🤯

With blockchain, all of these problems are solved. You can sell/trade accounts and even the content that you collect, if it happens to accrue value! And of course, we can check it out onchain.

The total Lens economy (how much money is transacted on Lens) is valued at $6.5M. 93% ($5M) came from selling Lens profiles. 

Everyone wants a handle… And since the gates are closed, people are trying to buy them on the secondary market. Here’s what Raul’s email inbox looks like (he holds our .lens handle + his own).

Raul’s edits: It was tempting to sell the web3academy.lens handle at .1 ETH 😏

There were 31,609 sellers and 34,480 buyers at an average price of $96.40. That shows that the demand is HIGH! And that people are selling right now to make a quick buck.

It’s important to note that numbers are currently inflated because supply is low and demand is high, but as Lens opens to the public and accounts grow larger audiences, I believe this will become a significant sized marketplace… the web2 black market for this is massive).

Apart from selling your handles and putting posts up for collecting, creators can also implement account subscriptions.

And lastly, even users can earn a buck or two by helping creators distribute their content. Creators can program the ability to pay a referral fee to those who mirror their content.

Again, something that just isn't possible in web2 social.

Now… while these figures might not quite reach 'life-changing' status yet, it’s a historic shift seeing creators profit directly from their content on the platform itself.

What's more, these metrics come from a mere 117,000 profiles, a tiny fraction when compared to giants like Facebook and Instagram that boast user bases in the billions.

Imagine the potential when Lens opens this feature to the masses.

Moreover, as collecting content begins to mesh with experiences across the web and becomes more widely understood, we can expect to see the value of scarce content skyrocket. 

We dove deeper into the possibilities that are unlocked thanks to the collecting feature in one of our past newsletters. You can check that out here.

We’re certain about being at the forefront of a shift that could reshape content creation and monetization. We’ll see where this leads us.

But in the meantime, we have one final area to dive into onchain… user profiles. We can take a look at the activity and growth of any user on Lens, helping creators understand trends of what’s working and what isn’t.

As an example, let’s take a look at how Stani, the founder of Lens Protocol and Aave grew his account on Lens.

Creator Profile Statistics On Lens: Stani Kulechov 

Stani is the 2nd most followed account on Lens, just behind Lens Protocol. 

Fun fact: Web3 Academy is in the top 6 most followed accounts. 😏

But Stani is in the spotlight here, so let’s get back to him… 

Stani has 90k followers, but keep in mind that you don’t need a Lens account to follow a Lens profile. Any web3 wallet can follow a Lens profile. 

He started gathering these followers since day 1 (May 18th). Over the course of a year, Stani made 1,637 posts, 2,326 mirrors, 3,772 comments, and a whopping 210,814 collects.

That’s an average of:

  • 4.2 posts/day

  • 6 mirrors/day

  • 9.8 comments/day

  • 547 collects/day

Over time, Stani has been consistently active on Lens. Interestingly enough, his favorite means to engage (after collecting, of course) is by commenting (which is the least used Lens feature.)

But how about his followers? When did they start following him?

If we take a look at the chart below, we see that the surges in followers are coordinated with whenever Lens opened its gates to more and more people. 

From the fall of 2022 to the end of February 2023, Lens was aggressively giving away Lens profiles. That’s also the period Stani gained many of his followers.

Since the end of March, we can notice a stagnation, which is when Lens slowed down with giving away profiles.

In terms of the engagement coming from Stani’s followers, we can see that most of the engagement came in the timeframe of the airdrop rumors. 

The chart below shows the unique users engaging with Stani’s posts by either commenting or mirroring.

The same can be said about the total number of engagements on his posts.

Again, it’s impossible to see this level of analytics on any accounts within web2 social media.

Web3 technology provides a whole new world for creators and even social media consumers and we couldn’t be more excited to watch this play out in real time… both by using Lens Protocol, but also by 👀🔛⛓️

We want to share one final feature: a few months ago, we wanted to jump on this Lens Circle train, where we could share an image of the accounts we engaged the most with.

But first… We wanted to experiment with this on Twitter. Here’s what we were asked to share with this rather unknown app:

To get a circle image with a few faces on it we had to agree that an unknown party was able to:

  • follow/unfollow accounts for us

  • post and delete on our behalf

  • create/delete lists

  • change our profile & settings

Nope, thanks!

But when we tried the same feature on Lens, all it asked for was our handle:

This app, called Lens Circles, was able to simply 👀🔛⛓️ and pull the data that’s needed, without accessing our wallet or other personal data.

And that’s what web3 and blockchain unlock. Say goodbye to connecting into APIs and sharing sensitive data… This is all gone in the next big phase of the internet. 🚀

FYI: You can check the metrics of any .lens profile here.

Wrapping Up: The Future of Lens and Web3 Content Creation

In its current state, Lens hosts just over 100,000 profiles - modest numbers compared to web2 platforms. The revenue generated by these users, while promising, remains relatively low.

Regardless, Lens is in an exciting phase of growth and evolution, relentlessly working on the tools and enhancements that will elevate the platform to compete with the user experience of web2 counterparts. 

They're bridging the gap between web2 and web3, making blockchain components less obtrusive and more streamlined for users. 

Soon, the intimidating tasks of signing transactions and bridging will be quietly humming under the hood.

On the creator side, there's a pressing need for tools that support larger operations, like post scheduling, account sharing for social media teams, and more. 

While some apps do already exist, Lens is already at work, developing these features further. Because, frankly, what we currently have isn't enough and nowhere near the toolbox you can find in web2. 

Once these creator-friendly tools are in place, coupled with significant scaling and UX enhancements, Lens will likely open its doors to the public. 

This pivotal move could set the stage for a new era of content creation, one that is inherently self-custodial, interoperable, and directly monetizable.

When the Lens ecosystem matures and becomes more accessible, the possibilities for this revolutionary social media platform will truly start to unfold. 

A word of advice: watch this space - the future of content creation is being written, and it's on the blockchain. 

That’s it for today, frens. If you stuck around until down here, then I hope you enjoyed it and congrats… Here’s your free 7-day trial.

Here’s what you need to know: Next Tuesday at 12p EST, we’re hosting a PRO only Eyes On Chain Session in Discord.

Unfortunately, a trial doesn’t grant you a PRO Pass so you’re unable to attend. But don’t worry… Our PRO Report next Thursday will be based on our Discord session.

And we’ll even share the recording with you!

In this session, I will serve up the top 5 charts you NEED to keep on your radar for the coming months.

I’ll do my best to decode these bad boys, chat about what they mean for us, and ensure you can capitalize on the opportunity of web3.

But now, I have to go… I’m about to meet the Web3 Academy community here in Lisbon for a couple of beers. 🍻

Be sure to grab your free 7-day trial and I’ll see you next week. ✌️


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kyle Reidhead


Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and not financial advice. Conduct your own research and consult a financial advisor before making investment decisions or taking any action based on the content.

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