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Crypto Shilling: What You Should Know About It

Are you shilling an NFT or crypto? What does it mean, anyway?

This is a common question among people new to the crypto space and still unfamiliar with all the jargon. But fear not, in this article we’re going to learn all about that.

First off, we’re going to look at the history of shilling and what the word means for NFTs and cryptocurrencies. After that, we will learn about the differences between the shilling and promoting crypto. 

Then, we’ll be learning how to avoid being a victim to the shilling and how to promote your NFTs and crypto without coming across as a shill.

The History of Shilling

Shilling is known as one of the early American coins considered historical now. However, the word also has an entirely different meaning for casinos. 

The casinos often employ people to look like they’re winning a lot of money so that the spectators get their hopes up and think they can win too. Since most people lose more than they win, and the more they lose, the more the casino gains – it’s only profitable for them. 

This is commonly referred to as shilling, where the people (who are actually paid actors to motivate onlookers) are called shills.

Shilling is also used in other fields like magic shows and television shows. In show business, the organizer often arranges manufactured audiences that are instructed to applaud or laugh at particular comments, so the rest of the crowd are encouraged to follow suit. 

Since many people can’t help but fall to pack mentality, shilling leverages this aspect of crowd psychology to elicit positive responses.

How the Internet Has Enabled a New Era of Shilling

With the help of social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, it’s a lot easier to connect with people than before. Companies often pay influencers a fortune to write a positive review of their products or services. Since that influencer’s followers trust their endorsements, they get encouraged to try the endorsed product or service.

However, it wouldn’t be considered shilling if the influencer gives their genuine opinion about something. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case, and their reviews are fabricated to favor the sponsor more often than not. 

Shilling NFTS and Cryptocurrencies: What Does It Mean?

Let’s assume that there’s a cryptocurrency called Shillcoin. It’s priced at $1 now. 

Someone can’t stop talking about how Shillcoin will be the next big thing in the crypto world. They own a bunch of Shillcoins, and if the price goes up to $2, they’ll be able to make a nice profit by selling them off.

Do you think maybe the only reason why they’re telling you and other people that Shillcoin is fantastic, so if the price gets driven up, they benefit from that? 

That’s how shilling works for cryptocurrencies and NFTs, in a nutshell. 

When someone is subtly trying to endorse a cryptocurrency or an NFT for financial incentives, they’re shilling it. 

How crypto and NFT shilling works in six steps 

  • The objective is to hype the project up so that people invest in it. 
  • The more people invest – or in other words, buy that Shillcoin or NFT – the more the demand increases.
  • The more the demand increases, the higher the perceived value of the cryptocurrency/NFT is. 
  • Due to the higher perceived value, the price increases, creating a speculation-driven economic bubble. But people are too invested emotionally to notice that – they fall victim to the pack mentality and keep buying.
  • When the bubble is about to burst, the shills who artificially inflated the price in the first place sell their cryptocurrencies/NFTs, cashing in on the bubble.
  • When the bubble bursts, the victims are left with nothing but worthless cryptocurrency or tokens. 

Is Crypto Shilling Legal?

There aren’t any laws against crypto shilling as of now. That being said, shilling, in general, is illegal under many jurisdictions, whether it involves cryptocurrencies and NFTs or not. 

So in that sense, it’s safe to say that crypto shilling is not legal.

A Story of Cryptocurrency Shilling: Why the “Crypto King” Was Arrested

John David McAfee wrote the first commercial anti-virus software and was the founder of McAfee Associates, which he sold to Intel for $7.68 billion. In 2020, the cybersecurity software developer was arrested and sued for shilling ICOs (Initial Coin Offering) by the SEC.

He was alleged to shill eight ICOs from which he made $23 million in total. According to the lawsuit, McAfee lied to the investors pretending to be a technical advisor or investor while recommending those ICOs to them. 

The ICO hype man falsely gave the impression that those companies were getting his technical assistance and even willing to invest his own money in those cryptocurrencies. However, his tweets were more like paid promotions disguised as unbiased investment advice.

McAfee also had some worthless coins from the ICOs, so he allegedly pumped the tokens to cash out after being outed by the press. According to the SEO, he encouraged investors to buy the tokens without disclosing that he was trying to sell his tokens at the same time. 

Key takeaways:

  • Given his background, people believed in McAfee’s technical expertise. So when he endorsed those cryptocurrencies, it was easy for him to label that as “friendly investment advice from someone who built a multibillion-dollar company.” 
  • He leveraged the power of social media (Twitter, actually) to get his message across to the people. 
  • Even when McAfee was outed by the media, he managed to get investors to buy the worthless cryptocurrencies he also had, so he could sell them off after the investors drove the price up.  

Is Promoting a Cryptocurrency/NFT and Shilling the Same?

Not, absolutely not. Although they have very different intents, many confuse typical cryptocurrency and NFT promotions with shillings. 

As we’ve seen already, the objective of shilling is to leverage the herd mentality and fool people into buying tokens for more than what they’re worth so that the shills can exit with a nice profit right before the bubble bursts. Understandably, the shills know that people will catch wind of the scam eventually, so they start with an exit plan in mind. 

However, genuine marketers who advocate cryptocurrency and NFT are in it for the long run. Unlike shills, they neither try to be pretentious with their endorsements nor use deception in their marketing. They are always transparent with the financial incentives – if any – they have in a project they’re involved with. 

In a room full of shills and authentic crypto and NFT enthusiasts, the shills will always be the loudest ones who can’t stop blabbering about the “next big thing” everyone should get their hands on. 

But the real advocates of crypto/NFT won’t be trying to sell you something by hook or by crook. That’s how you can spot them.

What Kind of Crypto or NFT Shills Should You Be Aware Of?

Crypto or NFT shills are often hard to spot as they tend to be crafted very smartly. Having said that, there are a couple of red flags that you’d want to look out for:

The Shills Disguised as Influencers

We’re not saying all influencers in the crypto space are shills. There are definitely many authentic people who preach what they believe and give impartial investment advice.

However, if you find a celebrity (who mightn’t even have any connection to crypto or NFTs) suddenly talking about why “x” coin’s price is going to skyrocket, it’s best not to let your guard down; no matter how credible they sound. There’s a good chance that the endorsement is paid, their enthusiasm is fake, and they have little or no insider knowledge regarding the project.

How to spot them: If an influential public figure starts advocating a particular cryptocurrency or NFT out of the blue and encourages their followers to buy it before it’s gone, despite having shown zero interest in the market before, run.

The Overexcited Businessmen

People who are phenomenal marketers in other fields often pull a pump-and-dump scheme in the crypto space. Even if they don’t have a technical background, they’ll invest in a token then encourage their followers to do the same. Once the price has been driven up enough, the influential businessman would sell their holdings off. 

The market would crash almost immediately – since the businessman’s exit would lead the followers who’d previously been banking on the dream to think that it’s a sinking ship and they should abandon it as well before it’s too late – not knowing it’s already too late. In the end, the new investors will be hung out to dry with their worthless tokens while the businessman enjoys the vast fortune they made.  

How to spot them: If the businessman is highlighting how the cryptocurrency of his “choice” can make you rich than talking about its technical aspects, fundamental functions, or use-cases – they’re probably trying to exploit people’s greed which is always a red flag. These shills are often professional investors or entrepreneurs in other sectors who make money through trading.

The Overly Zealous Founders and Team Members

It’s natural for them to be passionate about their project. Like, a lack of enthusiasm among the founding members would be a red flag itself. 

However, they might often go overboard with the marketing and hype it up to attract new customers and investors. It might not be as evil as fake endorsements, but the marketing gimmicks can easily allow them to oversell their project to people who are still new to the crypto and NFT space. 

How to spot them: If the team seems to be promising the moon but doesn’t have a well-planned product roadmap that lives up to their words, something fishy is going on. It’s best to take all promises with a grain of salt until you can see the progress for yourself. 

How to Not Fall Victim to Shilling

The crypto industry is entirely unregulated, so the only way to steer clear of shills is to go in with the correct information. The more knowledgeable you are about the scams and, of course, the cryptocurrencies, the safer you will be. 

To help you further, we’re giving you some pointers below. As long as you keep these in mind and exercise good judgment, you should be fine. 

  • Always DYOR: The term stands for Do Your Own Research, which is the first thing you should do before even considering investing in a token. No matter who tells you what, tune out the buzz and get as much information as you can on it. If you don’t find anything much apart from too-good-to-be-true endorsements, well, that’s a sign that you should stay away from it.
  • Never YOLO or FOMO: The former is short for You Only Live Once, while the latter means Fear Of Missing Out. Yes, cats may have nine lives, and we may have one, but that isn’t to be wasted on fraudulent schemes – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. As for FOMO, it’s better to be late to a party of winners than to be early to a party of losers.
  • Credibility and background check: Look into the person endorsing the token and see if they have their own skin in the game. While there’s no easy way to check that, their previous history in the crypto space can shed some light on that. If the endorser was never involved with any cryptocurrency projects before, that might mean they’re not this time, either. 
  • Fame doesn’t translate to crypto knowledge: Just because someone is a world-renowned musician doesn’t mean their speculation about cryptocurrencies and NFTs is right. Moreover, if they claim to have true insights on a cryptocurrency or NFT in particular, it might mean they’re getting paid to say good things about that even if they don’t admit to it. In which case, again, make sure to do your own research. 

How to Promote NFTS and Crypto Without Coming Across as a Shill

When it comes to promoting something on social media, personal connections are everything. However, people are very wary of con artists in the crypto space, so, in addition to that, you also have to avoid the common traits of a shill.

That means, don’t try to oversell your products or promise people the world. Sooner or later, someone will call you out on that, and your reputation would be tarnished, even if you never intended to fool anyone.

Instead, try to give more than you take, as much as you can. What that means is you can publish insightful content on NFTs and cryptocurrencies to educate people on it. Once you’ve established yourself as a crypto and NFT expert, it’ll be easier for you to sell your products in the long run. 

Here are some ways you can connect with people on social media platforms:

  • Niche community: Forming a community in your niche is a great way to connect with your target audience. The best part is the community would start growing itself after the first few thousand members, allowing you to have an engaging, low-maintenance audience.
  • Live-streaming: You can go live regularly and talk about NFT and crypto-related topics, like your opinion on a recent trend in the crypto space or observations you’ve made. It’ll make you come across as more knowledgeable and hence, credible to people. 
  • AMA session: AMA is the stand for Ask Me Anything, a session where the viewers can ask the host any questions related to the topic. For example, you can organize an AMA Ethereum session every weekend where people ask you their questions about Ethereum. It’s a great way to establish a rapport with your audience.

Top 7 Places to Promote Your Cryptocurrency or NFT of Choice

#1 – Reddit

You may have already heard of how Redditors pumped the stocks up of GameStop last year, giving Wall street a hectic week. Whether that was fair for everyone or not is open to debate; there’s no denying that Reddit is a platform with great potential.  

As long as your marketing strategies are on point, it’s very much possible for your cryptocurrency or NFT to go viral on Reddit. Subreddits (Reddit communities) like r/cryptocurrency can be an excellent place to start. 

#2 – Twitter

Twitter is another excellent platform to promote NFTs and cryptocurrencies since you can get the message across to many people through retweets and hashtags. Unlike other social media platforms, Twitter isn’t looked down on by the movers and shakers of industries, so it’s easier to form meaningful connections with essential personalities here.

However, that also means the standards are relatively high here. Before promoting your product to people, you need to publish tweets that add value to their lives and build a following before converting that fan base into customers. 

There are a lot of nobodies on Twitter, and no one listens to what they have to say, no matter how intriguing it is. That’s why being somebody by building your authority should be your first step. 

#3 – Facebook and Instagram

Neither Facebook nor Instagram needs any introduction to social media promotions. However, we strongly recommend you not take a one-size-fits-both approach for them.

Facebook is good for leveraging the power of niche communities, where all the members have a common interest. There are a lot of cryptocurrency and NFT related groups on Facebook which you should join first. 

Partake in the discussions, try to be helpful to people but don’t advertise your NFT or cryptocurrency at every chance you get – that’s an easy way to get banned. Instead, if the group rules allow, make a post with the details of your offering and answer the questions sincerely. If people are interested, they’ll hit you up on Messenger.

As for Instagram, it’s better to take a content marketing approach there. Publish valuable and insightful content on the niche your product fits into regularly. Take full advantage of Instagram Stories and the hashtag feature to build an audience of engaging and active potential customers.

#4 – Telegram

Telegram is another great platform for NFT and crypto-related promotions. It’s one of the best messenger apps for broadcasting your messages to a large audience, as Telegram channels can accommodate as high as 200,000 users per group. 

There are a plethora of cryptocurrency-related channels that you can use to talk to people about your NFT or cryptocurrency. While joining existing channels is a viable option, it’s comparatively easier to create your own community as well.

#5 – Discord

Discord is another messenger app that’s very popular among crypto enthusiasts. Since there are plenty of established crypto-related servers (communities) available already, it’s pretty easy to promote and sell your cryptocurrencies or NFTs here. Like Telegram, you can also create your own server and build a loyal follower base monetized later. 

#6 – NFT Marketplaces

Social media platforms are great for connecting with your audience personally, but understandably, the transactions have to take place elsewhere. On the other hand, NFT marketplaces save you this hassle as not only can you advertise your tokens to an audience who came here to buy NFTs in the first place, they also can purchase the spot without navigating to a different website. 

Some of our favorite marketplaces include OpenSea, Rarible, and Nifty’s. If you want to try your luck at NFT marketplaces, we highly recommend you check those out first.  

#7 – Your website

Last but not least, your website. Or, to be more precise, the blog section of your website. 

SEO-based content marketing is often an underrated tactic among creators, although it can yield wonderful results when done right. 

In a nutshell, you publish informative articles on the niche you’re working with. For instance, if you sell music NFTs, that’s the niche your website should cater to. After some time, when it’s become one of the authority websites in the niche, you can monetize the traffic by promoting your products on the website. 

It won’t happen overnight, but the results are very much worth the wait. 

Final Words

Let’s recap the things we’ve read so far, shall we? 

In this article, we’ve learned what shilling means in the crypto space its history and also read about a case study. 

After that, we’ve looked at the differences between crypto/NFT shilling and crypto/NFT promotions, along with how to fall victim to a shill. 

And last but not least, we’ve looked into how to promote your works as a creator in the NFT/crypto space without coming across as a shill. 

We hope this article answers all your questions about crypto shilling. We wish you all the best!

Henry Hicks
Henry Hicks
NFT and Crypto Enthusiast. Loves Travelling and Exploring the Metaverse!


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