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The ultimate Airdrop toolkit for Solana founders
Get your first contributors, partners or customers on Solana in under 2 mins
This is not financial advice or an invitation to buy/trade crypto. Please do your own research and always read this exclusively from a builders’ POV – particularly around how airdrops done right can help catalyse community, open source development, etc.
When we talk about specific projects, NFTs or tokens we are not endorsing those teams or suggesting you invest in them. The lists are not exhaustive, this is just a starting point.
We might be biased towards or have exposure to some of the projects mentioned. As far as is humanly possible we don’t let that affect our judgment and content.
Aligning incentives & co-creation
The early thesis on tokens was that they are a mechanism to propagate shared digital networks and align incentives across all early contributors. The idea was that the internet already makes ideas instantly accessible globally & tokens provide a permissionless mechanism for anyone who resonates with an idea to get compensated for their work in helping grow it.
The prime example of this is the genesis & early growth of the bitcoin network. You couldn’t just buy bitcoin off an exchange (there were none back then), you had to care enough to mine it.
The former self-selected for people who were not only committed to the mission but also both willing and able to help grow the network.
As the industry has grown from a market cap of nothing to ~$1T, projects across blockchains have struggled to find the right model for token distribution. For e.g. analysis of the Uniswap airdrop showed that rewarding early users did not result in higher retention or usage but did result in instant dumping of the token.
Solana has had its own problem with low float, high FDV tokens & insiders using their community for exit liquidity. We wrote about this in a previous essay, highlighting BONK’s counter-narrative by choosing to airdrop majority of their supply upfront.
One of our key lessons from BONK is that projects should be more aggressive with giving away their community allocations early on. A committee gated process might seem logical but often leaves massive potential locked up in the treasury while projects struggle to find PMF and growth.
An upfront airdrop targeted correctly can help unlock community creativity.
Three parts to a successful airdrop
Wen? Before you’re “ready”
The popular advice to founders so far has been to raise privately with a core team, build out a product and generate initial traction. After this, you airdrop & open up your token for public sale when the “time is right”.
This is the root of the problem because it creates perceived “insiders” and incentives to pump up the token price before launch. Even in the best case scenario, those who buy-in later always feel like outsiders because they’ve often paid 100x more (1$ vs 1c) and put constant pressure on the core team to increase the price of the token.
Instead, teams would be better off giving away their community allocations upfront and free. Think of this as the crypto version of build-in-public. Because the token is given away for free, it isn’t attractive to speculators compared to tokens with price action. And it makes room for real contributors to show up.
The trade-off is that you won’t start at a high market cap but that’s a feature not a bug. It may also be delicate to manage investors who’ve put up capital for their tokens. But if done well, as we’ll explain in the next section, this approach could end up setting up the project for success which creates long-term value for everyone involved.
Don’t end up as a spam token - target well & message clearly
Okay, now that you’re giving it away for free - you can be picky. Instead of courting whales and market-makers you can identify potential contributors, power-users, etc and shine a bat-signal to them.
Targeting. Here are five types of cohorts/targeting, with examples live on Solana today, that you might consider
Contributors: People who can help build out your product by writing code or executing on growth, marketing, memes etc. To find contributors, you can start with airdropping to wallets that have a Superteam or DeansList membership NFT.
Beyond communities, you could look for people who’ve unlocked NFTs that represent a meaningful contribution; like the Solarplex explorer badge, NAS Academy Solana dev course completion or Sandstorm proof of participation.
Power users: People who actively try out new products, share feedback and onboard their friends. This really depends on the type of product you’re building. For e.g. if you’re building for the Saga you want to airdrop to all wallets that hold a genesis token. Or if you’re building a xNFT you want to airdrop to all wallets that hold a MadLad.
In-app Partnerships: The way to cracking a partnership with a top project is through their users. The best projects always have their DMs flooded with people who want to “collab”. A way to standout is to airdrop something directly to their users, show them what it could unlock in-app and get their users to lobby for an integration. If you’re an artist looking to get a DRiP channel, you could try airdropping some of your work directly to wallets that subscribe to a particular channel. Or you could pitch a collab with Degen Poet by sending a gift to everyone who donated to him. You could unlock a product partnership with Dialect or TipLink by airdropping to wallets that hold their stickers or showcase cNFT.
Clubs: Airdrop to members of active communities and clubs for general reach and awareness (e.g. SMB) or specific interest based clubs that match your product's niche (e.g. Lifinity Flares, AssetDash Vanta, FiveDollarNFT, Homebase etc) .
Messaging. As of now, most people will receive your airdrop in a generic wallet. They won’t get a notification or see anything more than a preview image. In fact, wallets may choose to hide your token because it gets detected as spam. So it is vital that you communicate upfront using mediums like twitter & telegram so that your intended audience knows what to look for.
Follow up - Post airdrop action & measurement
It should also be clear to people what the airdrop unlocks for someone. Whether it is an upfront token grant for their future contribution, access to use a product, a community membership, a collectible, etc. A leading indicator of success would be activation - what % of people who received your airdrop contributed to or engaged with your product/service.
The post-drop experience is most underserved today because it is limited by wallet UX. Expect that to change as xNFTs become more common with no-code builders etc & wallets start getting embedded into apps. The MadLads mint experience was a preview of the kind of custom experiences that are around the corner.
As we write this, they just announced Soul abstraction; a protocol that allows any project to permissionlessly target an airdrop contingent on the wallet holding a given NFT. So, if you airdrop your in-game asset to a MadLad and the holder sells their NFT then the rewards are also transferred to the new owner. This provides a degree of protection against farming & unlocks community level marketing.
Working Prototype: Airdrop Lists by Synap
We partnered with our friends at Synap to create a few cohorts of wallet addresses along the lines of what we described in the section above.
Click here and browse through a curated list of communities, clubs & cohorts on Solana
One-click to download or copy the set of wallet addresses that interest you (completely free to use - for now)
And, using this tool from Underdog you can paste in the addresses & airdrop 10k cNFTs instantly (currently costs ~1 SOL). Other airdropping tools like Airdropr & Wallet hunter are coming to Solana soon.
You go from idea to targeted airdrop in less than 2 minutes. No-code needed.
If you think your community should be listed here, fill out the form at the bottom of the webpage and the team will review it to see if it's a good fit.
Please keep in mind that this is a weekend hack so there could be errors, bugs or delays - try it at your own risk & be nice.
Here’s a range of features the team might add based on usage & demand,
Cohort refresh - currently the addresses are static snapshot as on a given date. If there is consistent usage each cohort will start refreshing at a defined interval (daily/weekly) or at the time of querying.
Advanced querying - the ability to pull wallet addresses based on criteria executed in real-time and defined across a range of categories (e.g. wallets that hold a Saga genesis pass, donated to Degen Poet & deployed a contract on devnet)
Built-in token & NFT airdrop - the ability to not just query addresses but airdrop a token or NFT of choice from the tool.
Privacy controls - the ability to exclude your wallet address from being targeted by this tool.
As an API for your product - include the ability to create and target dynamic lists of dynamic wallet addresses for features within your app.
We’ve published a bounty to help create the ultimate Solana producer list. A collection of active and verified wallet addresses that represent anyone who is working in the Solana ecosystem.
The ideal submission will include both a blog post outlining the methodology and criteria used to select the wallet & a public list of the addresses themselves (categorised by skill type).
Total prizes worth $800 up for grabs, with $500 and member status in Superteam for the winning entry.
Thanks to Ujjwal & Bhagya of Synap for creating the airdrop lists prototype, Akshay BD for providing feedback on drafts of this essay, Dean for his inputs & Pratik D for helping me get started with Superteam earn.