Web3 Social Usage and Engagement

Key Insights

  • Lens has 20,000 active users so far in October which is an all-time-high for the protocol and is nearly 8x more than Farcaster.
  • While Lens has more overall engagement, Farcaster has seen more new engagements in each of the last two months and is growing user engagement at a much faster rate than Lens.
  • Farcaster users are nearly twice as active as Lens users with roughly 30 engagements per user each month.
  • 20% of Farcaster users are highly engaged with over 50 total engagements while only 5% of Lens users have the same engagement.
  • Every crypto bear market in the past has gone off to spawn a new sector or token model within crypto. This bear market is no different, with numerous sectors like decentralized social or gaming vying to lead the next consumer adoption wave. Historically, the sectors leading the wave have dominated the preceding hackathon submissions. Now, the most dominant sector amongst hackathon projects is social.
  • Web3 social is architecturally different from Web2 in that the underlying social graph is a separate protocol from the front ends. Most of the hackathon activity has been centered around attracting projects to build on top of one of the leading social graph protocols, Lens. While Lens may receive substantial hackathon attention, the crypto community has also praised a second social graph protocol, Farcaster. Both social graph protocols are mainly engaged through a Twitter-like front end which allows users to post, comment, and re-share. Each of the protocols has differing architectures and levels of maturity, but at the core, the most important thing for any social application is user traction.
  • To measure the traction of a social graph, two key metrics matter:
    • How many people are using the application? (monthly active users)
    • How engaged are the users? (monthly engagements)

Monthly Active Users

  • Lens has nearly 8x the amount of monthly active users (MAUs) as Farcaster with nearly 20,000 users so far in October. Farcaster, however, has outpaced Lens in percentage growth over the last two months, growing 81% and 55% across September and October. From August to September, Lens grew active users by only 0.5% which added 86 new active users. Farcaster added over 8x the new active users in the same month with 732 new users (81% growth).
  • Going from September to October, Lens experienced more growth than the previous month with a 17% active user uptick. Farcaster again outpaced Lens on a percentage basis growing MAUs by nearly 55% over so far in October.
  • Since Lens is far larger than Farcaster, the growth percentages should be taken with a grain of salt as it’s far easier to grow the user counts from a few hundred than from a few thousand. That said, Farcaster’s growth outperformance is partially due to the higher levels of engagement on its front end.

User Engagement

  • Engagements occur when users post, comment, or re-share content from the front end. Despite having nearly 8x fewer monthly active users than Lens, Farcaster is expected to do double the new engagement count of Lens from August through October. Lens is forecasted to add nearly 30,000 new engagements over the time span compared to Farcaster’s 60,000.
  • With such a disadvantaged user count, Farcaster can outpace Len’s engagement growth because its users are significantly more active than Lens users.
  • Farcaster has nearly double the number of engagements per user than Lens with 29 monthly engagements per user compared to 12 for Lens. Over the last four months, Lens has nearly doubled its active user count while seeing roughly flat to moderate growth in engagement. This dynamic has driven its engagement per user down nearly 40% over the time span.
  • Farcaster, on the other hand, has nearly tripled its user count from July and has maintained a highly engaged user base while doing so. Its users have consistently engaged 30 times or more per month on average throughout the growth. Farcaster users are seemingly more active than Lens users, as seen in its engagement distributions.
  • Looking at the lifetime engagements, over three-quarters of Lens users have engaged with the protocol fewer than 10 times. Furthermore, only 5% of Lens users are highly active with more than 50 total engagements.
  • On Farcaster, nearly 20% of users are highly active by the same definition. That’s 4x the relative user population that is heavily engaged on Farcaster compared to Lens.
  • In its defense, Lens has significantly more users, and the marginal user is likely to be less engaged as growth sets in. However, another likely driving factor is the manner in which Lens acquires its users. Hackathons are a major component of Lens’ growth strategy, and these events have a tendency to drive a flurry of activity followed by a lull.
  • Driving growth and usage from hackathons should not be conceived as a bad thing, especially on a short-term timescale such as this. Hackathons by nature are the very beginnings of ideas and developer interest. Even the best of teams can take a few months to find any meaningful traction from these events. For example, many front ends can exist on top of Lens with their various features. The predominant Lens front end today, Lenster, emulates Twitter. Coming out of the recent hackathons are differentiating projects which use video content similar to YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat. All that to say, there are apparently artificial spikes in usage from hackathons, but the investments in builders could result in exponential growth in the future.

Concluding Thoughts

  • The two popular social protocols are Lens and Farcaster. Lens has nearly 8x the monthly active users compared to Farcaster, but Farcaster has seen greater engagement growth over the last couple of months. The users on Farcaster seem to be far more engaged on the front end compared to the dominant Lens front end, Lenster.
  • The more important metric between active users and engagement is likely engagement given the size of the social graphs in question. Each is minuscule compared to traditional social products. If a major adoption wave actually comes, it will be because there is a new, engaging core product to try.
  • That said, it is likely that neither of the two front ends on top of Farcaster or Lens is differentiating enough to attract sizable user interest. Currently, these Web3 social products are serving a highly captive audience of strictly crypto users. The products themselves are highly skeuomorphic in that they overly cater to the features of the past without emphasizing enough features of the future.
  • So while the usage metrics may tell a story about which protocol has the upper hand, it should be taken lightly. Categorically defining projects don’t emulate, they define. Defining something new will feel jarring at first, but the engagement metrics will follow like a tidal wave. Until then, continually monitoring the usage metrics and trends of consumer apps is the best way to catch the wave before it breaks.