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Airdrop Beginner’s Guide: What's an Airdrop and How Does it Work?

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Michael Caloca / ONE37pm

If you are at all active in the NFT or web3 space, then you’ve likely heard of people receiving airdrops. One of the most well-known airdrops is the OpenDAO’s $SOS token drop that was dropped to everyone who has interacted with Opensea, on December 13th, 2021.

Airdrops can take a myriad of different forms, but what exactly is an airdrop?

What is an airdrop?

An airdrop is a distribution of cryptocurrency, tokens, or NFTs that are sent to a web3 wallet address for free as a promotion, or as added value for participating in an experience or purchasing a digital asset. Airdrops are generally used to add additional value or to draw attention to a brand or experience.

Airdrops are most commonly implemented as a promotional strategy that is used to draw attention to an NFT project or other blockchain-based community such as a DAO, or a newly created cryptocurrency.

Keep in mind that there are numerous types of airdrops when it comes to web3. Let's go over the different types of airdrops that are commonly seen in the web3 space today.

1. Standard airdrop

A standard airdrop is when a certain amount of cryptocurrency is sent to you in return for completing a simple task such as sharing a social media post, joining a whitelist, or providing your email address to sign up for a newsletter or other email services.

Standard airdrops do not require you to spend anything in order to receive the airdrop, it is simply a task that you complete and in return, you’re rewarded with the airdrop. The cryptocurrency is usually a newer and unknown currency and may not be as valuable as some of the well-known cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Think of a standard airdrop similarly to a real-life coupon. For example, say a new restaurant opens up in your town and for the first week they offer free appetizers if you choose to try out the restaurant. The restaurant is providing their customers with added value in the form of a free appetizer, while at the same time they’re drawing in more attention and customers. It’s a win-win!

2. Exclusive airdrop

Exclusive airdrops are distributed to loyal holders or users of a cryptocurrency or blockchain-based community. An exclusive airdrop is essentially a reward for being a loyal user and is generally dispersed with no strings attached other than being loyal.

I compare exclusive airdrops to being a member at a grocery store and receiving gas rewards for shopping at the store. You are rewarded for your continued support, and the grocery store gains a loyal customer and provides additional value through the gas rewards.

3. NFT airdrop

An NFT airdrop can be initiated for several reasons. You may receive an NFT airdrop for holding a certain NFT in your wallet, promoting a brand in some way, participating in a giveaway, or even as a gift which is more a marketing strategy rather than a gift.

Just to be fair, NFT airdrops can be extremely valuable. A good example of a valuable NFT airdrop is the Bored Ape Mutant Serum. Holders of Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs were airdropped variations of what's known as the Mutant Serum NFT. 

Although these Mutant Serums were airdropped for free to holders, it didn’t take long for them to begin selling for over 3 ETH (thousands of dollars) on secondary NFT marketplaces. In fact, on January 2, 2022, a Mega Mutant Serum sold for 1,542.069 ETH ($5,907,542.97).

That being said, not all NFT airdrops are valuable. Some may be completely worthless, and some may even be scams. If you ever receive a random NFT in your wallet without your knowledge from an unknown source, you should be extremely cautious in how you handle the asset and try to avoid selling it or trading it in any way.

4. Hardfork airdrop

A hardfork airdrop occurs when there is a permanent split or new version of a blockchain that is released, hence creating the need for a new token to go with it.

Generally, the old version of the previous blockchain will still exist along with your old tokens, but the new tokens will also be airdropped to you in an equal amount to what you currently hold in the old token.

How to get an airdrop

To receive an airdrop, you generally have to hold a minimum quantity of a certain asset such as an NFT or have used a particular service that qualifies you to receive an airdrop such as transacting on a marketplace. Furthermore, you will need a web3 wallet to receive your airdropped asset.

Although, airdrops can also be received for completing a simple task for someone or a brand. Such tasks could be something as simple as sharing a social media post, creating a piece of content, or assisting in spreading awareness.

Why are airdrops important?

Airdrops are an important part of the web3 community because they act as a promotional tool for brands, allow for brands to continue to provide additional value and utility to their holders, and enable blockchains to start new without sacrificing the trust and relationship of their users.

Ultimately, airdrops allow individuals and brands to foster new relationships, strengthen current ones, and highlight their products and services in an easy and inexpensive way compared to traditional marketing methods.

Are airdrops safe?

In general, airdrops are considered to be a safe and effective way to market your brand and build community. However, that’s not to say that airdrops don’t come with some risks. There’s an extreme amount of scams in the web3 space, and any airdrop should be approached with caution and thoughtfulness every step of the way.

Many airdrop scams consist of an offering that may be hard to resist. These scams will ask you to enter your secret phrase or sign for the transaction using your web3 wallet in order to receive your airdrop, which can lead to your wallet being compromised along with everything inside of it.

If you are ever offered an airdrop, it is crucial that you do your own research and verify that the airdrop is authentic and not a scam. Here are some common signs that an airdrop may be a scam:

  • Requesting that you pay a small amount to receive your airdrop
  • Requesting any private information such as secret phrases and passwords
  • Offering to help you via sharing your screen
  • A new or lookalike NFT or crypto airdrop that’s unverified
  • Links that direct you to a phishing site that makes you sign using your wallet
  • If it’s too good to be true, then it’s likely a scam

If you find yourself in a position where you are questioning the legitimacy of an airdrop, then make sure to take your time to do the proper research and use resources such as Twitter to ask the community about the authenticity of the airdrop.

If an airdrop is legit, then it’s highly likely that you’re not the only one who knows about it, so asking the community is one of the best things you can do.

Final thoughts

Airdrops have many benefits when it comes to the web3 space such as marketing, building a community, and providing additional value and support to loyal users and holders of digital assets. However, not all airdrops are great or beneficial, and some may even be harmful if you don’t do your due diligence and research the airdrop.

Overall, airdrops can be an excellent way to earn some additional income, utility, and assets without having to do much in return. But beware, if it’s too good to be true, then it probably is.

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