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What is shilling in crypto? And is Elon Musk a crypto shiller?

What is shilling in crypto? And is Elon Musk a crypto shiller?
What is shilling in crypto? And is Elon Musk a crypto shiller?
If you’ll check the leading portal about coins and cryptocurrencies, CoinMarketCap, you’ll see 10,050+ companies are listed there. Notice that they list only those blockchain and Web3 startups who have a token. If the company doesn't have it, it’s not on the list. Taking into account this, imagine how many crypto firms there are on the market.

To stand out from others, and to grow their visibility and trust, blockchain companies do everything possible heavily investing in marketing. Some buy tons of PR publications in top media like Cointelegraph, Coindesk and so on (and we helped hundreds of startups with crypto PR). Others manage to conduct ad integrations with leading cryptocurrency influencers. And some Web3 startups do use crypto shilling techniques.

What is crypto shilling?

To keep it straight, according to Dictionary.com (yep, here is a small wiki for you for the start), shill means:
“A person who publicizes or praises something or someone for reasons of self-interest, personal profit, or friendship or loyalty”.
Logically, almost the same definition could be applied to crypto shilling:
Activities aimed to promote a crypto token or project.
In other words, if a person or group of people actively engage in the promotion of some specific cryptocurrency, it means they are shilling it.

Unlike traditional crypto ads, crypto shilling is more about strategy and a systematic approach to promote or, what’s it called in crypto space, pump some project or product to gain from its token raise.

Shilling become famous in 2017-2018 when there was crypto hype, lots of people found out about BTC (Bitcoin), ICOs, cryptocurrency projects, etc. And crypto shilling is popular in our days as well - there are Web3, NFT and DeFi startups and some meme coins spotted using such techniques.

Does it work?

Well, you might be surprised, but yes, crypto shilling works and sometimes works like magic.

You might doubt that crypto shilling is really a good marketing tool unless you’ll find out that lots of things you already heard about that happened on the market were cryptocurrency shilling cases.

Example #1. Elon Musk and Dogecoin

On January 22, 2022, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted that he would be happy to eat McDonald’s happy meal if he could buy it using Dogecoin.
Elon Musk shilling Dogecoin
The 12-word tweet was more than enough to boost DOGE so that its token price surged 6% from $0,1362 to $0,1445 in a matter of 3-5 minutes.
DOGE price chart - January, 22, 2022
DOGE price chart - January, 22, 2022 from Coinmarketcap
And that’s not the only case. There were dozens of such cases when Elon changed the logo of Twitter to the Dogecoin logo or he again said something positive about the DOGE token.

There is comprehensive research done by Fabian Dablander, Ph.D. at the Department of Psychological Methods at the University of Amsterdam, who proves the existence of the correlation between Tesla CEO Twitter activity and Dogecoin price change.

Recently Elon Musk was even accused of manipulating the Dogecoin price that, according to the class lawsuit, generated billions of dollars of losses to investors.

So, if to answer one of the questions in the article’s title, the answer is yes, Elon is a sort of crypto shiller.

Example #2. Kim Kardashian and EMAX

On June 13, 2021, famous U.S. star Kim Kardashian promoted in Instagram stories the new project called EthereumMax with token called EMAX. There were only two slides. One with her selfie and hashtags promoting the new project. Another one with, straightly speaking, call to action to buy the token.
Kim Kardashian (@kimkardashian) EMAX promotion
Kim Kardashian (@kimkardashian) EMAX promotion
In its ad, Kim said that it’s not investment advice, there were consequences. Thanks to her 225 million Instagram followers, in 2 days Ethereum Max tokens price increases 270%+ from $0,67 to $2,46 for 10 mln tokens (right, one token price was very cheap).
EMAX token price chart, June 13-14, 2021, Coinmarketcap
Why is this case well-known? Because Kim was busted. She agreed to settle the charges from the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) and paid $1.26 million in penalties.

According to SEC, she was paid $250,000 for that promotion.

Example #3. Lindsay Lohan and Justin Sun

On February 11, 2021, famous American actress Lindsay Lohan tweeted that she is “liking $JST, $SUN on $TRX” - three tokens managed by popular crypto enthusiast Justin Sun.
Lindsay Lohan recommends investing in Justin Sun projects
If you check the price charts of all three tokens back then, there was some volatility, but no big difference after the tweet.
TRX price chart on February, 11-12, 2021, Coinmarketcap
TRX price chart on February, 11-12, 2021, Coinmarketcap
In this case, the tweet hasn't influenced the price of tokens, at least instantly. Still, Lindsay was accused in the misleading ad by the SEC along with other celebrities.

Is shilling legal?

Taking into account that all people in the three examples, Elon Musk, Kim Kardashian and Lindsay Lohan,
were accused of wrongdoing while promoting crypto, the good question is whether shilling is legal.

The answer is simple.

If you make it right, then it’s legal.

If you make crypto shilling in the wrong way it might in some jurisdictions be illegal.

Let’s get back to some of the examples above.

While Elon Musk was accused of manipulating Dogecoin price, there was still no court ruling. Musk also could tweet about DOGE just for fun and nothing more.

Speaking of the Kim Kardashian case, the SEC fined her for “failing to disclose that she was paid $250,000 to publish a post”. But the real reason was that the ad was too aggressive because of wording like “Are you guys in crypto?” and because Kim intended to create FOMO that the project’s token will skyrocket.

Also, crypto shilling will be illegal when it’s used for the thing called in a crypto ecosystem a “rug pull”. It’s when Web3 or a crypto project hypes a project to attract money from investors and then suddenly shuts down or disappears with the investor’s crypto assets. Practically, this is a definition of a crypto scam.

A not good idea will be to use shilling for the pump-and-dump of some altcoin, which also could be considered as market manipulation.

Does “good” crypto shilling exist?

Yes, sure!

As we found out previously, shilling could be a very useful and effective marketing tool to almost any crypto company.

But how not to cross the red line, keep under the radar and launch a 100% legit shilling campaign?

Here are some tips to consider.

  1. No need to use mainstream stars. Choose quantity over quality. Better engage with 100 micro crypto influencers instead of 1 mainstream celebrity;
  2. Never promise a guarantee on return on investment;
  3. Don’t push the community hard, give resources, whitepaper to do due diligence and DYOR (crypto slang, means Do Your Own Research) - that’s universal tips to all beginners in crypto;
  4. Never mislead your or any community about company facts, team, prospects, etc.

How does “good” crypto shilling work?

While the meaning of crypto shilling, as we mentioned before, is a promo activity to push the token price up, usually by such shilling crypto market participants recognize making positive speaking about their company.

Influence marketing is one of the tools to get this “positive speaking”.

Another tool, which could be pretty effective, is hiring people who will write about your company in a positive (but not over-aggressive) way in crypto-related channels and groups in social media like Twitter, Reddit, Telegram, forums, etc.

That’s practically where our agency, FINPR, can help, by offering several crypto shilling plans, where you can choose how many positive comments and posts you want to get (from 2,000 up to 6,000+) as well as what social media to cover - from Telegram and Reddit to Quora, YouTube (comments section) and Discord.