Topics NFT
Bybit Learn
Bybit Learn
Intermediate
Jun 10, 2022

NFT PFPs: The Rise of NFT Profile Pictures on Social Media

What are NFT PFPs? Non-fungible token profile pictures, or NFT PFPs, are NFT artwork pieces that are designed as avatars or characters. This guide will include more information about why NFT profile pics are so popular, their communities, what makes them special, their integration into social media and their place in the future.

What Are NFT PFPs?

NFT profile pics became increasingly popular in 2021 when CryptoPunks gained substantial momentum. The CryptoPunks NFT PFPs include characters that are female, male, zombie, ape or alien. Larva Labs’ John Watkinson and Matt Hall actually created them in 2017. Originally, the CryptoPunks were ERC-20 tokens, and buyers could trade fractions of them. Later, Bored Ape Yacht Club, The Meebits, World of Women and several other popular projects emerged with NFT PFPs. BAYC includes a wide variety of cartoon apes that truly look bored, The Meebits has algorithm-generated voxel characters, and World of Women creates powerful, diverse cartoon women. 

The popularity of NFT PFPs continued growing into the world of social media. People who are fans of certain NFT profile pic projects use avatars of their favorite NFT characters to show their community affiliation or their ownership of an NFT PFP collectible they’ve purchased. Celebrities have also joined in on the trend. Several well-known celebrities have created their own NFT PFPs to sell. The NFT project creators who use PFP designs typically have a community structured with its own values, culture or exclusive benefits. Due to their widespread growth, crypto PFPs have quickly become mainstream.

NFT PFPs and Unique Identity

All humans are unique. Each person has different combinations of character traits, hobbies, looks and much more. NFT PFPs give people an opportunity to be represented with a unique identity because of advanced technologies and talented artists. One factor that all crypto PFP projects have in common is the strong focus on the concept of unique identity. NFT profile pic project creators can achieve unique identity goals by setting their projects or character choices apart from other crypto PFP projects, and by creating unique crypto profile pics with varying attributes or traits.

The creators of projects must be careful to keep their characters unique — or risk their future. For example, there’s a new popular NFT PFP project called the Okay Bears, featuring chilled-out bears with a positivity-focused community. A copycat project emerged, called the Not Okay Bears, and it featured similar bear characters that looked grumpy instead of chill. If the copycat project had proceeded, it would likely have been unsuccessful because of its lack of originality and unique identity.

Many NFT PFP projects’ creators use algorithms to generate a large number of unique characters with different combinations of traits. In this way, they offer people the value of having a unique or rare identity in the digital world. Also, people often gravitate toward projects that they relate to or like because of their character stories, communities, utilities, or for other reasons. Because the world of NFT PFPs is growing so rapidly, the value of unique identity is something that’s key to all successful projects.

Why Are NFT PFPs So Popular?

In addition to the unique identity appeal that NFT PFPs offer, there are other reasons for their currency popularity. Following are some of the main factors that contribute to the popularity of NFT profile pics.

Exclusive Community

In June of 2021, anyone who didn’t follow NFT PFPs closely and only relied on mainstream news would have believed that the virtual tokens were nearly dead. However, their popularity skyrocketed later that summer and left many people wondering why. One of the main reasons was the unique communities some of the projects cultivated. One well-known investor who purchased a CryptoPunks NFT PFP punk for $2.7 million said that he had immense confidence in the asset. Gary Vaynerchuk pointed out that people may have once thought paintings by now-famous artists were worthless investments, and he compared his punk to a Jackson Pollock painting. One collection of the punks sold for $17 million. Other projects also fared well. With one ape selling for $1 million (and eventually much more), BAYC hit a $46,000 floor price. Crypto PFP project creators offer exclusive community access to token holders, who can connect with other like-minded people.

One good example of community popularity is BAYC. Members have access to an exclusive Discord channel, and a few notable NBA stars are members and hang out there. Also, there is a wall (quaintly titled “the bathroom”) where BAYC members can create their own artistic contributions or express themselves. These are just a few examples. Every project has its own unique community structure. The communities often attract people who are searching for places where they feel comfortable. Okay Bears created a community where people are encouraged to support each other, share positive content and even create positively-focused fan art. The benefit of being part of an NFT PFP community that not everyone can easily access has considerable appeal to both fans and investors.

Attractive Artwork and Attributes

Crypto PFP project creators choose a variety of attributes or characteristics for NFT profile pics. These traits potentially appeal to buyers for two main reasons. First, while investors may buy NFT profile pics based on rarity, fans will most likely buy them based on attributes they can relate to. Most tokens show a breakdown of characteristics or attributes and their rarity. For example, cyborg eyes are especially rare with BAYC characters, and a king's crown is also rare for a hat. However, bored eyes are common. Rarity can also be found in background color, clothing styles and other features of the avatar. With the new Okay Bears, backgrounds that are purple are the rarest. Buyers who feel connected to the community may choose crypto PFPs based on attributes that seem to represent themselves, their feelings and/or their own personal taste.

Hype-Generating Road Map

Road maps are every crypto PFP project's way to communicate what people can expect when they invest. The road maps show what the projects plan to launch, how many tokens there will be, what utilities members receive and what people can expect from community participation. Some of the most successful projects have used these road maps to help generate hype, working to build a frenzy even before their initial sales. Road maps also help show investors that the project is staying on track with goals. For example, a quick scan of the BAYC road map shows that it’s reached 100% of its goals.

Azuki's NFT profile pics sold out in three minutes. Why? The creators decided to spread the word about the project on social media before launching. By creating a rebellious skateboarder vibe with cool anime characters, the project's four anonymous co-founders built a lot of interest. Also, they partnered with a conceptual artist who designs exclusive merchandise and more. The project hopes to have such a large presence that it may eventually have exclusive games, a miniseries and more. Azuki's road map is called the Mindmap. It demonstrates the creators' mission and values, metaverse information, future plans, community resources and real-world benefits for members.

Another project that recently succeeded in building hype with its road map (which it called a blueprint) is Okay Bears. The crypto PFP project's 10,000 NFTs sold out in a day, bringing in a daily record $18 million in sales volume. Before the launch, the creators built hype on Twitter by offering spots for their closed Discord channel, in addition to ways for people to earn a WL (whitelist) spot if they spread the word on social media by changing their profile pictures and sharing key hashtags.

Real-World Integration

What are NFT PFPs going to do next? With celebrities joining the crypto PFP trend, it’s no surprise that real-world fashion brands are also scouting opportunities. Some top fashion designers are looking to dress NFTs. 

One example is MIRL, the first decentralized metaverse fashion brand. Currently, more than 4,500 MIRL personas exist in Metanoia, which is the metaverse safe haven for the fashionable characters that are unbound from society. The project appeals to people who don’t see themselves or society the same way many others might. MIRL invites them to create bold versions of themselves with the exclusive fashion brand. While people may feel attracted to projects that match the values or characters with which they identify, MIRL gives them the opportunity for even more customization.

Unique Utilities and Benefits

Much as businesses strive to create competitive advantages or unique value propositions that their competitors cannot replicate, NFT profile pic crypto projects seek to create unique benefits for members that extend beyond community values or culture. Becoming a community member of an NFT PFP project means access to some benefits beyond exclusive member chats. People often choose communities based on these privileges or benefits. For instance, World of Women holders can attend an annual gala, and they receive access to exclusive raffles and enjoy special discounts. Okay Bears offers members access to real-world events, along with clothing and other exclusive collectibles.

The Meebits project offers a 3D model utility, which could be a powerful benefit in the future if the metaverse merges with The Meebits as social media and crypto PFPs continue to integrate. With CryptoPunks, there’s not a long list of utilities. However, the social capital gained from owning one of these pioneering characters is a coveted privilege. Think of them as the Rolls-Royce of NFT PFPs. Investors often look at the unique values and ongoing popularity potential of projects when they decide which ones to buy. CryptoPunks has shown that NFT profile pic projects can build popularity — and maintain it.

NFT PFP Social Media Integration

Curious about what NFT PFPs are when it comes to social media? Top social media platform leaders are well aware that crypto PFPs are advancing quickly, and that owners want to display them. Because social media platforms must keep up with trends in order to remain competitive, they’re working on ways to offer the legitimization of NFT profile pics for users who want to display them. Twitter led the innovation plans by offering crypto PFP holders the ability to turn their profile pictures into verified pictures.

Why is this important? Today, it’s easy for people to see a picture they like and save it, or simply take a screenshot of it to use on their own. Although there are reverse image search tools online to help NFT owners find people who may be using their valuable virtual property, nobody has the time to continually search for offenders. With a verified profile picture, a crypto PFP owner has a way to prove ownership and stand out from wannabes, imposters or thieves.

In early May, Instagram launched a test feature of something similar to what Twitter offers. The feature allows digital wallets to let users connect the NFTs they own and want to display. Meta may eventually offer something similar for Facebook. Instagram's original plans were to potentially allow users to mint their own NFTs on Instagram as well. That plan was met with mixed reactions, with many Twitter users pointing out that the NFT culture was born on Twitter and thrives there. NFT enthusiasts moving entirely to Instagram seems unlikely at this time.

The Future of NFT PFPs

Curious about what NFT PFPs are going to be like in the future? Going back to the previous sections, the first variations of what would become crypto PFPs emerged in 2017 with CryptoPunks, and many of those punks are still worth millions today. NFT profile pic projects have grown immensely since then. While there have been a few that didn’t deliver on promises, such as Pudgy Penguins, many have succeeded in reaching their goals. Some projects, such as Okay Bears, also strongly encourage ongoing brand awareness and brand equity projects from owners. Clever strategies like that help fuel future interest in communities and the utilities offered by NFT profile pics.

While there is some skepticism about crypto PFP projects, it’s important not to underestimate the draw of a strong community, unique utilities, integrations and rarity. Experts point out that NFT profile pics are suffocating the crypto art market. Although there is some truth to that statement, many digital art NFTs simply do not come with the same attractive benefits that appeal to buyers of crypto PFPs. Investors know that, and make decisions based on hype and speculation. For many of them, the investments are worth it. Year-over-year, NFT trading volume grew 38,000% and reached a total of $10.7 billion in 2021. Trends appear to be continuing to pick up steam in 2022. One detail is important, and that is the need for originality in utilities for NFT profile pic projects that want to attract larger crowds.

The Bottom Line

NFT PFPs are growing and evolving every month. The creators of some NFT profile pics are seeing collections sell out within hours. With the recent addition of social media, metaverse and real-world integration, NFT PFPs have proven that they’re capable of much more than people assumed they were a few years ago.