Shilling

The act of enthusiastically promoting a cryptocurrency or ICO project.


What Is Crypto Shilling?

Crypto shilling has become a phenomenon that permeated the crypto space like no other during the 2021 bull run. In essence, it is a way to explicitly or implicitly advertise a cryptocurrency to generate hype and demand for it. 

Crypto shills advertize various tokens with false or overblown promises of their utility and potential price appreciation, often in their own interest as they plan to sell their own token holdings at a higher price. 

How Does Crypto Shilling Work?

Crypto shills have accounts on social media sites popular in the cryptocurrency space, such as YouTube and Twitter. They often advertize (or shill) a token for its potential to reach an excessively high price. Most of the time, they do not disclose that they have been paid by the same cryptocurrency they advertize. Some also own some of the tokens they advertize, aiming to engage in a pump-and-dump to sell their own holdings at a higher price. 
While some crypto shills advertize their tokens in rather crude ways with obviously exaggerated promises of profits, others have evolved to shill tokens in a more subtle way. Almost always though, crypto shills can be distinguished by their failure to disclose whether or not they hold the token they claim to innocently advertize. The worst crypto shills either openly or tacitly know about and condone practices like rug pulls. 

What Are Examples of Crypto Shilling?

Crypto shilling is easiest to explain with a hypothetical example. 

Assume there is a cryptocurrency called SHILL with a token price of $1. You, as the founder, receive a 20% of the total supply of SHILL and have 20% for marketing purposes. You find several accounts on Twitter and YouTube that have a crypto-focused audience and offer each a fixed fee plus 2% of the total supply of SHILL. In exchange, they have to create content about the token, talking up its benefits and engaging their audience to join your community and buy it.

If you do this correctly and find the right accounts to advertize SHILL, the token price will rise. Let’s say the SHILL price is $1.50 after a successful campaign (a conservative target in a bull run), you and your crypto shills will have 50% unrealized profits on your token holdings. Finally, you only have to make sure to slowly and carefully start selling your token holdings, so as to not tank the price and not draw attention to your scheme. 

Do All Crypto Tokens Shill?

Not each cryptocurrency is marketed in such a way. Genuine crypto promoters do exist and can be told apart in several ways. 

For example, legitimate promoters and supporters of tokens disclose their interest in a cryptocurrency. Promoting a token for personal gain is not inherently wrong, as long as the act of promotion is communicated. Furthermore, genuine promoters do not promise unrealistic price targets or overhype the token they are promoting. 

How to Identify Crypto Shilling?

There are several telltale signs of a crypto shill and their motive to promote a coin purely to pump its price.

Influencers

Crypto influencers are more often than not shills. Some disclose their profession in their bio while others try to keep an aura of legitimacy. Influencers with hashtags of tokens are most of the time shills, particularly if these tokens are obscure and little known. Moreover, influencers that promote several different cryptocurrencies often do so because they have been paid. Finally, influencers that only give superficial information about a token often do not have a genuine interest in it and only promote it for money.

Marketers

Sometimes you can find marketing professionals that invest in a cryptocurrency with the sole motive to pump its price and sell at a profit. These marketers encourage professional and retail investors to purchase the token they own and promote it heavily with promises of scarcity and outsized gains. After creating enough FOMO, they sell their tokens for a profit. You can tell these individuals apart by their hang for flashy appearances and a promise of massive riches.

Excited Founders and Team Members

Finally, founders and team members with a genuine interest in their own token can also be shills. Though some founders genuinely try to build a useful project, crypto is rife with scammers and founders with unrealistic expectations. These individuals promise revolutionary technology or use cases that are solved with the help of blockchain technology. Often they employ buzzwords and popular niches that generate a lot of investor interest. 

However, their execution is often lacking and the roadmaps often fail to live up to their promises. Some of the biggest cryptocurrencies have been accused of being pushed by crypto shills for their constant failure to deliver the lofty promises they have made. These shills are easiest to tell apart by having a “long-term approach:” they are not as obvious as other shills and focus on one project only. But they remain in a loop of never-ending promises, without delivering real utility to their users and hating on other projects that rival their own.