Irene Zhao had a message for her followers this week.

“Respect your haters,” the blockchain sensation recently tweeted. “They are your most loyal audience.”

‘Your Most Loyal Audience’

There wasn’t much hate going on among the many responses to Zhao’s tweet–quite the opposite.

“My goodness you’re a goddess,” one commenter said.

“Unbelievably beautiful,” another tweeted.

“Will you marry me…I’ll take care of you everything never make disappointed….,” said another, who also provided a photo.

So who is Irene Zhao and how did she inspire this love and devotion of her mostly male fans who are known as “simps”?

Zhao, who was born in China and moved to Singapore as a teenager, is an Instagram model and defi expert and she made over $5 million last month selling her photos as NFTs, or non-fungible tokens.

She began posting on Instagram while she was a student at the National University of Singapore and her following has grown to 420,000.

Zhao has been working in the finance industry since graduation, the South China Morning Post reported, first as a commodity broker, and most recently as chief marketing officer of a decentralized finance company, Konomi Network.

She released her first NFT collection called IreneDAO in January which features pictures of herself along with phrases and quotes that are popular in the cryptocurrency community.

Making Users the Owners

“Crypto people have been trying to go mainstream for years,” Zhao tweeted

On the other hand, she said, “web2 people have thought of crypto as a scam for years. We’ve been saying for some time that neither Defi or Gamefi can bridge that gap. We need (Socialfi).”

SocialFi, or “social finance,” refers to the combination of social networking and finance on the blockchain.

NFT is the medium that makes the new web3 creator economy possible, Zhang explained on Twitter, noting that “it removes the rent seeking intermediary, and directly makes the users the owners.”

“It can also create a market sensitive pricing mechanism,” she said.

Members of IreneDAO, which stands for decentralized autonomous organization, include YouTube sensation Logan Paul, who dropped about $268,000 buying Zhao’s NFTs.

The DAO is accessible only to the NFT holders, who get voting rights over the use of the funds.

Paul, incidentally, registered 113,100 NFT-related searches last year on Google, according to NFT Club, coming in behind Mike Winklemann, professionally known as “Beeple,” who had 468,000 NFT related searches.

Paul’s own NFT portfolio value is just under $5 million, putting him on a top five list that includes Mark Cuban and Snoop Dogg.

“One of the reasons that NFTs are becoming more popular is celebrity influence, with many high profile names both trading and creating NFTs,” NFT Club said on its website. “It is now not uncommon for some of the world’s most famous faces to have thousands of dollars worth of NFTs in their portfolio.”

‘As Mainstream as it Gets’

Zhao noted that she has “ex-colleagues and my uncles and aunties and primary school mates, and their uncles and aunties and so on so forth coming to ask me what is NFT.”

“If your uncle’s primary school mate is asking your uncle to ask you what NFT is about, that’s as mainstream as it gets,” she said on Twitter.

There certainly is a lot of money in the NFT space. Sales volume totaled $24.9 billion in 2021, compared with just $94.9 million the year before, Reuters reported, citing data from market tracker DappRadar.

Collectible NFTs were the most popular category, followed by art.

TikTok is the most popular social network for crypto advice, with 771 crypto videos watched every minute, according to CoinJournal, followed by Twitter with 10 new followers on crypto exchanges every 60 seconds

There are on average 42 Google searches for cryptocurrencies every minute. 

In addition, over $8,500 is transacted in gaming NFTs every minute, CoinJournal said, and a massive $53,510 of volume is traded in NFTs every minute,

“Not only do people want to KNOW more about NFT, they want to actually DO it,” Zhao tweeted. “I’ve got influencer friends and celebrities whom I barely know come to ask me how to actually create NFTs for their own contents. And you’ve already seen so many DAO popping up after the IreneDAO.”

But you still can’t please everyone. At least one person took exception to Zhao’s comment about the loyalty of haters.

“Wrong I hate and unfollow now lol,” one commenter said.