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An airdrop is a distribution of a cryptocurrency token or coin, usually for free, to a large number of wallet addresses. Airdrops are primarily implemented as a way of gaining attention and new followers, resulting in a larger user-base and a wider disbursement of coins.
There are two ways creators distribute their tokens: selecting random wallets or publishing the event in airdrop lists. Many times any Ethereum wallet with ethereum value above a certain threshold will receive various randomly airdropped cryptocurrencies. Many websites now exist which promote cryptocurrency Airdrops, and social media is a great place to read about upcoming Airdrops.
Cryptocurrency enthusiasts can gain free cryptocurrency by supporting projects who release coins through an Airdrop. Often, Airdrops will have requirements such as joining a telegram channel, retweeting a tweet, or inviting new users to the project.
Airdrops can be considered a very effective marketing strategy, since its goal is usually to spread the word about a certain product, coin or exchange in the world of cryptocurrencies. Additionally, the new token-holders are incentivized towards the success of the project due to owning a certain number of coins themselves.
Lately this strategy has become increasingly important to the larger cryptocurrency community due to the effectiveness of the strategy, as well as unwanted/spammy advertising practices. Because of this unsavory reputation, many social networks, most notably Facebook, are now refusing to allow ads promoting various virtual coins.