Is Your Brand on Discord? And Should it Be?

A look at why Discord, which started off as a place for gamers, has become so popular with all manner of communities

When Ritvik Vipin and Akash Jayan started fintech company Havenspire, nurturing a community was a key part of their strategy. They chose to start this community not on Facebook groups or a Slack channel, but on a Discord server. 

For the uninitiated, Discord is a platform originally created for gamers to chat with each other. It remained in the shadows, largely unknown to non-gamers and non-Reddit users, until users poured in and created servers and communities that were entirely unrelated to gaming.

The platform quickly got behind this shift, changing its slogan from ‘Chat for Gamers’ to ‘Chat for Communities and Friends’ in March 2020. They also announced that they were shifting their focus away from video gaming specific content to all-purpose communication; reflecting in their new slogan ‘Your place to talk.’ With a year-long global lockdown, the numbers only increased as communities looked for a safe space to hang out online.

Why Discord is Just… Better

Discord’s interface offers possibly the most advanced community engagement features of any
platform. Discord’s multi-level communication user interface is built to break information clutter. The topic/subject-specific channels make navigation and discovery easy and intuitive.

  • Discord’s interface offers possibly the most advanced community engagement features of any
    platform. Discord’s multi-level communication user interface is built to break information clutter. The topic/subject-specific channels make navigation and discovery easy and intuitive.
  • Discord requires hardly any setup. Starting a server on Discord takes just two clicks. Creating channels is just as easy
  • Inviting people is two clicks and a paste. Joining a server (once you have an account) is two clicks.
  • Each server functions as its own community, and it is easy to toggle between them.
  • Discord started out as an audio app so gamers could speak to each other in real time. That means it is easy to click in and out of a voice channel as you like. Unlike Clubhouse, each community also has text chat so you can always catch up and be connected, without needing to be live all the time. There’s also video chat and screen sharing.
  • So diverse is the ecosystem, that you are almost certain of finding a community that is passionate about a topic that you feel strongly about.

In India, stand up comics like Tanmay Bhatt, Samay Raina and Joel Dsouza were the first to
create their own Discord servers, where fans play games, listen to music and just ‘hang’.

The comics use Discord to announce new videos via live streams and engage with their fans.
Unsurprisingly, many Indie artists have followed suit.

Bot’s That?

Customised bots may be one of the platform’s most valuable offerings. Server admins can create automated bots for tasks that range from welcoming new users to creating schedules and reminders, from acting as translators to generating memes on demand. These bots can also be used for moderation and assigning roles to different people.

Indie music platform ‘A Humming Heart’ hosts listening sessions of indie music on their Discord server, ‘The Scene’. They use a bot called ‘Groovy’ that enables their community to listen to musictogether and engage with their favourite Indie artists.

Another social music tech startup, Lishash, has developed a bot that lets you import your music libraries, and filter them based on genres, emotions, and speechiness among other things. Listening to music together creates bonds and Lishash has been able to form a tight knit community of early adopters.

Should Brands Have a Discord Strategy?

Discord’s usage catapulted during the COVID-19 lockdown and it announced a new peak of 10.6 million concurrent users in October 2020. Numbers for India are not yet available.

Communities have already sprung up around brands like Adobe and YouTube, who target creator audiences. The big question is whether other companies and brands should be taking Discord seriously enough to build a presence on it.

Here’s my take on this:

  • Users today don’t just want content that adds value, they want immersive experiences. They want to be part of the content creation, they want belonging and they want communities.
  • If there is any digital platform that is synonymous with community, it is Discord. It offers brands ‘real engagement’ not measured in likes, comments and shares. Instead it allows for engaged communication with high intent, and allows you to nurture a community of highly involved and loyal users.
  • To get your feet wet, sign up to Discord as an individual and hang out with different communities, to understand how the platform works.
  • Do not go in with a ham-handed brand strategy. Like Reddit, Discord users are extremely sensitive to any kind of ‘selling.’

Especially if your brand targets millennials, Discord could be a relatively uncluttered space to build an engaged community in a short time. Havenspire for instance, has built a community of 2500 active users in a little less than a year.

“Discord provides an unmatched level of customisability compared to any other platform. It is customisable both ways: one can make the community more disciplined and make it more fun.”

Dhruv Sharma, Discord Lead, Havenspire

The lack of an algorithm, an ad-free model and the lack of multiple touchpoints for gratification (liking, sharing, commenting) is a large part of what I think makes Discord the platform we didn’t know we needed.

Will Discord continue to be limited to gamers, creators and influencers, or will it attract a steadily growing torrent of ‘mainstream’ users? Recent events, where a small group of Redditors caused billion dollar upheavals only indicate the rising importance of communities. Can any brand afford to ignore a place that is such an important destination for them?

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