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Over the past few weeks, the tech industry has been rife with rumours over the acquisition of Discord. More significantly so due to its bid of more than $10 billion and one of many bidders being the tech giant Microsoft.

Discord was founded in 2015, widely known as the go-to chatting application for gamers . However, since 2020, it has seen its target audience expanding , and it has now spread to the wider community. The free application  provides a powerful combination of voice, video and text messaging options, along with other gamer-centric features that have allowed it to pave its way into the hearts of anyone stuck at home during the pandemic. 

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Who is Discord Popular with?

Today Discord has more than 300 million registered users, with roughly 100 million active users each month. 30% of them from the ages of 18-44 are now using Discord, and not just for gaming. From messaging to forming study groups to communicate and by teachers to complete virtual lessons. Discord has now become a place to bond, a fact that the founders have acknowledged in June 2020 and have addressed in their new tagline, “Your place to talk’.

While there are no official numbers on the country demographics of Discord users, we can gain some insight on where Discord is most popular based on online websites directing traffic to the app. US tops the charts, but many European countries follow in ranking – such as Germany, France, Russia, UK etc. While many of the top websites utilizing Discord are of the gaming niche, there are others as well. Podcasts and audio platforms like Soundcloud are high rankers. Outside of the US, Discord is being used by quite a few IT companies and developers as well.

Why is Discord so Popular?

Let’s delve into what Discord offers and  What makes it so popular with its users.

Ease of Set-up

Breaking down the immediate user experience, each community is referred to as a ‘server’ that is filled with various text or voice channels. Creating a server is free as well as joining others. Each server can have multiple channels each with its own distinct topic. Finding new Discord servers is easy with this and it doesn’t come as a surprise to see gaming servers dominate the top rankings.

As mentioned, Discord is easy to set up, offering support for multiple text and audio channels that should seem familiar if you’ve previously used other chat applications. However Discord also offers Nitro for $9.99/month, which is essentially a cosmetic upgrade to all features already present i.e. animated avatars and slightly bigger sharing capacity.

The choice of creating a public or invite-only discord server is up to you. The vast majority of servers are invite-only, for communities to stay in touch and spend time together. Contrastingly public servers are usually filled with much larger communities centered on a common theme like popular games. A quick search in the discovery tab led to the featured public communities below.

Featured Communities from the Explore tab of Discord

Joining private servers is easy if you have the invite link ready. Simply select join server and enter a server link. Alternatively, you may come across discord invites from social media platforms, that requires you to ‘accept invite’. 

Invite to a server from PaolofromTokyo YouTube channel

Custom set-ups useful to segment the audience and information being disseminated can be built into the server. A game centric server would look similar to this (below). A distinct emphasis on the types of announcement and community channels can be observed at a glance. This again shows how flexible servers can be set up.

Typical style of gaming servers Featuring: GBGW Newtype Labs

A corporate set up can be seen with IDA 2020 server. A clear segregation was made for their various channels from voice/text to ad hoc discussions. Not surprisingly, the introduction/announcement channels are placed at the top of the channel list.

Powerful Interconnective Tools for Cooperative Work & Play

Discord’s original USP lies in the convenience of setting up a voice channel running in the background as you play, which is what made them the ideal platform for streamers and gamers Their range of internal communications supports the needs of remote working as well. Clicking on a voice channel instantly allows anyone to hear everyone else who has enabled audio, allowing a quick Q&A session with coworkers whenever. Conversely, to concentrate better, you can simply switch to a smaller channel or mute your microphone and audio. 

The flexibility of popping in and out of channels for specific projects is a pleasant alternative to the agony of coordinating schedules for meetings. Although Discord also provides video streaming features, the ease of voice chats have made it easier for quickfire discussions and possibly mitigate Zoom burnout.

Some other powerful capabilities of Discord include: 

1) Go Live -Screen Share 

Previously screen sharing capabilities had been restricted to desktop clients for Window, Mac and Linux. However from March 2021, mobile sharing is available on both Android and IOS devices subjected to limitations. Likewise for both desktop and mobile streams, there is a maximum of 50 concurrent viewers excluding the broadcaster. However, do take note,the limit is not applicable for those participating in voice chats. This is definitely a perk for those seeking inter/cross departmental meetings, which can be set up easily with permission settings

2) Krisp

To improve voice chat experiences, Krisp was integrated towards the end of 2020. A standalone application, Krisp is able to remove background noise to ensure a smoother conversation. Noises like dogs barking or a running washing machine won’t be a distraction anymore. Currently available modes are Noise Suppression, Echo cancellation and Noise Reduction while only one can be running at any time. In a contingency,Krisp will automatically turn off to preserve performance. An effect not too critical for the average user or meeting participant, but for the gamers at play.

3) Game bots

Livening up the Discord experience, bot integration is one key attraction of the platform. Being able to perform a set of automated tasks, bots are a great way to develop the feeling of exclusivity in the community. Along with the more mundane but practical bots that are capable of  assigning roles and sending messages, there are the game bots. 

With an entire list of bots, game bots are successful indie stories in the rising. Capable of fleshing out the ever so typical game mechanics, game bots are the coffee break for Discord. The Epic RPG bot is a particularly sophisticated game bot, with enemies, dungeons, lootboxes, leaderboards and even PvP built in:

EPIC RPG Command Functions

Monitoring

As mentioned previously Discord is not limited to just one group within a server. Rather, multiple text and voice channels can be set up independently. Furthermore within the server lies various roles much like a guild. Owners. admins, moderators and members all have different access levels to the server. This allows for a simultaneous feedback mechanism with different groups created for various purposes, enabling project discussion and customer queries to be  done independently.

The tiers allow for an organised communication process across the channels. This can be moderated with configurable content filters and the ability to crack down on improper behaviour by banning or suspending users. 

Utilizing Discord as a Marketing & Monetization Tool

There are 3 main ways you can go about utilizing Discord for your business:

1) As a Supporting Tool

If you’re a publisher with an existing blog, forum, website, or platform, Discord can be used as a supporting tool to keep your invested audiences engaged. With its range of text, voice and video messaging features, you can provide them with an interactive platform to discuss topics with you and with each other. Keep them updated with the content you create, such as podcasts, articles, art, tips and tutorials through a one way news/announcements channel. This tightens community bonds, and inspires brand loyalty.

More importantly, based on your community’s Discord activity, you can gain another level of customer feedback and insights. Discord is a higher level of engagement. Know where your most invested audiences are from will enable a more consistent and efficient product offering mechanism. In addition, taking note of audience retention numbers, engagement with specific channels and other members can be a great way to gain insights on various consumer behaviours. 

If you run a store, you can even link up a chatbot in a channel just for customer service FAQs, automating and streamlining interactions.

2) Community Creation

If you don’t already have an active audience, you can create a community on Discord from scratch. Pander to a specific niche and create a server for it, curating a space for discussion. Consider related categories, specific channels and emojis your desired audience will appreciate, and build it into the server. Promo your server on various social channels and grow it.

Outright sales pitches won’t work and will likely cause members to leave. Instead, create content and discussion to engage members. You can create a resources channel where you review and recommend valuable products relevant to the server’s niche. Consider offering server-exclusive discounts, promotions and giveaways as well.

Rather than direct your platform’s audiences to your Discord channel in option 1), you can instead direct the Discord community you’ve grown to your platform and gain valuable traffic that way.

3) Tapping into Existing Servers & Communities

Another possible option is to join existing discord channels. Engage with the community and ID influencers and content creators. See if you can invite them to your own niche server, uniquely positioned from the present one they are in. Additionally, keep a lookout for opportunities that pop up. If people are searching for solutions that your products can help with, step in and promote them.

However, keep in mind that discord has the same rule of thumb as Reddit – it’s an interactive community platform that emphasizes valuable content. Spam, and you will most likely get kicked out and blacklisted. Always keep that in mind while exploring how best to incorporate Discord into your business strategy.

Ultimately, content and context is king.

Growing & Monetizing Servers

How do you grow your Discord servers? Aside from promoting it on social channels with hashtags, inviting influencers and content creators, utilize SEO as well. Identify trends, create youtube videos and make sure you incorporate specific long tailed keywords into the headline, description and timestamps. Rishab Jain shared how he grew his server to 80K members through the use of Youtube videos to rank highly on Google. He then directed the traffic over to his server. 

Make sure you maintain and improve the retention of your members. Encourage engagement by  welcoming and asking new members questions, either personally or through bots and scripts. Coax them out of lurking and get them to talk. Direct them to channels that might be of interest to them, and reward your active, most valuable members.

Once the server gets big enough, more possibilities for monetization become open to you. Ask for donations to keep the server running. Sell high level roles and perks. Make private paid channels. See if businesses or other servers are interested to pay for access to or a mention in your server. Join Discord’s official Partner program, and you can potentially earn a cut from server boosts in future as well.

To optimize for monetization, you can consider integrating Upgrade.chat into your server. With it, you can sell roles, set up a shop and create product listings with inventory and integrated shipping address. Server members can access and even create referral links to your shop. 

Discord VS Clubhouse

Unless you survived the past year without any form of an electronic device, you should have at the very least heard of Clubhouse in passing. Gaining immense popularity when Elon Musk hosted a chat on the application that maxed out its capacity, Clubhouse is an IOS exclusive application that hosts live audio rooms via a strict invite only basis. What sets Clubhouse apart from Discord is the network of hosts and moderators that will be active during the scheduled time. Members can therefore select and choose which room filtered by topics that interest them or just another form of chasing celebrities

Here’s a comparison of the two platforms:

Comparison table of Discord VS Clubhouse

Accessibility

Clubhouse’s exclusivity with its invite and iOS-only access creates buzz and makes the platform exciting to get onto. However that is in essence a flaw for growing large audiences and reaching new contacts. This is unlike Discord’s support for both mobile and desktop operating systems. Although Discords servers are largely private as mentioned above, invites are easy enough to obtain, not forgetting they have large public community servers available. Moreover Clubhouse restricts the number of invites that can be given for each member which severely limits the possibility of growing and engaging with a larger community.

Engagement

Activity and participation is also extremely limited on Clubhouse. The platform only allows for scheduled discussions. To engage in discussion with the host, users have to raise their hands and be approved before they can share their thoughts. While this is essential to ensure the host can continue uninterrupted, this stymies robust discussion as well. On the other hand, on Discord, you can be active on multiple text, audio and video channels simultaneously, and easily contribute to the discussion via text or audio.

Discord primarily goes by a spontaneous chat style. Through the use of bots, you can lock channels to specific times of the day as well. While you can create both scheduled and spontaneous discussion rooms on Clubhouse, it’s only with scheduled rooms that you can get a shareable link, notify your followers automatically and add a detailed description to it.

Content

Additionally, Clubhouse’s model of removing past Rooms and topics with no option to revisit them is tragic for repurposing content and engagement. This makes it difficult to grow a fanbase on the platform as well. With Discord, at least, past text logs will always be accessible and can be backed up off site as well.

With regards to monetization, there is currently no way to directly monetize your Clubhouse efforts just yet. Plans are in the works however, and are due to roll out after beta testing. Clubhouse appears to be going with a payment model hinging on participant income, incorporating a system where discussion participants can pay hosts. This model is similar to that of Patreon, OnlyFans, and the upcoming Super Follows on Twitter. 

In this sense, both Discord and Clubhouse will require you to build a dedicated following who are willing to pay for your content. However, Clubhouse’s audio only support will limit how you can grow and what you can do within the platform. In contrast Discord enables more means of growth and monetization in the same place.

Suppose you want to cultivate a luxury and exclusive brand image. Clubhouse is still a good platform to get into, especially since the hype is still strong. It’s audio-only functionality best supports the imparting of intellectual knowledge and discussion, which will also suit industries that require technical knowledge such as business tech, finance, etc. 

End Notes

With how streamlined and specific its functions are, Clubhouse as it is right now is more of a supporting than solo tool. Which is why Discord could be a more favourable communication platform for publishers and marketers. Its low barriers to entry, ability to build a large community quickly and support them with a vast range of multimedia options gives rise to many opportunities.

Discord, like TikTok, was an app that spiked in popularity during the pandemic lockdown, catering to the current lifestyle we lead. With how they’re only growing in popularity and user base, they’ll be in it for the long haul. Our recommendation is to explore and invest into Discord as a viable marketing tool and social platform, especially if Gen Z is your target audience. 

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