How To Use Discord To Connect With Your Brand Community

If you’ve been keeping up with some of the latest news in the gaming world, you might’ve come across conversations talking about Discord. We’ve even mentioned it a few times ourselves. We recognize it may be a confusing subject for the uninitiated, and you may be wondering what it is, how people use it, and what opportunities there are on the platform.

We’ve spent a lot of time on Discord to understand how people use the platform (and also to chat during our daily game time). Here are some of our audience takeaways, tips, and best practices to effectively use Discord to connect with your community.

What is Discord?

Simply put, Discord is an app where users join servers to chat over text, voice, and video. It was originally created to ease communication between gamers. While many games offer built-in voice chat, they can be unstable, unreliable, and unpleasant, whereas Discord works seamlessly with built-in friend groups and communities. The online gaming community is fairly well-versed in the platform due to this connection, but in 2020, Discord pivoted to showcase its uses for non-gaming community development, offering templates for things like dance classes, study groups, and more.

In terms of organization, it operates much like Reddit or Facebook Groups; servers often are centered around a different fandom, brand, or interest. These servers can be small (often created by individual users to connect with their friends), or they can be large organizations with hundreds or even thousands of members. In terms of what a server can individually look like, it’s pretty similar to Slack; channels on a server can be organized by different themes and purposes. There is some added variation in the ability to have voice channels – which work a little like a conference call that anyone can drop in on – as well as video and live streaming capabilities.

Its flexibility in use and purposes lends itself to being a strong potential tool for your brand communications and community engagement.

What does it mean for brands?

We don’t recommend Discord, at least in its current state, as a channel for growing your audience. It is, however, very well-equipped to maintain your current audience and boost retention. The people that will join your Discord server are already invested in you, having sought you out and joined a whole space dedicated to you. That Discord community becomes fertile ground to validate their investment.

As of now, most branded servers are endemic to games: game studios, hardware and software companies, and streamers’ communities. In 2020, many musicians and record labels also entered into the space (which is not surprising, given how many musicians also turned to Twitch during quarantine). Nonendemic brands can adapt some of the principles and best practices laid out by these early adopters. We’ll dive into a few examples below and explain how these brands use Discord to provide value to their communities.

Four reasons people use Discord

1. To connect with others

First and foremost, Discord is a social app built to help people communicate with others. In smaller, private servers created among friends, this is an easy goal to achieve. It can be a challenge for larger servers with an audience of relative strangers to foster a sense of community. While you may want to keep your server discussions exclusive to your brand, there’s a lot of utility in allowing for “off-topic” conversation.  People are more comfortable talking to others that share the same interest, even if they’re not talking about said shared interest.

Nvidia, well-known in the PC gaming community, includes a general photography channel in their server. As specialists in computer graphics hardware and software, it makes sense for them to foster relationships with their visually creative customers.

These channels can be about related and adjacent interests, or they can be completely separate from your own discrete business goals. This also provides an opportunity to showcase some brand personality and give you space to speak casually about other brand values that might not be as immediately obvious to your audience. Either way, give your server some space for both your brand and your community members to build a rapport with each other.

British music artist Shura runs a Discord server in tandem with her Twitch channel, and she has carved out multiple spaces for her fan community to talk about things apart from her music and streams. The categories dedicated to “your stuff” and “fan chats” allow for a wide range of topics for conversation.

2. To be recognized by others

Discord communities, no matter their size, are positioned to feel like intimate spaces where people can show their dedication to an interest, personality, brand, or product. Those that choose to be in a Discord server also self-select themselves as being part of that community, demonstrating an inherent interest and desire to be around others that have a similar level of investment.

The most invested of these users are likely to post frequently and engage with the brand and other community members. This can take the form of sharing their own user-generated content like fanart, photos showcasing their use of your products, and testimonials of their brand loyalty.

Dropout TV, a streaming platform specializing in original comedic shows, dedicates a huge portion of their Discord to direct engagement with fans of their shows, from a fanart channel to merch suggestions to direct Q&As with the cast and crew.

Create channels where people can showcase their passions. Encouraging user-generated content shows a reciprocal value between brand and audience, and it reinforces engagement among your users.

There are even features in Discord that allow you to track who some of your most engaged users are. Bots like MEE6 have levels and ranking systems that create leaderboards of the most active server members. These rankings don’t need to be public, but you can keep track of some of your superusers to more easily recognize them in the community. Consider that these people may effectively be brand ambassadors in their social lives outside of the server.

3. To ask questions.

For products and services, the conversational aspect of Discord also provides ripe opportunities for customer support, troubleshooting, and community assistance. While it’s common practice to have a section dedicated to customer support or frequently asked questions on a website, sometimes people have very specific questions and needs that might not be covered. Forums like Reddit have historically been a space where a user community could come together to provide mutual insight. An official Discord server can provide the same community resources as a forum, but with an added bonus of more oversight and management.

It does take a lot of resources to manage a full customer support channel; informed staff members and moderators have to constantly monitor the channel to provide answers. We strongly recommend an active moderator and admin presence regardless (we daresay it should be a requirement of running an official server), but you can also create support channels that are community-operated. Customer-to-customer or user-to-user feedback and advice is hugely valuable and a major pillar of gaming communities. Allowing those interactions to exist on your official page also builds brand trust among your audience.

Streaming software provider Streamlabs has sections for community support to share troubleshooting tips with each other, and there are more direct lines to customer support in the prime and VIP support channels for paid and highly-engaged users.

4. To get news and updates.

Discord doesn’t have to be just a space built on intra-community bonding. Sometimes users just want to keep up to date with your brand. Regardless if a user is really active in chat or simply likes to lurk, be sure to include brand updates in your server. Similar to a newsletter, you can include general announcements but also exclusive, VIP access to certain news, deals, and sneak peeks into other brand activities. There are plenty of options for what to share.

Record label Monstercat has multiple announcements channels, sharing news about label events, new podcast episodes and broadcasts, and new song releases across their different streaming platforms.

Discord also specifically includes tools to easily disperse news and updates. Servers can be converted to Community Servers, which provide access to certain moderator tools, including Announcement channels that other independent servers can also follow.

Summary of Best Practices

  1. Make sure you have a strong moderator team to manage the server
  2. Create “off-topic” channels to build rapport among community members and showcase brand personality
  3. Celebrate user-generated content
  4. Keep track of your most engaged members
  5. Dedicate spaces for community support and feedback
  6. Provide easy access to brand news and announcements
  7. Utilize community features and bots to add value for your audience

Your Discord server should help connect you to your audience in a meaningful way. If you’re interested in determining if Discord is right for your audience, drop us a line.