Downloading to Discord: How Brands Can Benefit From Gen Z’s New Chat App

You might be busy figuring out your Clubhouse or TikTok strategy, but don’t sleep on Discord.

The digital communication app has been around since 2015, but until recently it was used almost exclusively by gamers. That changed last year, as Discord gained popularity among Gen Z as the pandemic changed consumer media habits.

The app now has 140 million monthly active users and has raised over $ 300 million in funding. Microsoft was recently reported to be in advanced discussions with Discord for a acquisition of more than 10 billion dollars, corn ended these negotiations.

But despite its attractive audience, few brands outside of the gaming sphere have made their way onto the platform. That is likely to change, however, as marketers and advertisers adapt to new platforms that appeal to their audiences.

Gamers are still a large contingent on Discord, but the platform now includes communities around coding, beauty, music, fashion, and cars, creating potential for brands.

“There’s a reason Discord has become a prime target for acquisition,” said Nathan Young, chief strategy officer at Deloitte Digital. “It’s about to revolutionize the way friends connect the same way Slack and Teams revolutionized the way coworkers work. “

What is Discord?

“Imagine if Slack, Reddit, and Zoom had a baby. It would look something like Discord, ”Young said.

Originally launched as a platform for players to talk to each other via audio chats while gaming and streaming, Discord has grown into a place where people can congregate on “servers” to discuss various topics of interest. Similar to Slack channels, Discord users can customize servers around a variety of topics, from science to anime to technology.

Servers can be defined as public or private, accessible to everyone or via invitations, respectively.

Users can interact with each other in various ways on the servers, whether it’s regular messaging, video or audio chat, or streaming.

Discord also recently launched a Clubhouse-like feature called “Stage Channels,” which allows users to connect to audio conversations taking place on different servers. Stages can host up to 1,000 users, while voice chat, which works like a phone call, can accommodate 5,000 users.

Discord operates on a freemium model, with additional features like customizable emojis, animated profile photos, and better streaming available to users on its paid tier, called Nitro.

“The discord is about [creating communities] around a topic for people with similar interests, ”said Jake Bley, director of social publishing connections at VMLY & R. “It’s like a modern day forum on your phone. “

What is there for brands?

Discord doesn’t sell advertising yet, but it still has potential for brands due to its focus on building and nurturing communities, said. Amber Atherton, Head of Strategic Communities on Discord. She added that Discord has a partner program, in which it works with brands to create their own servers.

“[Discord] is to come together around similar interests, ”she said. “For [brands], that means [users] can go in and out with other people who like the brand. The idea is that [anyone] can create their own space for [chat with people] with the same interests.

Some brands are testing the platform organically. Coding company Kano, for example, created their own public Discord. server after several customers requested it. What started as a question-and-answer forum has since evolved into a community for parents, teachers and children using Kano products, said George Cole, chief social media specialist at Kano.

“We get feedback from parents and young people who are just chatting about their days and having natural conversations,” Cole said. “Some of the kids who jumped on the server are almost like [brand] ambassadors.

Users who join the Kano server are greeted with a “welcome” channel that introduces them to the server. They can then navigate to other channels, including a chat room for parents and teachers and a place to discuss product requests. Kano also has a gallery where people can submit photos of themselves or their children using its products.

“There is nothing more important to a brand than getting feedback and being able to talk to customers easily,” Cole said. “Often brands talk to focus groups. With Discord, you can do it on the spot and at the same time, build loyalty.

Another plus for brands is that Discord is customizable, added Young of Deloitte Digital. And while building an organic presence on Discord requires significant investment, the platform gives brands full control over the experience.

“If you can dream it, you can build it on Discord, even with limited technical skills,” he said.

Keep it organic

Other brands are testing the waters on Discord by joining existing public servers. Many organize thought leadership conversations or work with influencers to lead impactful conversations within a specific community.

With this strategy, “the key is not to look like a brand,” Bley said.

“You walk into someone else’s house, so you play by their rules,” he added. “You don’t want to make the conversation your own. You want to join it and have a voice in it.

Brands that want to try Discord should start by “listening to what’s being said about them on the platform and using those conversations to guide their own server strategy,” said Jamie Falkowski, MD at the Day One agency.

Moderation is the key

As with any user-generated content platform, moderation is an important part of controlling branded posts on Discord. While forum-style open discussion can spark organic conversations between users and brands, it also presents a privacy and security challenge.

Most Discord users are between the ages of 18 and 24, but children as young as 13 can join the platform. To avoid privacy concerns, brands should work closely with Discord to understand what personal information is collected and how it aligns with the brand’s own policies, said Bley of VMLY & R.

Discord’s policies prohibit children under the age of 13 from joining the platform, and the platform will “take action” against the owner of a server that allows underage children to join. The platform also offers automated tools to help with moderation, including bots that can send automated messages and block certain keywords if a user breaks community rules.

The platform also launched Moderator Academy, which includes resources for server owners to learn how to moderate properly. It also publishes transparency reports, so that users and brands can understand its moderation policies.

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