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Why putting Discord at the heart of your community management just became 3 times smarter

As a games marketer I strongly believe that the community can make or break your game. That’s why I’m starting a series on community centered marketing in this blog. I hope it’ll help you grow and manage an engaged community for your project. Oh, btw I’m quite sure that a lot of the insights and how-tos I’m planning to cover, apply to products far beyond games. But for this 1st post I decided to double down on gamer’s darling Discord and why it has become an instrumental platform to build your community on.

1 time smarter: the growth and KPIs of Discord are stunning

Three is the magic number these days when it comes to the beloved chat platform Discord. Earlier this May Discord turned three years old and celebrated a three times bigger audience than just a year before, taking them to 130 million registered users and 19 million DAUs. If you run a community for your game or app it’s not only about the sheer numbers that make it a smart move putting Discord at the heart of your community management.

Discord’s official 3rd anniversary tweet

The platform has been heavily focused on PC gaming but this is about to expand. Staying in the gaming world the expansion starts with Discord coming to Xbox, a move the company officially announced in late April. Not so long ago they also opened up to the world’s leading music streaming service Spotify, so users on the Discord servers could listen to music together.

2 times smarter: Discord actually is evolving to a social network

From a text and voice chat, Discord has evolved to kind of a new social platform for gamers, even if their CEO Jason Citron doesn’t really like this expression but in an interview with gamesindustry.biz he admitted that you could describe Discord so, even if it lacks some functionality of the big social networks.

And in fact Discord has so many sociable features above listening to Spotify together. The media sharing ability is amazingly flexible: post a link and Discord does the magic! Art and assets display nicely inline, links to GIFs on platforms like Giphy or Tumblr make the GIF run natively in the client, Tweets from Twitter including assets show up as they’d been posted right there. YouTube videos can be fully embedded and joining a Twitch live-stream from Discord is as easy as 1–2–3, you don’t even have to leave the app. Combined with the reaction and comment feature this sounds a lot like a social network’s timeline, right?

“For our users who are gamers, I think we are a social platform to them in some way” — Jason Citron, CEO Discord

Well, here’s the big difference: in contrast to the big social media guys it’s not ONE big, endless stream of posts, everything is organized in servers, and within these again in channels — as many as you need. You can witness a lot of clever ways to use this for your community management when checking out how development studios and publishers use it. Say you have a game in early stages of development that you don’t want to disclose to everyone at this point but are looking to get feedback from the die-hard fans of your studio! Set the invite of your server to expire after a day and send it only to these players.

It’s a perfect playtest scenario, also since you can set up different roles, so everyone knows who to talk to. Moderators, Developers, Admins and Playtesters, and the players love this direct channel to talk to the makers of a game. We did this for example for Drone Swarm developed by our rcp family team stillalive studios. What we found is that this created a really loyal and also constructive community. Even as the team went back to a more secret state, not sharing many updates over a year, the core of the community kept being engaged and socialized with the team.

Sharing work-in-progress captures with Drone Swarm’s hand-picked Discord community. No need to be sorry about this kind of transparency, Jerry.

3 times smarter: It’s constructive and mostly free from toxicity

While I mention constructiveness of the conversations, this is another trait raising Discord above other channels: the platform mostly lacks the toxicity you often face on Facebook, forums and especially Reddit. Discord has taken several steps to ban toxic groups from their servers, offering a 24/7 customer support team and automated systems to keep out hate speech just being two of them.

But I also have another theory why people on Discord are more positive: gamers understand that being invited to participate in the making of a game at such early stages is a transparency that equals appreciation of their opinions and experiences. The ability to have a direct conversation with the developers about expectations or issues of a game hasn’t been a natural thing in past days and the community on Discord absolutely values having this opportunity now. It’s a conversation with real persons at both ends and they have a mutual interest. It’s so much easier to leave a hateful comment on a brand’s page on Facebook, where some tend to forget that they talk to a human being, simply because it doesn’t feel like it. I experience this daily, you bet!

“The overwhelming majority of Discords are positive environments. Most of Discord is small servers, where it’s just you and your friends” — Jason Citron

I could easily dive into a sea of details of setting a Discord up for your purpose and all the tools you can connect but I’ll save this for another upcoming blog post and wrap things up here:

  • Discord is completely free and easy to start with, so if you think of a community focused development there should be nothing holding you back
  • KPIs are huge: 130 million already do have a Discord account already and it’s a low entry barrier to invite them over to your studio’s server
  • If the Games-as-a-Service concept is anyhow near to how you’re developing the chat platform is your place to be for interacting with the community
  • Putting Discord at the heart of your community management allows you to integrate all of your other community channels, making it the central hub of assets you share on any other network and collect more direct feedback and input on your development
  • The platform is expanding and is not even near its peak: Discord has been growing on word-of-mouth over 3 years and is really active in onboarding lot of their most active users as ambassadors in the #DiscordPartner program (a very effective growth hack I also used back in my days working for a Social Network)

This blog is meant to be the beginning of a series of posts on community centered marketing. If there’s specific things you want to read about, e.g. an actionable Discord 101, please let me know in the comments.

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