I am a millennial, I work as a digital marketer and I consider myself quite digital-savvy (I know, I’d better be considering my line of work).
Yet, until very recently, I had always overlooked Discord as a marketing tool.
Am I the only one? Am I starting to get old, already?
Don’t get me wrong, I knew about Discord. But I thought it was only used by gamers, amateur day traders and crypto enthusiasts.
Little did I know that it is actually a powerful (maybe the most powerful), yet underrated community-building tool.
Let’s start with a little bit of context.
How Discord turned me into an NFT “groupie”
A few weeks ago, I bought my first NFT from Panda Dynasty, a promising collection of 8888 unique pandas.
To be honest, I never understood why people (i.e. adults) proudly display a CryptoPunk or a Bored Ape as a profile picture on Twitter. I thought it was just a way for them to flex and show that they are rich enough to afford a $100.000+ .jpg that anybody can copy (Is artificial scarcity enough to justify it?).
So why did I buy one?
Out of curiosity and for the quick gains opportunity, actually…
A week ago, I read about Panda Dynasty, which was launching the next day at a reasonable minting price of 0.05ETH per Panda. I decided it was my chance to enter the NFT game.
On the next day, I minted my Panda a few minutes after the launch. As I said, my goal was to make a quick profit, or at least hope for it (flipping my Panda on Opensea 1 or 2 weeks later for an x10 profit, for example).
Then I created my Discord account and joined Panda Dynasty’s Server. I didn’t join to be part of a community, but simply because they were using Discord as their main communication tool and I wanted to know more about their roadmap.
In about 30 minutes, I was under the spell. From both Discord’s fun interface and Panda’s Dynasty community.
Less than 24 hours later, the 8888 Pandas were sold out and I was glad, but for the community, not for the resale opportunities.
Today, I own 3 pandas, I proudly display one of them as my Twitter profile pic and I have no intention of selling soon (well, if you can offer 10ETH, it’s yours).
Yes, I am one of them.
Discord made me part of a community that I didn’t even understand one day earlier.
But what is Discord and why does it have such potential as a community-building tool?
Discord, more than a fun messaging app
In the intro, I wondered if I am the only one who didn’t know about the community-building opportunity of Discord.
Actually, while most marketers have probably heard of Discord, I believe many don’t know about its marketing potential, simply because Discord users are still a niche.
Have a look at the most popular Discord servers, the platform is still mostly dominated by gaming servers.
However, while adoption isn’t global yet, Discord has gone a long way since it was launched in 2015. In fact, its monthly active users doubled in a year, from 70 Million in Dec. 2019 to 140 Million in Dec. 2020.
And here is another surprising stat: 3% of US teens say Discord is their favourite social platform. Sounds low? Not when you know that Twitter gets the same result and Facebook only gets 2% of the votes!
Not bad for a voice and text messaging app that was, a few years ago, still mainly used by gamers to communicate while playing.
Before I get to its marketing potential, there are a few key features that you need to know about:
- The structure is similar to Slack, with servers divided into text channels and voice channels. Channels can be split into categories for better organization. Threads can be opened within channels and can have a title, making them similar to sub-channels
- Creating and joining a server is free and most features are free as well
- How does Discord make money? By selling “Discord Nitro”, a subscription-based tool enhancing Discord’s experience (customization, HD videos, bigger file upload etc)
- Important messages can be pinned and are easily accessible (no endless scroll needed to find them back)
- Some channels can be used for one-way communication only (e.g. announcements), as you can block user messaging
- Users can send direct messages to other users (voice and text)
- Users can have “roles” that give them a special “status” within the community but also access, or not, to specific channels
- Many bots are available to enhance the Discord experience with spam filter, user commands, gamification, automated moderation, welcome screen, etc
- File sharing, screen sharing and even music sharing are available
- Custom images, emojis and GIFs can be uploaded by admins
- Discord is available as a downloadable app and as a web app
On a side note, with that design, ease of use and wide range of features, I personally want to ditch Slack for Discord as my go-to professional messaging app…
Let’s build a community
When looking to build an online community, what are your go-to platforms? Probably a mix of:
- A Facebook page to promote your brand
- A Twitter account and a Facebook group to interact with the community
- An Instagram account to share cool brand-related content
- A Tiktok account to generate some buzz
- A Youtube channel to share previews, tutorials etc
What about adding Discord to that mix?
You might be thinking “Why not, but where does it stand in my mix, exactly?”
As far as I am concerned, I don’t think Facebook and Co. are so great to build a community. You get “Followers” or “Fans” and as these names suggest, it’s mostly a one-way relationship: your community manager sharing content and followers reacting to it, with no real conversation. Of course, followers can interact together and with the brand, but the layout and features of these platforms are not very user-friendly when it comes to initiating a conversation.
But Discord is different, it’s a tool that has the potential to turn your fans/followers into a real community.
It’s a brand-advocate builder.
For example, Discord allows fans to:
- Chat and interact together, which brings them closer to each others
- Reach out to the brand and get an instant response
- Ask for support or give suggestions
- Get a special rank/role within the community
- Stay up to date with the latest news, events, offers, etc…
- Follow and get notifications from selected channels only, within the server
- Open a private 1 to 1 conversation with a moderator or another user
And as a brand, Discord allows you to:
- Identify your most loyal customers
- Create direct relationships with customers
- Identify threats and opportunities
- Communicate direct updates/news through a dedicated channel
- Cut some slack to your support team as the community members will help each other
- Use bots to redirect customers to relevant FAQs or support
- Create several channels to organize conversations (general, announcements, support, suggestions, VIP,…)
Yes, you can probably do most of this with Facebook or Twitter, but not as well as on Discord, trust me.
First of all, with Discord, we’re not talking about fans and followers, but members. That may be a detail but that sounds directly more like a community to me.
Also, on Discord, a community manager doesn’t answer as a brand, but as an individual, which brings him closer to the community.
Then, being an instant messaging tool, it creates direct conversations… something that none of the other social media offers. In Discord you chat, you don’t “leave a comment”.
Ultimately, what’s so special with Discord is the extra layer of “humanity” it gives to your brand.
An example of Discord’s potential
Let’s illustrate the potential of Discord with NFTs as incentives. After all, this is an NFT blog.
You might know “Nike By You” which lets you customize a pair of Nike to create a unique design. So far, they encourage customers to share their creations on social media with the hashtag #NikeByYou.
Great concept, love it.
But they could take it even one step further.
Imagine this. Nike could create a NikeByYou Discord server and anybody could join as a member. Public channels could include a general chat, a showcase channel and a design suggestion channel, for example.
But the real fun would start as soon as someone buys a custom pair of Nike’s trainers.
By buying a pair, he’d get an NFT version of these, sent straight to his crypto wallet. Then, all he’d have to do is verifying that NFT on Nike’s Discord to prove that he is a legit owner (you can link your wallet to a Discord server to do so).
As soon as the verification is done, he’d get the “role” of verified owner and gain access to a private channel.
Now, let’s nurture that community.
By being an active verified member of the community, the customer gets points that give him rewards (discounts, free merch, …) and access to limited editions or a wider range of customization options on the NikeByYou tool.
Here is how a successful journey could look like:
- The free NFT is an incentive for customers to buy custom designs (which are more expensive)
- Once the purchase is done, the customer joins NikeByYou’s Discord and verifies his NFT
- He is now a NikeByYou verified owner on Discord. He gets an instant 10% discount on the next purchase and can accumulate points by participating on the channels and by inviting friends to the server (an invite and message tracker will record it automatically)
- Everytime he reaches a milestone (x points), he gets a special reward
- These incentives keep the Discord server alive and growing. A community is being built
- The project gets some hype and a secondary market for these Nike NFTs is created on Opensea (= people selling their Nike NFTs)
- This secondary market for NFTs means royalties for Nike on every sale but also extra money for Nike’s customers
- Attracted by the hype, more people buy custom Nikes to get the free NFT
- To create rarity, Dicord verified members with a certain amount of points get access to special custom designs. This means next time they buy a custom pair or Nike, they get a “rare” NFT, that’s worth more than the others on Opensea
It’s a win-win really.
How NFT creators are generating momentum with Discord
You might not like NFT art and collectibles (yet?), but hear me out.
If there is one thing we can’t deny it’s how NFT creators have mastered Discord to build their community.
Anyone into NFTs knows it: momentum and hype play a huuuuge role in an NFT project’s success, especially when minting opens (and the few weeks before).
There are so many projects available and it’s really tough to stand out.
And guess what all the successful projects have in common? A great roadmap, of course, but also an active Discord server with thousands of active members.
Let’s put it that way: if you’re launching an NFT project without being able to create a strong community on Discord, you’ll probably fail.
Since I’ve joined the NFT world, I’ve noticed a pattern in how Discord is used as the central tool to create a community and generate hype, weeks before launch:
- NFT projects use more traditional platforms (Twitter being on top) to market their projects
- They organize giveaways through influencers on Twitter. Generally, a Tweet from the influencer looks like this: “Follow me, Follow @NFT-ProjectX, Retweet, Tag 3 friends and join their Discord to enter the giveaway and win a free NFT from ProjectX”
- That’s how they populate their Discord’s server fast
- Generally, if the art is good and the roadmap is attractive, NFT collectors will be game
- Other giveaways are organized within the Discord server, in order to keep Discord members active
Remember, all this happens before launch, and when d-day (minting day) arrives, they will want as many people as possible to mint their NFTs. An NFT project usually has “only” a certain amount of items available (10.000 for example) and for many “investors” (or paper hands as they are called), a project that doesn’t sell out within a day is considered – wrongly – a fail.
And if a project loses its momentum, these paper hands will often sell their NFTs on the secondary market at loss, which lowers the floor price of the project and makes it less attractive.
As an NFT owner, if you minted your item at 0.05ETH and other items from the same project sell at 0.02ETH on the secondary market a few hours later, you might start to think that your investment wasn’t so good – even though you should consider the long game.
This means NFT creators and investors share a common purpose: They want the project to sell out fast and don’t want FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) to spread within the newly built community.
And that’s where it gets interesting.
All the community works together to make sure the project is a success on minting day (and after).
This means NFT investors/owners are going to do a lot of the marketing themselves and all that work starts from Discord. Here are some examples of “techniques” I’ve seen on Discord servers:
- Having a “raid” channel where members can share Tweets/posts of NFT investors and celebrities looking for more NFT projects to get into. Then all the community raids this Tweet/post to share the project they believe in
- A suggestion channel where members can give suggestions on how to get more visibility
- A channel where members can share their Twitter/Instagram account or post and ask for support (follow, share, comment,…) from fellow members
- A channel where members can share the link to their NFT on Opensea, for example, and ask other members to “like” the NFT. The more likes items from an NFT collection are getting, the more the project looks attractive on the secondary market
- A invite-tracker that rewards members for inviting friends to the Discord server
Are you sold yet?
I am not saying that Discord is THE go-to community-building tool. Your industry and your target audience obviously matter a lot.
NFT projects are the perfect example to illustrate Discord’s community-building power as the success of a project is in the best interest of the whole community. But would it work for a company in a less “exciting” industry?
My goal with this article was to introduce more marketers to Discord’s potential and to show that the platform offers many community-building tools that most social platforms don’t have.
The thing is that Discord kind of operates in the shadows: what happens on Discord is not as visible as on Facebook or Twitter. Ultimately, as I illustrated with Nike’s example, I believe incentives given to the community (roles, discounts, gamification, NFTs etc) will play a big role to keep your community alive on Discord.