While marketers have been focused on figuring out their Clubhouse and TikTok strategies, real-time chat platform Discord has slowly been creeping up as another buzzy event contender.
Started in 2015, the platform was used almost exclusively by gamers, but its audience has shifted recently, as folks looked for new ways to stay connected during the pandemic, and it now includes communities built around beauty, music, fashion and more, offering brands opportunities to reach fans and consumers where they are.
“Discord goes far beyond the gaming community into just about every interest you can think of—from book clubs to sports fans, study groups or sneakerheads,” said Amber Atherton, head of strategic communities at Discord. “While Discord did start out as a place for gamers to connect online, we discovered that people were using it for so much more than that. They were using it as a place to create genuine connection, and that evolution can be easily seen when looking at the numbers from the past two years.”
The app, which currently boasts more than 150 million monthly active users, allows people to gather on “servers” to discuss various topics of interest. These servers can be set to be public or private through invitation. Atherton said that 78% of users “say they either use Discord primarily for non-gaming purposes or a combination of gaming and other purposes.” That’s compared to more than a year ago when only 30% of server owners said their communities were non-gaming focused.
Of course, some brands like Jack in the Box still want to tap into that coveted gamer community. The fast-food chain hosted a late-night after-party on July 25 that included virtual activations across multiple Discord channels. Held in conjunction with the virtual version of Comic-Con, Jack in the Box presented a livestreamed concert from The Aquabats, along with a Q&A with the band, and a live drawing session with comic book artist Dave Johnson, whose work was then converted into NFTs that fans could bid on, with proceeds going to support No Kids Hungry. Jack in the Box also handed out codes for free munchies throughout the event.
Earlier this year, Discord launched a feature called “Stage Channels” that lets users host events for an audience. Atherton explained that it’s a special type of voice channel that splits users between moderators, speakers and audience members for easily managed large-scale audio events, while the “Stage Discovery” feature allows users to discover live events happening within the platform. The company also recently announced that it’s testing a program to let users sell tickets to virtual events. Right now, the ticketing service is open to a small, invitation-only group.
“Think about Discord as a virtual event space in the metaverse where you can host thousands of guests and friends,” Atherton said. “Events need a clear purpose that gives folks a reason to come and have fun. Think about programming for stage channels and activate a pop-up server to help you manage resources internally.” She added that events that work well on Discord “celebrate shared passions within specific communities,” such as AMAs, fireside chats, town halls and watch parties that serve as complementary events to larger IRL events.
For example, NBC is currently hosting conversations with Olympians and analysts on its NBC Olympics server, including a stage channel event featuring Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski. Chipotle recently hosted a virtual job fair that received over 23,000 applications in one week. And in May, All Saints used a stage channel to host “Inside AllSaints: Meet Scott Anderson, Design Director of Menswear,” an event that offered an inside look into how the brand’s design has evolved over the years coupled with a Q&A with Anderson.
“Brands should choose to plan an event that has meaning for their brand but will also resonate with Discord’s Gen Z audience. Think anime, art, streetwear, memes and more, and take inspiration from internet culture to create something fun and relevant,” Atherton said. “Discord is on a mission to create space for everyone to find belonging, and it has become a place where creators, artists and brands can come together with their fans, share exclusive content and create an open dialogue.”