The instant messaging app Discord has become a social hub around the world. Similar to its online community powered predecessors – think Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube – more than 100 million people use it to connect and get involved every month.
Recently Discord has spun to attract new audiences. At its core, Discord was designed as a home for sports fans and gamers. Aside from those who use it for fun and games, there is an increasing number of sports entrepreneurs using Discord to start their businesses.
The idea of starting a business with the help of a social network is not unique. In fact, 91 percent of US companies use social networking sites for marketing purposes. What is unique about Discord, however, is the dialog-friendly design.
To paint the picture, sports entrepreneurs looking for feedback on their ideas have a common problem when using older social tools like Facebook: these websites are designed for users with different interests who use 80% of their time-consuming content and only 20% of them spend time making it.
But Discord has an entirely different approach that flips that 80% / 20% around. It is intended for players who work best in communities where they can interact with other players. Discord promotes an environment where you can communicate directly with your users and build a community that traditional social media platforms like Facebook cannot replicate. That’s because the entire Discord platform is based on chats (text and voice) rather than posts. This means that all interactions take place in real time.
To better understand how this model makes Discord a premier launchpad for esports entrepreneurs, let’s take a look at a few examples.
A good example is Game.tv, which launched an esports tournament platform for mobile games on Discord in late 2019. Instead of trying to build a network from scratch, they used Discord to host mobile gaming tournaments and gave them instant access to millions of mobile gaming fans.
Discord users can discover the Game.tv platform and set up and run mobile game tournaments directly from an app they are already familiar with. For example, participants in the Animal Tower Battle game now use the Game.tv tournament to run tournaments every week.
Game.tv’s bet on Discord is paying off. It piqued the interest of blue chip investors and partners around the world, including Intel Capital, and garnered a Series A round worth $ 25 million. Today the company is expanding rapidly and has teams in more than 20 countries including Korea and Japan.
Guilded, a chat platform for gaming communities, sees itself as a competitor to Discord today, but without them the company would be nowhere else.
Guilded started as a Discord bot in 2017. The bot’s focus was on improving the gaming communities in Discord with event schedules and providing a feature to search for a game. The Guilded team noticed that Discord had expanded their offerings in recent years, so they developed their own product – stand-alone software that users download.
With Discord, Guilded was able to gather input and insights from the gaming communities and develop a product with a competitive advantage over Discord: a niche product that was developed for the needs of competitive gamers and focuses on teams and server-based structures.
Guilded’s Discord bot-to-product strategy worked. Today, Guilded serves over 50,000 high school, college, and casual teams, as well as some of the world’s best professional esports teams. Most recently, the company announced Series A funding of $ 7 million.
OneBot from Sports One
Sharon Winter and I started Esports One in 2017. As a young startup with a limited marketing budget, one of the biggest challenges for us was user acquisition. How could we convince our target audience to sign up if we didn’t have the means to reach them?
So we turned to Discord. Our strategy was twofold: Build an engaged community and get feedback from them to consistently improve the user experience. As a longtime esports player, I saw Discord as the primary platform on which gamers could build communities and communicate with one another. Discord communities are much more active than a Facebook group as users interact primarily through text and voice chat rather than a post and comment structure. Right off the bat, we saw an opportunity for tangible benefits as Discord was designed to encourage the community to report bugs directly and provide feedback.
Last year our engineering team created OneBot, an app that Discord users can install on their servers to bring the Fantasy League of Legends experience to the community. Since the release of OneBot, we’ve seen significant adoption from thousands of esports fans around the world.
OneBot is currently installed on more than 4,000 Discord servers with almost 40,000 users, making it one of the top Discord bots in the esports category. The growth over the past six months has been impressive, with servers growing 223% while users growing 210%.
In the same period, we’ve seen four times our Esports One user base attributed to OneBot. The craziest part? We haven’t spent anything on marketing efforts. Instead, we’ve created an area where users in the community can invite new users and let their friends know about playing Fantasy. It turns out that with the help of Discord, the excitement for the sport is contagious.
How can you use Discord to drive growth? Here is my advice:
- Focus on your community: A Discord server is divided into different “channels” – text and voice. Each serves as a place for a specific type of conversation or engagement. While it can be tempting to build a massive community server with 50 different channels, it can be overwhelming for users, disrupt conversations, and ultimately lead to lower engagement. Instead, invest in building a community on channels with specific relevant topics.
- Permissions and roles are your friends: To keep your server well organized and engaging as it grows, you should start by setting up Discord roles. You can use roles to group community members and give them all permissions. For example, suppose you want to create a channel for only the power users in your community to provide feedback. You can create a “Feedback” channel, create a “Power User” role, assign this role to the most active users in your community, and then specify that only community members with the “Power User” role can access the feedback channel.
- Create a moderation team and be active: Since Discord communications are real-time, you should create a small team of administrators to moderate your server, chat with the community, and answer questions. Start conversations with your community, answer their questions, and give them behind-the-scenes information they wouldn’t get anywhere else.
- Spice up your server with Discord bots: Discord bots are apps that you can install on your server to add additional functionality for your community. There are a variety of Discord bots out there, each with different functionality, but they generally fall into one of two categories: something that your community enjoys to keep them busy with, or something that will help you manage your Discord community . You can add bots that give your community members public ranks based on activity, games for your community, news and content feeds, music, event planning, and much more. Bots’ server administration page has a number of tools that you can use to automate just about any management of your Discord community.
Thanks to Discord, startups can immediately see what users are saying, apart from thumbs up or heart emoji. It is qualitative data in real time. You can also get involved and get direct feedback. This makes Discord an ideal platform for building a dedicated community of brand lawyers and an esports company.
Matt Gunnin is the CEO and co-founder of Esports One.
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