How to use Discord to build a community and get new ideas from your customers

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Most business owners know Discord only as a platform where gamers connect and communicate. But for brothers Eddie, Brian and Eric Nam, co-founders of Los Angeles-based podcast startup Dive Studios, it’s a platform for meaningful interactions with their customers.

The trio have a symbiotic relationship with their audience, says Eric Nam, the company’s creative director. “From a business perspective, building a community of truly interested and passionate people is the most valuable thing we have.”

Discord’s format is similar to Slack’s: after creating a free server, you can open topic-specific channels, or chat rooms, to guide conversation. Users also have the option of participating in individual or group voice and video calls. To start, all you need to do is download the Discord app, create an account, and name your server. You can then invite people to join directly or share an invite link with a wider audience.

Companies such as StockX, AllSaints, and Chipotle have either opened a server or run marketing campaigns using the platform. The Nam brothers created their server immediately after founding DiveE Studios in 2019. Two years later, they developed State of mind, a subscription-based app that lets popular American and Korean media musicians share personal stories in short podcast-style episodes, and has added Discord channels for user chats. Mindset raised an $8.7 million seed round last year, and the server grew to nearly 44,000 members.

Here’s how Eric, 33, Eddie, 31, and Brian Nam, 25, took advantage of Discord’s features and its growing popularity to build their businesses and engage their audiences, and what they say it takes to manage a successful Discord server.

Starting and maintaining a Discord server takes time.

A Discord server won’t moderate: it requires constant attention, especially if you want to foster meaningful discussions and build a powerful community. Mindset has a team of moderators who handle offensive comments as well as a channel that specifies rules such as not sharing any personal information and only using channels as intended. Brian Nam, the CEO, says he himself spends at least an hour a day on the server, hosting live brainstorming sessions and responding to customer feedback. It will often ask users a question that prompts them to respond with a personal story or discuss what new app features they would like to see or what they think needs improvement.

Managing the server also means engaging in behaviors that may not bring tangible benefits immediately, such as getting to know a few individual consumers well. “At the end of the day, it’s the people who support [the business]so give them the proper care and attention,” says Brian. “It’s contagious and they’re starting to invite their friends on Discord.

Discord provides customers with a platform and creates a community.

“Discord puts the social back in social media,” says Carlos Gil, the author of The End of Marketing: Humanizing Your Brand in the Age of Social Media and AI. “There are people to talk to, and it just seems common, something that has been lost in social media over the last decade.”

Discord’s origin as a gaming platform has resulted in a more fun and playful design than a platform like Slack. The app has a neon color scheme and is populated with whimsical and colorful characters, which Brian says appeals to the younger customers Mindset wants to reach. It also offers more profile customization options than Slack, allows users to create a social network-like identity on the app, and allows them to have specific roles within a server. These roles can look like classic positions such as moderator and ambassador, but they can also be more creative: Mindset, for example, has a role labeled Daebakor “awesome” in Korean, which is given to users who have shown particular enthusiasm for Mindset on Discord.

According to Brian, creating engaging and useful channels is key to keeping the server relevant to customers. Among other things, Mindset has a narration chat and a live episode listening channel. “It’s very communicative,” he says. “Discord has allowed us to really understand how people perceive and talk about the content, but also the application and the experience in general.”

Discord can be a source of new ideas from customers.

Establishing a dedicated comments channel in Discord is essential, says Brian, so that constructive feedback and new ideas don’t get lost. Listening to other discussions in real time on specific topics also makes it easy for founders to find out what customers are looking for and collaborate with them on new ideas. “You can use it as a forum or as a soundboard,” says Gil. “The whole methodology of getting feedback from your customers can be replaced by using Discord.”

The Nams, for example, discovered via Discord that customers were discussing ways to donate Mindset app subscriptions to users who couldn’t afford the $34.99 annual fee. They joined the initiative and established a “scholarship program” which corresponds to people who are looking to donate to people who need a donation; in just three weeks, he received more than 1,500 donations. The Founders go the extra mile by connecting donor and recipient, facilitating relationships and deeper engagement with the brand.

“You see people really diving in, like commentary paragraphs,” says Eddie Nam, vice president of Talent of Mindset. “They really want this to succeed and do better.”

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