It is unclear just how many branded servers are currently on Discord, which was founded in 2015. But major brands such as Macy’s have joined in recent months.
The maturation of how brands are approaching the platform is in part due to the rise of Web3 marketing, which exploded in the past year as adland embraced technology like NFTs and the metaverse. These communities tend to gather and socialize on Discord and, being tech savvy, demand a certain wealth of features, from automated bots to a plethora of engaging content.
This demand also emerged out of inconvenient necessity. Malicious hacks on Discord servers have substantially increased, with over $22 million having been stolen from users via scams during May and June alone, per analysis from Web3 security firm TRM Labs. When even notable NFT communities such as Bored Ape Yacht Club and Nouns DAO suffer from these attacks, users start to expect improvements in security from established companies.
In June, clothing brand Lacoste experienced a phishing scam in which a user posted a link to a fake NFT mint on the brand’s server, and was able to steal users’ assets. The attack occurred within a week of the server’s launch.
Brands have also needed to grapple with an unpredictable partner in Discord. The platform’s chief marketing officer, Tesa Aragones, departed the company last November. While Elizabeth Hamren, Discord's new chief operating officer, will oversee several teams including marketing, a direct CMO replacement has not been appointed.
Some brands, like Chipotle, have built relationships with Discord and received help when setting up their servers. Others, like Macy’s, have not—an indication that the platform is less interested in courting advertisers than it was last year. Indeed, Discord has yet to announce whether it will host an “agency day” this year. The company declined to share more information, per a spokesperson.
With a bare bones-server no longer acceptable, brands are providing their communities with myriad and multifaceted tools.
Bots are accounts that use AI to automate tasks in a server. They can welcome new members, post memes or polls, ask questions to keep a conversation fresh and assist in moderating content. Many are publicly available to use and offer both free and paid plans, the latter of which can often be purchased on Patreon from anywhere between $4 and $40 a month.
Some brands have created their own bots to enable a more unique experience for their communities. For example, Wendy’s developed a bot that roasts users, inspired by the restaurant’s derisive personality on social media. The construction only required a bit of Python programming, which was conducted by developers from VMLY&R, said Danley. And once it was installed, Wendy’s made it available for other servers to download into their own servers.
Another area of improved functionality can be made through moderators, often referred to as “mods.” Mods are human accounts that guide conversations on the server and provide useful information, such as being transparent about news and announcements. They can also assist bots in sweeping the server for fake or malicious accounts and expelling them.
Most brands appoint in-house staff to be mods, but others, like Samsung U.S., see any type of passionate user as a good candidate, including fans.
“Mods are people that understand how to drum up conversation,” said Tammy Pepito, senior VP of social and consumer experience at agency Razorfish, which helped Samsung U.S. launch its server back in June. “Discord is very different from social in that it's not a customer service channel, so [moderating] is not just responding and closing out a ticket—it's about trying to keep that conversation going so that the community members can develop relationships with the mods.”
Pepito suggested that when planning for bots and mods, brands should work with a Discord subject matter expert—someone who knows the ins and outs of Discord features, a reputable list of moderators and the overall architecture of the platform.
“Having a subject matter expert is really crucial to make sure that we're utilizing the best bots that won't leave us susceptible to hacks and to raids,” she said.