Inside Discord’s risky push to position itself as the anti-Facebook


Discord needs you to think about a spot the place friendship isn’t a request—it simply sorta occurs. Or a spot to take pleasure in cookies with out spilling your information.

These are taglines from a brand new model marketing campaign from the social app, which lets customers create “servers,” primarily chat rooms devoted to a sure subject or sort of dialog. Based six years in the past, Discord now has greater than 150 million energetic month-to-month customers and is widespread with avid gamers, podcasters, and, more and more, individuals who need to focus on all the pieces from native politics to gardening.

In contrast to most different social platforms, Discord doesn’t revolve round a feed. Every consumer’s profile is sort of a home, and the servers are the rooms, usually used for various issues. The app garnered some consideration final month for hosting Fb CEO Mark Zuckerberg for a dwell chat. (It additionally lately entered the mainstream enterprise discourse when Microsoft was said to be interested in buying Discourse for not less than $10 billion.) On Thursday, the company launched a new feature called Stage Discovery, a transparent play for the dwell audio development kicked off by apps such as Clubhouse and Twitter Areas.

However even as Discord makes a transparent play for neighborhood and connection, it’s nonetheless a social platform that’s tormented by the identical points as its counterparts: racism, harassment, abuse. The advertising problem can be balancing content material questions of safety whereas nonetheless pitching itself to a broader viewers as a heat and fuzzy place of belonging.


03 90635684 discord goes for the anti facebook copy
[Image: Discord]

“Whenever you consider different social media platforms, they appear very a lot a broadcast platform,” says chief advertising officer Tesa Aragones, who got here to Discord final fall from VSCO. “You submit one thing, somebody would possibly see it a few hours later or the subsequent day. What we have been listening to from our customers is that [Discord] felt extra human. You possibly can watch an occasion on one other platform the place you’re one among 1000’s of individuals, however about 90% of our servers have lower than 15 folks, and that makes it extra intimate.”

18 90635684 discord goes for the anti facebook
Tesa Aragones [Photo: Discord]

Aragones labored with advert company AKQA on the new marketing campaign, however the insights, and even a few of the taglines, got here from precise customers. Again in December, the model requested customers, What does Discord imply to you? “Folks have been speaking about their pursuits, and the folks they discover based mostly on these pursuits, in small teams,” says Aragones.”That’s the place the playful model worth we’ve got is available in. ‘Think about a Place’ got here from our shoppers saying that Discord is what I convey to it. You set issues in there and individuals who share [your] curiosity reply.”

09 90635684 discord goes for the anti facebook
[Image: Discord]

The facility of the neighborhood pitch

If Discord’s pitch sounds acquainted, it ought to.

The notion of discovering belonging is an concept that Fb has been pushing with Teams, together with in a Tremendous Bowl spot final yr. The problem for Fb is that the picture it initiatives may be very totally different from the one which exists IRL, the place the social large is thought for not fact-checking political ads, mishandling Instagram passwords, and being a platform for misinformation, all whereas taking advantage of customers’ private information.

Reddit has additionally leaned in on the energy of its communities by means of advertising, most notably maybe in its five-second Super Bowl ad, which was a wink to the wallstreetbets subreddit, and a celebration of its relationship with customers.

Individuals spent a mean of 82 minutes per day on social media throughout the pandemic yr of 2020, a seven-minute increase over 2019, according to eMarketer. This benefitted Discord. Its consumer base doubled final yr, in accordance to Aragones. Each month, Discord customers are energetic in 19 million servers, with 50% of them in not less than three servers, and 25% collaborating in eight or extra. Voice can also be an enormous part, with 40% utilizing Discord’s voice chat and spending a mean of round two hours a day on it.


No promoting, no downside? Not precisely

The corporate doesn’t serve adverts and depends on its Nitro subscription service, which gives greater high quality streams, customized profiles, and the capability to add bigger information. Its revenues have tripled over the previous yr to $130 million, up from $45 million in 2019. Whereas it was initially constructed as a spot for avid gamers to collect and talk, now 80% of its customers come for nongaming functions, in contrast to simply 30% a yr in the past.

08 90635684 discord goes for the anti facebook copy
[Image: Discord]

Discord’s new marketing campaign is aimed toward additional broadening that tent.

“There’s a big alternative for the model,” says Aragones. “You’re going to see our media in other places, and we wish to have fun our customers and proceed to invite extra folks in. A part of this marketing campaign is exhibiting folks what we’re all about and the sort of expertise they will have on our platform.”

This marketing campaign goals to body the platform as the final vacation spot to join with different folks. It’s additionally pushing a picture of privateness, swift responses to consumer complaints, and a extra rigorous policing of hate speech and unsafe content material. But Discord—like each different social software—nonetheless has issues even in the areas it purports to be a panacea for.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the FBI bought a warrant for the Discord account of the chief of a white supremacist group, after chats suggesting the chief inspired violence at the 2017 Charlottesville “Unite the Proper” rally have been leaked on a left-wing media web site. Discord later banned servers selling neo-Nazi ideology.

In its newest Transparency Report, overlaying July to December 2020, Discord says consumer studies of points such as harassment, cybercrime, and exploitative content material have been up 50% over the first half of 2020. In fact loads of that has to do with development. As the platform provides customers, it is going to undoubtedly see an uptick in a majority of these studies. The corporate now says 15% of its workforce is devoted to belief and security and monitoring unsafe content material.

04 90635684 discord goes for the anti facebook
[Image: Discord]

To the firm’s credit score, its numbers are higher than these from Fb, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok, according to a new study from Thorn, a nonprofit that builds expertise to defend kids from sexual abuse. The proportion of minors, for instance, who’ve had a probably dangerous on-line expertise on Discord was 7%, in contrast to 17% for Fb, 18% for TikTok, and 26% for each Instagram and Snapchat.

“We take it very significantly,” says Aragones. “With our moderator program and moderator academy, we’ll assist servers construct it in a approach that can be protected for the neighborhood members. If we’ve got a mission round creating area for belonging, we wish to be certain we will stand by that.”

The corporate is clearly making an attempt to present all the methods its worth lies in being the anti-social community. For now, although, a very protected, ad-free, data-secure platform for actual interactions remains to be a figment of our creativeness.