The Discord app is on fire.
The chat app for video gamers amassed a whopping 130 million users in a short span of 3 years.
That’s not all.
While Discord has been slaying big brands like Caffeine, Curse, Teamspeak in the video game communication space, it has also expanded into business team communication space, competing effectively against legacy services such as Slack and Skype.
After raising $150 million in funds from its existing investors in 2018, Discord has topped the $2 billion valuation mark.
What’s the secret?
Dig in as we take a closer look at Discord’s game plan.
A Snapshot of Discord’s Growth
Discord: A Brief History
This was not the first time that CEO, Jason Citron, Founder of Discord, struck gold.
Jason had already tasted success when he co-created and successfully sold OpenFeint, a social gaming platform for iPhone gamers for $100 million in 2011. He was also the founder of Hammer & Chisel, a game development studio.
So, what is Discord’s origin story?
While working on developing a free-to-play iPad game, Fates Forever, Jason encountered numerous issues with the existing VoIP options.
To overcome these, he started working on a chat service that could provide a secure voice and text messaging service for his internal team. This was the beginning of the chat app for multiplayer mobile gamers, or, Discord.
When Jason’s team failed to monetize the much-anticipated Fates Forever game, released in 2014, they persisted with Discord. Soon, they decided to market Discord as a free voice and text chat application for gamers who want to talk to team members during a game.
The gamble paid off.
Discord with a low-band, high-quality VOIP audio that offered a non-interruptive channel for gamers to communicate soon catapulted to the top from the time of its release in 2015.
The numbers speak for themselves.
Messages sent through Discord in a month rose dramatically to 15 billion in 2018, from 6 billion in 2017.
By strategically partnering with Fortnite, a popular video game and Twitch, a streaming platform with a massive viewer base, the company grew to acquire a user base of 8.9 million daily active users by 2017.
Riding high on a growth wave, Discord has now partnered with Esports, Spotify, and Xbox to amplify its reach exponentially.
How did the initial growth come about?
Predominantly due to word-of-mouth marketing. (Hard to believe, but true!)
Gamers loved the ease of use and a useful app that did not hog their CPU storage. Interestingly, much of Discord’s initial success is attributed to its envious tech stack.
So, let’s take a closer look at the technology that powers Discord’s advancement.
The Tech Behind Discord’s Growth
Discord’s strength lies in 2 critical factors:
- Ability to handle thousands of server communications without glitches.
- A multi-platform support namely web, standalone app, phone.
Unlike its competitors that are clunky, heavy and outdated, Discord has low latency and supports large network groups.
Discord supports multiple platforms by implementing audio and video features using WebRTC.
WebRTC is a guideline that specifies the standards for audio and video communication in real time. Additionally, Discord gateways, Discord guilds, and Discord voice are instrumental in forming a robust backend architecture that makes it possible to scale seamlessly.
One of the most critical differentiators that makes Discord the go-to app for video gamers is its open-bot friendly ecosystem.
The Discord bots need a special mention here.
They are a key factor that aided in anchoring the brand’s identity among the gamers and their community.
Although most bots are used for automating everyday administrative tasks, they have a natural language system inbuilt. Since most gamers are tech-savvy, the freedom to tinker and customize bots using cutting edge technology is alluring.
Not surprisingly Discord bots are quite diverse depending on their function – from Dyno bot that moderates server to Dankmemer that creates quirky memes.
If gamers can dream it, Discord allows them to build it.
Tracing the Growth Trajectory
The Discord team was put off by traditional marketing methods of buying ads and user acquisition models.
So, how did they pull off the astounding growth success?
1. Build it, and they will come
The core strength of Discord lies in its tech stack that enables gamers to communicate without any hassles.
Seamless voice chatting while gaming was an area left unattended for long. The chat apps before Discord were slow, not user-friendly or hogged the performance of the CPU. Discord addressed this pain point quite adequately.
Similarly, a low barrier to entry meant anyone could start using the discord app, create several channels, allocate different access permissions and start engaging with the fellow gamers within minutes.
Where legacy chat apps failed as the users ramped up, Discord’s database system was able to handle billions of messages with ease.
2. Empower your customers
From early days, Discord laid the foundation to provide ample opportunities for its users to customize.
With a vast repository of custom emoji, advanced server channel organization, public bot integration, discord facilitated communities to thrive on creative freedom and showcase individuality.
By appealing to gamers’ imaginative mentality, Discord’s offerings became almost irresistible to its audience.
3. Strike the right partnership
After the initial growth spurt from word-of-mouth marketing, Jason’s team had to come up with a strategy to reach out to a larger audience.
They partnered with Video game streamers such as Twitch. This integration resulted in more visibility allowing more gamers to adopt as well as invite others to join the community.
4. Enable interconnectivity
Discord leveraged heavily on the basic human need for contributing towards a community.
The strength of Discord lies in its ability to cater to the growing needs of large web-based communities.
Paying heed to the communities’ demands, Discord continued to refine and create tools like guided bot or bots that could fetch player stats.
These small tweaks and continuous improvement acted as a ripple effect resulting in accelerated growth.
5. Free forever pricing plan
Until recently, Discord charges were zero. Most of the services offered by Discord came at no cost for the gamers.
What happens when a free application offers significantly better service than most paid services? Gamers are instantly attracted to the free app. That is exactly what happened with Discord.
The app has now introduced two subscription-based plan – nitro and nitro classic.
However, Discord’s core features continue to stay free.
Discord Vs. Slack: How the Chat app Competes with the Popular Team Messenger
Here’s what happens when you facilitate scores of communities to mushroom as you propel your way to the top – you spillover into domains that you never intended to enter.
Discord is specifically designed for gamers. However, as the popularity grew few teams saw it fit to use Discord for business communication as well.
This posed a threat to existing team communication software services.
For example, Slack is almost synonymous with team communication. However, Discord’s free plan combined with brilliant tech resulted in many businesses making the switch from Slack.
The primary reason for the customer churn was Slack’s limited file and message (10K) storage capabilities.
Not to be left behind, Discord has also been belting out features and API integrations targeted towards developers.
What does it mean?
It’s simple: Business teams are finding it harder to ignore Discord as an alternative to Slack.
Discord Growth: 5 Takeaways to Replicate in Your Business
1. Your brand must resonate with your audience
Pay close heed to your targeted audience. Conduct an in-depth analysis of the current players in your market. Design a hyper-specific solution that caters to your niche.
Discord is not the only app that offers VOIP communication capabilities to gamers. There is Ventrilo, Teamspeak and then Skype. But what makes Discord stick is its sniper precision in addressing the root problem.
While Skype and Ventrilo lack in their in-game overlay features, Teamspeak’s browser support and text chat support features are insufficient. Discord strategically combines the best of features and serves it to the right audience.
2. Invest in incremental innovation
Study your audience and innovate creative solutions fast. However, don’t stop there. Keep innovating.
Discord continued adapting their solution to support the exponentially growing needs of their community.
When companies listen, customers love it. It is one of the surest ways to hook your customers.
Happy customers turn into product evangelists helping the business grow multifold.
3. Join forces with right partners
It can be tough to break into a new market. If you are counting solely on word-of-mouth marketing, you will grow. But at a snail’s pace.
Collaborating with big players catering to a lookalike audience can give your business an instant boost. It renders credibility as well as visibility to your brand.
Discord set off to a roaring start when it cleverly partnered with Twitch and Youtube streamers.
In Jason’s words, today thousands of partner streamers use Discord with Twitch.
4. Engage and grow your community
The Membership economy is real. The term coined by Robbie Kellman Baxter has caught on.
Capitalize on the need for customers to connect, contribute and be a part of a larger social group. The benefits are huge.
Capturing their attention and effectively keeping them engaged helps brands evolve.
Discord’s community members had a sense of not just belonging but one of ownership. This played to Discord’s advantage.
The community did most of the heavy lifting, driving more customer acquisition at relatively lower costs. It is now considered to be the Facebook for gamers.
5. Crushing the barriers to product adoption
How soon can your customers get started with your service?
The ease of integration plays a crucial role in moving the needle at the product adoption stage.
Pricing is another potential friction point. Do you offer a free trial? Or do you have a competitive pricing plan in place?
One of the reasons why Discord was able to careen past its competitors, in more than one domain, was primarily its free forever plan.
Discord’s meteoric rise can be attributed to its disruptive tech stack and uncanny knack of reading the audience’ pulse, thanks to the founding team’s in-depth knowledge of the gamers mindset and insight into industry trends.
How can you replicate this success story for your business?
Hit the right niche, allow your customers to take the rein, promote community engagement and voila, you have a winner!
Wes is ClickUp’s fearless Chief Operating Officer. He also has a degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Tennessee. When he isn’t helping the worlds most productive teams get more done he can be found on the water wakeboarding in Tennessee.