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It’s also a place where you don’t need a massive follower count to be heard. “Now with social media, everyone wants numbers, virality, to be popular. Discord takes that and does the opposite,” Dietschy said. “It allows you to just hang out with the people you want to hang out with and interact with them in any way you want, whether it’s voice, text, pictures, or anything.”
King said that he also believes a big part of Discord’s appeal is that there’s no other platform that’s all about just kicking back with friends. “The reason so many people are adopting Discord is because there’s nothing else out there like it,” he said. “Discord has just done such a phenomenal job of setting itself up in a way that benefits creators and everyone who enjoys those creators’ content, whether or not they’re into gaming.”
Because Discord is a chat, not a feed, it’s also free of the algorithms that creators so often bemoan. If influencers want to announce that they have a new video out, or promote a merch sale, they can post a message to everyone in the #announcements channel of their Discord server instead of posting about it on Instagram and hoping the post gets served to a wide enough portion of their audience.
“Having an independent third-party tool where you can have open dialogue and facilitate a conversation among your community is fantastic,” Blake said. “Since it’s independent from all your other platforms, you’re not receiving any algorithmic penalties that [negatively] impact your content in any way.”
Once a community is established with enough moderators in place, influencers also don’t have to do tons of work to keep it going. Fans can bond with one another, which ultimately solidifies their bond with the influencer as the creator of that community. Many of the top YouTuber Discord servers include dozens of channels that have nothing to do with the YouTubers themselves. Blake’s server includes a job board, a book club, and channels for talking about business and tech. The Discord group for one star-themed Instagram page has channels for users to talk about animals, share writing, compare Subway orders, and post pictures of their hands.
Discord doesn’t provide an age breakdown on its user base, but several moderators say non-gaming Discord servers are dominated by the type of people who follow YouTubers and meme pages on Instagram: teenagers. People talk about school, dating, memes, and general teen anxieties. When I posted a question in the Discord server for Kale Salad, an Instagram meme page with more than 3 million followers, a teenager quickly told me not to expect a reply from anyone on there, since “pretty much everyone is in class right now.”
Of course, as on any booming network, people are already trying to figure out how to make money on Discord. Plenty of influencers have already begun charging an entrance fee to their servers, paid through services such as Patreon, or making users pay for special access and privileges on their servers. Users in one popular podcaster’s Discord community even designate roles by how much money each user gives each month. Discord currently does not receive a portion of this revenue. The company is adamantly focused on serving its core user base: gamers. Last year, it launched a storefront where the platform distributes games and other chat perks. Discord also offers a subscription service called Nitro, which gives users unlimited access to a growing library of games and enhanced profile features such as animated avatars.