May 2023

Discord: The Community Conversation Revolution

The beginning of the end for algorithm-led social media?

Gen Z consumers are choosing community-led social platforms to take back control of their conversations.

Our study reveals that younger audiences want to be part of communities with shared passions and substance, where the conversation is owned by the people, not by the channel or algorithm.

The findings have big implications for brands looking to engage Gen Z and Gen A in these spaces, where paid media rules do not apply and communities must be nurtured over time.

We looked at 13-22-year olds’ relationship with, views on and use of Discord, one of the fastest-growing social platforms. Working with Generation Z&A expert Chloe Combi, 500 members of Gen Z were interviewed and asked about themselves and how, when and why they use the platform.

With over 150million active monthly users, Discord cannot be ignored. After starting life as a place for gamers, the fast-emerging platform has evolved into a global space for a diverse mix of communities, including students, musicians, scientists and sneakerheads.

Top 5 learnings:

  1. The social is back in social: Younger audiences are seeking to be part of communities with shared passions and substance
  2. Gen Z want to own their own experience: Discord servers are driven by community, not platform or algorithm
  3. Don’t be afraid to let go: Gen Z want to be much more a part of the brands they buy into. Provide opportunities for them to shape your brand and products
  4. Inspiration and intent: This audience is looking to turn what they love into work they love
  5. Invest time, not money: Brands should consider the opportunity outside of paid media tactics and nurture communities with conversations they can facilitate

“Whether driven by a desire to curate their own conversations, or wanting a deeper sense of connection or belonging, we’re witnessing a revolution in social media, with younger audiences taking back control,” says Alex Michael, Head of Growth at M&C Saatchi TALK. “It’s like the old days of social, where community ruled: Audiences can once-again choose to only engage with what they are interested in and passionate about, without being bombarded with things they aren’t.”

“Discord’s communities are a hotbed of opportunity for brands to nurture fanbases and create passionate advocates” adds Shelley Portet, Head of Social at M&C Saatchi TALK, “Without the ability to buy eyeballs in this space, brands need to think about how they earn their place and provide value to the communities they want to facilitate.”

Gen Z expert, Chloe Combi, says: “It doesn’t surprise me that Discord is beginning to catch fire in a year when young people are ‘Snapping-back’, railing against the ‘Mums of TikTok’ and wanting their own exclusive online spaces away from parents and elders. 

“In Discord you have intense communities that are passionate about an extraordinary range of things, so it’s easy for brands to tap into ready-made audiences and also test-drive products, ideas and strategies. The layout and navigation can be jarring, because it’s so different from other social media sites that have become carbon copies of each other, but I found it to be one of the most interesting and eye-opening insights into youth culture. Brands and companies ignore Discord and its possibilities at their peril!”

Find out more here