Discord was first built as a place for people to communicate and voice chat while playing video games. Since 2015, Discord has grown and expanded outside of the gaming niche and is used for all kinds of professional and social communities. Discord is uniquely positioned apart from other platforms due to the segmentation tools and community building mechanisms within. These tools allow communities to deeply customize the features and overall experience for each individual member.

An example of a Discord server
An example of a Discord server

Discord communities are known as “servers" and contain voice, text, and video channels. If you've used Slack before – Discord will feel somewhat familiar. In the past year, brands and marketers have slowly started to find their footing on Discord and we here at Kapwing are certainly part of that wave. In this article, I'll explain how our startup uses Discord to grow a community of online creators, what we've learned along the way, and how a marketer should setup their first server.

Why Should Brands Use Discord?

More brands are turning to Discord as a place to connect with fans, tease new features, and create super fans that are willing to be your 'stans' on other social platforms. Discord combines personalization, promotion, and multiple communication methods, allowing you to reach customers more effectively.

Discord markets itself as a space for everyone to find belonging

Kapwing gets value from Discord by creating dedicated users who beta-test new features, tell us if something isn't working, and teach us about video and image editing trends on the internet that we can create content about. Since growing our server to over 2,500 members, we've seen an increasing number of members evolve into Kapwing experts. There's no greater joy for us on Discord than seeing these creators help new members of our server better understand and use our products.

Who Is Your Discord Server For?

One of the first steps in creating a Discord server is determining which segment of your customers base will populate the community. Discord users generally tend be younger and male, but that's not to say this is representative of all Discord communities. More than anything, Discord is a tool favored by digital natives. For brands whose audiences did not grow up with the internet, convincing folks to try out a new platform might be a challenge.

A slide from an early deck pitching the Discord server to the Kapwing content team

Kapwing's Discord has a large user base full of young creators who are just starting their editing careers. When building our server, we wanted to create a place where users of all ages could feel comfortable sharing editing tricks, asking questions about their content, and interfacing directly with our team.

What Should Your Discord Community Talk About?

What value do you see your brand getting from having an active Discord server? Perhaps you are looking to increase your engagement on social media, get feedback about new ideas, or  foster interesting conversations related to your market. While discussions around these topics are bound happen and will feel great, most of the time, people aren't going to want to talk about what you expect them to and that's okay!

Kapwing is a video editor, image maker, and all around tool for creators. Often times our Discord's conversations lean away from these topics and we've learned that this is the norm for branded servers. It's difficult to control the narrative or topic of choice on a platform built around non-specific conversations and connecting with  like minded people. The reason  people joined our server is because they like video editing  -- but this is only one part of their identities.

An example of steering the conversation back to video related topics.
An example of steering the conversation back to video related topics.

One way that we've steered the conversation back to topics more directly related to Kapwing is by actively engaging in the server ourselves. If there's a lull in the general chat, we'll reignite the conversation again with a link, video, or story about video editing that will cause people to react and share their thoughts. This has lead to to longer conversations surrounding topics that Kapwing is known for.

How Involved Should Your Brand Be?

In a healthy Discord server, most messages in channels should not come from you, but from your fans and server members. Finding that sweet spot between full control and 'laissez faire' of your server is one of the toughest things for new server admins. You don't want to make it seem like the brand doesn't care or read the messages, but at the same time, you don't want it to appear like the server is inactive and the only people caring about it is the brand itself.

We have 3-4 staff members and interns who are constantly in the server answering questions or helping out people with bugs they might encounter. Providing a space where our users can speak directly to us was always a top priority. We use our Discord as a way to learn what  editors are talking about and what we can do to build a product that helps them tell better stories.  Asking for feedback from our users allows them to feel heard and helps build trust with the people who are supporting us as we grow.

Our bot that sends a notification whenever a new YouTube video goes live.
Our bot that sends a notification whenever a new YouTube video goes live.

We do a few things on our Discord to help automatically distribute our content. We set up a bot that notifies server members when a new YouTube video goes live, or when we publish a new article to our Resources section. That initial boost of social engagement is something that marketing teams love to see and Discord is a great way of getting the ball rolling on any new post. It's also a constant reminder that we are active on other platforms our users are visiting each day.

This sort of integration and involvement in the server is basic, but important.  In the next section, I'll go more into how to set up a few simple bots to add features that can help your fans feel like you are actively engaging with the server, even when you're away from your desk.

What Are Discord Bots?

Discord "bots" make it easy to automate essential server  tasks like moderation, welcoming new members, and sharing your content from around the web. There are thousands of free and paid bots to choose from for your community. Adding a Discord bot to your server is a simple process that requires no coding experience.  

  1. Turn Manage Server permissions ON in your server
  2. Explore popular bots on Top.gg
  3. Pick a bot you want to try (we suggest MEE6 as your server's first bot)
  4. Follow the instructions to add the bot to your server

Adding a bot to a Discord server

We were looking for a catch-all bot that would help us manage our Discord by itself and came upon MEE6. The bot was a miracle when we first set up our server, eventually leading us to pay for its premium features. The free version of MEE6 can:

  • Automatically warn and ban spammers posting unwanted messages
  • Create a channel where you can keep tabs on all users who have been banned, muted, and kicked
  • Set up roles and custom abilities for certain users
  • Send welcome messages to new users who join your Discord
  • A level up system that gives rewards to your most active users

You can also add your own commands and roles that further the customization of your server. MEE6 is a great starter bot that will help you understand how bots operate on Discord in general before adding more specific bots.

The premium upgrade for MEE6 is either a one-time payment of $90 or monthly for $12. This upgrade unlocks features like:

  • Welcome images for new server joiners
  • 500 custom commands (vs. 3 free)
  • Twitch/YouTube/Reddit notifications directly in channels
  • Music queues up to 50 songs
  • Roles based on XP gained in server

We have an article about the best five bots you should add to your Discord, but one of our favorites is Starboard, which filters the best messages in all of your channels to one RSS style feed. With Starboard, you're able to see all of the  most interesting interactions that are happening in your community in one spot. It's a quick way to get a sense of what's being talked about on a day to day basis without having to read every single message in the server.

The Starboard Bot

Have some technical prowess or engineering resources available? You can build custom bots to fulfill your unique business needs in Discord. For example, one of our community members added a bot that gives users the ability to add suggestions for features we should bring to Kapwing. This is a simple and direct way to see what our community wants  in future releases.

A bot that lets users vote on new features that should be added to Kapwing.
A bot that lets users vote on new features for Kapwing

Our Biggest Takeaways as a Brand on Discord

Live Events Connect You With the Community

One of the most interesting thing we've learned from our Discord community is how successful live events are at increasing overall server activity. We hosted a game night where everyone joined a voice call while playing a game called Gartic Phone. The chat afterwards was the most active we've seen since launching the server. People weren't just talking about the game either, most of our channels were more active as a result.

The drawings we created in Gartic Phone as a server
The drawings we created in Gartic Phone as a server

This event didn't revolve around Kapwing or video editing, but it was still a great experience because we built a deeper connection with our community. They got to hear our voices for the first time and connect real people to the avatars they see in the server each day. There's something about hearing a human voice that is so much more powerful than seeing messages on a screen.

The voice chat for one of our game nights
The voice chat for one of our game nights

Notifications and Roles Help You Reach The Right People

One of Discord's best features is roles. Unlike other social media, on Discord you're able to segment your audience into different roles, each having different permissions and access settings throughout your server. For users who don't mind getting an occasional ping, we have a role called "Notification Squad" that we mention when we have an announcement that's not a high-level priority but still want immediate feedback on. These people are our top fans and are really good at giving us a quick reaction or opinion on something new.

Some of our roles in our Discord server
A list of roles in the Kapwing Community Discord server

Something that we've noticed about people who use Discord, is that the @everyone ping should only be used for MAJOR community announcements or updates. If you are always pinging your server, people are going to mute it and not come back as frequently. Be mindful of how often you're notifying your server and consider specific roles for those who want to opt-in to your messaging.

You Should Promote Mods From Within Your Community

Unless you've got a dedicated staff member who is responsible for Discord, you're going to need a few moderators from your community who can manage your server when your team is offline. We have a team of 5 mods from our server who we've vetted as reliable people in our community. These incredible community members care about the server as much as we do and are willing to help with just about whatever we need. These mods are the backbone of the Kapwing Discord Community and have helped us ban spam bots, add new tools, and delete unwanted language and messages.

A conversation with one of our mods
A conversation with one of our mods

It's important that you trust the users you add as mods. These people are an offshoot of your brand and can often represent what your company stands for. A good way to do this is by having a voice-call interview in your server to further vet each of them. You can also set up a rolling mod application bot that can ask wannabe mods qualifying questions that can help you determine if a person is a good fit.

A bot we added that helped us with going through all of our moderator applications is called the Applications Bot. This short video below explains how to set it up. You can use this bot to send a list of questions to someone who wants to apply to be a mod in your server, and then you will be sent the completed application once they've completed it.

Discord is a ripe place for brands to connect directly with their fans and customers, but just like how every company is different, so is every Discord server. What might work for us as a software company may not work for a snack food, lifestyle, or hardware brand. Finding your voice and what works for your brand on Discord is all part of the process. If you're looking for an instructional guide on how to set-up your first server, we have an article on that goes step-by-step.

You'll need to do some research on what people in your community are already talking about and how they operate online and then create a space with tools and bots that help those conversations thrive. If you want some pointers on how to think about this more or need an example to go off – please join us in the Kapwing Discord Server to chat more!


Read More Discord Guides: