Building an engaging online community is essential for crafters and small craft shop owners who want to market their creations and create authentic relationships with their audience. From creating Facebook groups to building Instagram accounts, crafters have utilized social media platforms to connect with their community.
But if you feel like your online community is getting stagnant, you might want to opt for a new platform.
Say hello to Discord.
What is Discord?
Discord is a free voice, video, and text chat app that lets people talk and hang out with friends or like-minded hobbyists. At present, Discord has more than 300 million registered users and a valuation of $7 billion.
Originally built for gamers, the platform has expanded to accommodate craft enthusiasts and diverse fandoms. Users can join by clicking on an invite link which gives them access to a private online community, otherwise known as a server.
Vernal Craft & Studio artist Allison Missal Akright says Discord communities can be exclusive or as broad as you want them to be.
“I like how it usually revolves around one interest or hobby. It’s not like Facebook where you feel obligated to still be friends with a person in high school you no longer talk to,” she added. “It’s less about artificial networking and it’s there for; however, you want to use it.”
What are some basic Discord features?
Navigating the platform is relatively simple: a Discord server usually consists of text or voice channels. You can chat with members via messaging through text channels. Meanwhile, voice channels let you hang out with others through video and voice messages.
Akright who is a member of several Discord communities loves how channels keep conversations organized about a specific topic. “The different channels make it easier to keep track of conversations, or mute channels if you’re simply not interested in that particular topic. The built-in video and voice chat also makes virtually getting together for an event a breeze.”
Users can also change their username as many times as they like. Much like Reddit, most usernames are anonymous while profile photos are impersonal. There’s no pressure to share personal details and you can speak your mind without fear of any judgments—as long as you follow the rules within the community.
As you chat with other members, you can also use commands like “/spoiler” to mark your message as a spoiler text and “/giphy” to search animated GIFs on the web.
If you want to have private conversations with a specific member, you can message, call, or video chat with them directly. You can also add them as a friend.
Pros and cons for community engagement and management
Like any online platform, Discord has a few pros and cons. Here are a few you should keep in mind if you’re looking to start a craft community via the platform.
- Free: Even with a free account, you have access to all the basic features you need to manage a community. However, members can also opt for the Discord Nitro paid membership for $9.99/month. This provides access to Nitro stickers, custom emojis, server enhancements—but you aren’t missing out on any groundbreaking features with just a free account.
- Easy to join and start conversations: Discord channels make it easy to converse with other people about different topics. For example, a craft community server can have an #entrepreneur channel for those who want to talk about the struggles of running a business and a separate #products channel for enthusiasts looking for interesting items. If you’re running an event, you can create voice channels to engage with attendees.
- Anonymity: Since most Discord users remain anonymous, members can talk about their interests and passion freely within the channels.
- Admin and moderator features: Discord allows administrators to set up rules for participation, invite members, and manage the community by assigning moderators. Both moderators and administrators can moderate messages and invite, suspend, or ban users who fail to follow the rules.
- Quick conversations: The flipside is that conversations tend to move quickly based on the number of people in the group. In Akright’s experience, sometimes it feels clumsy to respond to a point made earlier, without ruining the flow of the discussion.
- Complaints on video chat and call quality: Some users complain that the video chat’s quality that isn’t up to par with other popular video calling apps. In addition, some report random call quality decline.
Managing Discord for craft communities
Discord’s conversation-centric features could benefit crafters who want to build a tight-knit community.
Akright says, “If you have a group of artists in different mediums, you could separate the mediums by channels. If you had a resource channel, you can pin messages so it’s easy for anyone to go back to refer to it.”
Much like other online platforms, Discord might require a learning curve for older folks. However, with a little guidance, they’re also capable of navigating the platform.
Akright has direct experience with joining and managing small Discord communities. She believes making sure all suggestions are heard is key, even if not all of them are implemented. “One group I’m in boots members if they’ve been inactive for several months which can be helpful to keeping everything organized.”
Her husband is also a member of online gaming communities within Discord. To keep minors safe, they have age-limiting channels so young users won’t be exposed to adult content. Within this server, they also create roles for members who want to help the mod or creator in case there are any unruly members.
Craft communities and artists can implement the same restrictions and protocols to keep younger members safe. And if they struggle with managing a large community, they can create roles that allow other members to give them a helping hand.
Regardless, Discord has a lot of potential for craft communities that want to create safe spaces for online conversations. They can get members talking and gain insights about their growing audience.
Monique Danao is a freelance writer specializing in lifestyle, travel, and marketing.