Discord shows how good copywriting keeps engaged audiences loyal

This is what the best copywriting looks like.

By Jade Zienkiewicz


As someone who writes, and who has worked in communications for a long time, I appreciate a brand that uses their copy imaginatively. I don’t mean going out of the way for the sake of being different. The approach I love best is when a brand can harness natural communication in a fresh way, commanding your attention effortlessly. Copy that resonates with audiences is doing a hell of a job. It takes imagination and skill to do this in a way that doesn’t feel contrived.

That’s why it’s hard not to be enamoured with Discord, a chat client or ‘community platform’ that has been popular with gamers for years. The way Discord communicates with its users leaves me smiling, and it might be a trifle of a thing, but it’s this sort of detail that makes me a fan of a brand. I can’t be alone. Humans are naturally attracted to people (or things) that make them laugh – it’s pretty much a guarantee for social success. So it’s not a surprise that it works on a platform created specifically to chat.

Whilst Discord has always been used in diverse ways, gamers still seem to be its biggest pool of users. However, in March 2020 it dropped its tagline “Chat for Gamers” and since then it’s been “Chat for Communities and Friends.” All kinds of groups are now flocking to the platform to talk via video, text or voice chat. It has specific spaces for campus communities, and with an open source ethos at its heart, it also has a specific platform geared towards engineers for their open source projects.

Copy that keeps users informed, engaged and on board

In June 2020 the platform announced that it was its users who asked for the service to be expanded beyond the gaming community, and that it was now becoming a tool for “day to day communication.” In January 2021 they began the New Year by releasing a statement detailing exactly how Discord blew up through 2020:

“Happy New Year <3 This year hasn’t been easy, and many of you connected with your friends on Discord to hangout and find an escape. In fact, you spent 23 billion hours in voice, sent 656 billion messages, and created 117 million new servers. And you shared all the amazing new things you did while hanging out in voice: things that we’ve never seen before like hosting classes, concerts, and even getting married!!!”

Its expansion makes so much sense – not just at a time of social distancing and the need to rely more on digital spaces, though that’s definitely one of the reasons. But also because a whole generation of gamers who’ve been using Discord through their teens have moved onto university, moved out of the family home or are now in the world of work. They grew up, and like any sensible business, the platform is adapting with its original users and becoming relevant beyond their gaming lives.

Whilst Discord is now pitching itself to a more cosy crowd with ‘topic based’ interests, yoga and cooking groups, making its “built-in jokes and references less specific to gaming”, it has retained its personality through clever use of copy, using a style that’s highly engaging and elicits laughs, even for the most mundane things.

It’s easy to take for granted, but its reliance on humour creates a sense of warmth which is important for a platform whose roots are based in community. So Discord is not just useful, it’s joyful.

Like when adding a new person to a chat – Discord might tell them that they should have brought pizza:

Picture shows an excerpt from a Discord chat saying: “Welcome Ben Cooper. We hope you bought Pizza.”

Discord’s random messages make an event of everyday things, and it has more than just pizza up its sleeve. “Glad you’re here…” or “Everyone say hi to…” are the standard, but every now and then you’ll get a random “A wild Tilly Farrands just joined the chat.” That one is very rare and it’s my favourite.

It’s just darn playful:

Image shows an unsuccessful search result within Discord, with the return message showing a picture of a banana stating “No results found, empathy banana is here for you.”

The Discord Wiki reliably informs me that the empathy banana result is not an everyday occurrence and is completely random. Sometimes the search result will also occasionally show a broken magnifying glass instead of its usual magnifying vector. It’s an in joke with the user, and I am very happy that I had the good sense to screenshot it when it happened, as at the time I didn’t know how rare it was!

Copy you can’t ignore

Discord successfully engages users with copy that commands attention – it’s very hard to overlook messages from the platform. Not just because they strategically place them, but because they are entertaining reads.

In an update on 21st December, the platform posted a message about its latest features and enhancements entitled ‘What’s New? Discord big time real science lab innovations’.

The post, among other things, stated: “By mixing 10ml of quoting with 5ml of mentions and centrifuging the quantum-something, we completed our boldest experiment yet. Right click a message and hit reply to directly respond to someone in a text channel. Replies let you break up the noise in any channel and keep your conversation flowing.”

What this playful copy ensures is that its users feel part of an ongoing conversation with a witty clever friend. With entertainment always at the heart of the message, it ensures that the user feels a sense of relationship with the platform. Added to this particular message was an inventive video that I watched about fives times before closing the update. So Discord is ensuring visual learners are catered to as well, and the mix of media gives a fully rounded experience to the senses. It’s these well thought out details that keeps Discord fun and true to its gaming roots.

Picture shows a screenshot of the ‘What’s New’ video campaign from December 2020.

Further growth for Discord?

December’s update also featured a video for people to share with family and friends who might struggle to use the platform, which is a telling glimpse into its future. We already know that Discord has expanded into the university space, and I think it’s only a matter of time before not-for-profits and charities start to use it. The tool could be especially useful for collaborative campaigns where representatives from different organisations are involved.

A quick search suggests they are on the way, and gamers are already using Discord to fundraise for good causes. It’s probably only a matter of time before the corporate world at large follows suit, and I am reliably informed by a friend that it was recently raised in a work meeting as a potential tool in a commercial environment. Slack had better watch their backs.

If you’ve never used Slack, or any other chat app for work, and are unsure what the benefits are – well it’s this: they have completely replaced internal email in many companies.

Email is increasingly a client focussed communication tool, and internally, only used for official communications. That means no more one line emails filling up your inbox, unfiled documents are harder to lose, and seemingly casual but important communications are centralised.

In a chat client like Slack or Discord, all the internal communication on your projects are in one place in their dedicated spaces, not strands of emails (a nightmare if someone is on leave).  You can pin your important messages and documents in the chat so they are easy to find and search. And why use Zoom when you can even have video and voice calls within the app?

The working from home situation saw that Slack use also surged by 25% in the early part of 2020. While these two particular channels are currently pitched towards different markets, with one being community focussed, the other business, Discord is an open source platform, so is free. Slack has a free version, and its pricing is quite competitive but it has its limitations – for instance, the free version will not allow you to search back through old messages limitlessly.

I can’t help feel that it’s only a matter of time before Discord gains ground in the corporate space. At the moment choosing Discord means foregoing Slack’s handy plugins and integrations, but again I think eventually it will, and a good development team can be pretty creative in addressing those solutions. Discord offers an upgrade through Discord Nitro, which is meant to enhance user experience allowing bigger file uploads, and, most importantly, emoji upgrades. And it has promised further innovation this year.

It will be interesting to see how it navigates its potential expansion into the corporate world, balancing the relationship it has with its gaming and tech communities, who may meet a potential change in Discord’s audiences with cynicism. It also potentially means a good deal of mums and dads joining the platform, bad news for teen gamers maybe, and we all know the youth pretty much jumped ship when that happened with Facebook.

Personally I hope Discord continues to be the useful (and quirky) space for its original audience and successfully grows its corporate use.

Let’s see what 2021 brings.

Learn more about Discord and how it works.

Written by Jade Zienkiewicz, Content and Services Director at Phlashweb.

Jade is a copywriter and content creator with a background in communications and marketing for the creative industries, digital content and platforms. She’s a fan of brands with personality.

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