Is Discord for Business a Fit for the Digital Workplace?
September 13, 2021
Reading time: 7 minutes
Before the COVID-19 pandemic began there was already a growing movement toward using online communication tools in the workplace. But if 2020 taught us anything, it’s that businesses need the best virtual collaboration tools to get things done and stay on track.
One such tool is Discord, an easy-to-use app primarily focused on gamers, that lets you talk or text with users across the globe. While it’s incredibly popular – it has more than 140 million active users – it’s not built predominantly for business purposes but rather for gamers.
So what is Discord used for in the corporate world? Here are the details on what makes this app special and why industries everywhere view it as a legitimate business tool.
What is Discord?
Discord is a chat app in which users can create their own private communication servers. Each server can house multiple channels that are designated by hash-tagged keywords. Each channel can have a different purpose or set of permitted users. Users can join several servers from one account and then send direct messages (DMs) to other users within those channels featuring text, voice, photo, or video messages.
Those in the gaming community use it to chat with team members or even combatants during gameplay. The easy camaraderie and constant banter on Discord is one of the things that makes gaming so enjoyable.
How Discord works
As an example, Bob creates a Discord server for fans of a popular role-playing game. He then sets up channels by topic name, such as #rules, #FAQ, #offtopic, and #admin. He can also set permissions for each channel, so only certain people can post to or view the discussion thread, such as the #admin channel.
Users can visit each channel individually to add a message to everyone within that channel. They can also send a photo or message to multiple channels within a server by tagging them with the appropriate channel hashtags.
While this is just an overview of its functions, Discord is an agile and efficient messaging system. It’s similar to Slack in some respects but more accepted among streamers, gamers, and niche communities. You can use it from a desktop browser, mobile app, or desktop app.
“Slack for gamers”
Because it has so many features in common with Slack, Discord is often called “Slack for gamers,” but is it appropriate for business? Some smaller companies and organizations use Discord informally, but it hasn’t quite caught on as a dedicated business communication tool.
Benefits of using Discord for business
Those who use Discord for business appreciate how easy it is to connect employees both inside and outside the office. But what else can it do for you? Let’s take a look at Discord’s other appealing features.
Many of Discord’s features are free to use. Most users, including your employees, will have everything they need with a free membership. For businesses that want to invest in extra perks, Discord’s premium tier, “Nitro,” is available for $99 per year. Nitro provides access to HD video capability, larger servers, custom emojis, and a few other perks, most of which appeal to gamers (i.e., badges and animated avatars).
2. Easy to get started
Since Discord is just a simple chat app, anyone who has ever used a chat feature on social media or their phone will understand how it works in minutes. Downloading the app is quick, and it takes up very little room on a phone or PC. With the intuitive features, you won't need hours of training to figure out how to schedule a Discord meeting.
3. Integration with other tools
Discord’s native integration menu is pretty limited at this time, with Webhooks, Twitch, and YouTube among the original integrations. Discord encourages developers to work with its API to create new collaborations beyond the gaming community. Zapier is one app that helps bring more functionality and offers thousands of integrations to the Discord experience.
4. Great audio sync features
You can imagine that an app designed to connect gamers would have audio figured out. Sure enough, Discord is known for syncing clear audio between users. This allows team members to collaborate in perfect time with no awkward delays or lag issues during Discord group meetings.
5. Ability to use with bots
The gaming bot is one of Discord’s more interesting features. These bots can help fill the gaps between what Discord formally offers and what you would do in a physical office. Trello is one such example. It allows users to work on their Trello board goals and tasks from within a Discord server. As Discord becomes more common in work settings, expect to see more business-focused bots.
6. Large servers
Discord servers are equipped to handle all the data you want to share between teams, including video and audio chat as well as screen sharing. You can even host a live video chat with 25 people on a single server, while many more can access text and messaging. In fact, server reports reveal that there are tens of thousands of users on some of the most popular servers. Even if you don’t invite anywhere close to that number of users to your server, it’s exciting to think about the opportunities available for hosting events or large-scale collaborations.
7. Secure IP and protection from DDoS attacks
DDoS attacks are unfortunately common in the gaming community, but Discord has taken steps to discourage these events. It also employs two-factor authentication to keep unauthorized users from accessing accounts. Its IP security is tight, too, requiring verification for logins from a different IP address before granting access.
Downsides of using Discord for work
With so many attractive features available, why wouldn’t a company jump at the opportunity to use Discord for their office chat? Keep these potential downsides in mind before you take the plunge.
1. Hard to stay on task
Because Discord has no threads, it’s easy for conversations to get messy and off-topic. There's really no way to reply to an older question or conversation, and every new comment bumps older comments up and further away. If you miss a topic and it gets buried, you may miss it completely.
This is frustrating for those who need to stay on track with a conversation or are worried about missing important data. Discord project management could be a losing battle.
2. DMs don’t disappear
While you can remove and set permissions within a company server and channels, private messages are owned by whoever sends or receives them. If you share important work data through these messages, the person in those messages will still have them after they’re removed from a company server. This can grow into a compliance nightmare if you share private company data through DMs.
3. Limited file uploads
While Discord's servers are impressive, there are still limits to file sizes. With the Nitro plan, you can send files of up to 100MB, which may seem like more than enough. But if you need to share an HD video, for example, the limitations may be frustrating.
4. Fewer emojis
Do you want to add an emoji featuring your company products or services? If you really like using emojis in your workplace chatter, the 250 standard and 250 custom limit may leave you wanting more. For companies that use emojis often for shorthand or to build a company culture, the reduced emoji count is worth keeping in mind.
5. Concerning terms of service
Companies don’t really have any assurances that their data, messages, and files will stick around. Discord’s terms of service allow the platform to remove your account and delete your data at any time. If you use your work Discord server to store or share important files, this may be hazardous. Also, unexpectedly deleted messages or files could leave you susceptible to HR or legal matters if you need to produce this information later.
Is Discord a good idea for your business?
Switching your teams to Discord can have big benefits, as the software is easy to learn and use, and is gaining popularity among the wider culture. In fact, the odds are good that your employees already use Discord in their daily lives.
There's also the matter of price, which is difficult to beat. Add in the excellent audio sync, and you have a very affordable way to connect teams anywhere without much fuss.
On the other hand, there are security issues to consider. Do you work in a highly regulated industry where you need to document all of your work messages? Is it important to keep files in a place you can always access them? Discord may not be reliable enough to bet your business on.
Discord is clearly useful for collaborating quickly and continually, which is a must in these times of social distancing, remote work, and shifting priorities. Just be careful sharing proprietary information, and be sure to put a Discord guide together for your employee handbook, so everyone knows what's appropriate – and what’s not.
There is serious potential for Discord to become a major business tool in the future, and early adopters who manage the potential legal and HR issues will certainly have an advantage.
About the Author: Linsey Knerl is a contributing writer for HP Tech@Work. Linsey is a Midwest-based author, public speaker, and member of the ASJA. She has a passion for helping consumers and small business owners do more with their resources via the latest tech solutions.
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