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I’ve always been an early adopter of tech. I remember what it felt like the first time I used my walkman to listen to music on the move. With Michael Jackson’s Bad album in my ears, I was on top of the world, if not unstoppable.
Tech enables us to access more information and learn from voices around the world. It’s an incredible tool to empower people from all walks of life. So, when my then 16-year-old nephew told me about Discord a few years ago, I decided to try it out.
Originally intended as a group-chatting platform for gamers, Discord has since become a hub for different communities. With more than 150 million monthly active users, brands like OpenSea and Gucci are flocking to its members-only vibe.
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But what I like about Discord is it leverages the wisdom of the crowd, which in my opinion, is always smarter than any one person. Our startup has 35 employees, but since adopting Discord, it often feels like we have 5,000. The community it has helped us foster has blurred the line between customers, investors and employees. Here’s why that’s a good thing:
Building a Community That’s as Invested as Your Employees
We run a subscription-based business where customers pay a membership fee for access to crowdfund real estate. So, you could say collaboration and inclusivity are in our company’s DNA. Our Discord server has been instrumental in building a community of members who are just as invested as our team is.
Discord is like a good-spirited version of Reddit. It has opened up new possibilities for our business. Being able to hone in on specific users has been an incredible way to cut through the noise and get stakeholder feedback –– something we can’t do through other social media channels.
It also connected our employees to our members, creating a positive feedback loop where they can collaborate on ideas, check in to see how a project is going, or offer a kudos. It has also worked as a democratizer –– breaking down employee hierarchies and building connections between otherwise siloed stakeholders.
Everyone is invited to the conversation, whether they’re more comfortable starting a new topic, weighing in on others’ thoughts, or simply lurking and observing in the background. That egalitarian approach means everyone feels like their ideas are valued.
Build The Product Your Customers Want
Members don’t just ask and answer questions, they share ideas on how we can improve our product and knowledge on how others can use it more effectively. In fact, some of our company’s most exciting initiatives have come from our Discord community. With the crowdsourced customer feedback, we’ve been able to discover what is meaningful to them and map our product to what they want –– and don’t want –– in real-time.
For example, one of our current projects is building a financial literacy academy to help educate our members. The product hasn’t launched yet, but we already have tons of ideas on what to name it and the desired features, thanks to Discord.
We’re no longer building for our community, we’re building with our community. We’ve stumbled upon a way to beta test in real-time and our members’ feedback has helped level up our business. For instance, when we launch our upcoming “addyverse” product (aptly named by our community) — one member mentioned he’d like to have an avatar for himself as mayor of the properties he’s fractionally invested in.
That led to lots of fun memes and a hilarious thread of conversation, but it also told us how our members want to use the product. Our customers are taking an ownership mentality towards our business and helping us improve on all aspects of it in the process.
Brand Advocates Can Become Your Best Recruits
We haven’t hired anyone from our Discord community yet, but in a lot of ways, it would be ideal. Just spend some time scrolling through the conversations on our server and you’ll see exactly how we run our company –– with total transparency. It has become a great lead generator for prospective talent where our built-in brand advocates can share job openings with their respective networks or apply themselves.
When we do hire from our Discord community, we suspect the onboarding process would be simplified. The people in our servers already believe in our mission, understand our product and are passionate about our purpose. Even now, we have volunteers on the platform who moderate conversations and ensure interactions are respectful and follow community guidelines.
The commitment I’ve seen from these members is what any employer would hope to see from their employees. Indeed, if any one of them applied, I’d be receptive. What boss doesn’t want a team that’s passionate about their company’s mission and tapped into their customers?
We never intended to use our Discord server this way, but what’s great about experimenting with new technologies is you never know what platforms will move the needle.
The bottom line is our business was founded on a crowdsourcing model, so it’s not a stretch for us to lean into that same technology to build our company. Now, with access to the views of thousands of valuable minds, why would you hinge the success of your business on a single person’s vision?
I look at it like this: when a Nobel Laureate is asked about their great achievement, they never claim to be the smartest person. Rather, they acknowledge they are good at surrounding themselves with a wide range of thinkers and harnessing the group’s collective wisdom.
And that’s exactly what tech-resistant leaders stand to lose. There’s incredible innovation and kismet to be discovered by learning from the quietest voices. It’s on us as leaders to show up to listen –– even if that’s in a collegial chat room.