Should your brand have a disagreement?

Should your brand have a disagreement?

One of the first things new members of Discord channels devoted to fashion web3 projects learn is to disable instant messaging.

Otherwise, within minutes they may start receiving at least one – and often many more – messages containing links claiming to offer access to a brand’s latest NFT drop, or perhaps another exciting new crypto project that is about to sell out . This is fraud; the links give criminals access to the user’s crypto wallet.

Brands are eager to establish themselves on Discord, a chat platform that first became popular among gamers but has become the community of choice for NFT projects, as well as a hot spot for streetwear and sneaker groups. Companies including Adidas, Gucci, Prada, Kenzo and Puma have set up spaces on the platform, where they keep members informed about their NFT projects, events, products and benefits.

But keeping spammers at bay isn’t the only hurdle brands face. Hackers have also targeted branded servers. And there are more mundane issues, like the steep learning curve for new users to even access servers on the platform, and coming up with the right mix of content and freebies to keep those users coming back. If a community is formed, brands need to figure out how to moderate all the conversations that happen on their channels.

It’s worth the trouble, if you get it right. Fostering community is an important element of successful NFT projects, and Discord’s appeal is that it offers a space for members to gather and interact with each other and the brand directly. It also has a flexible architecture that allows a brand to set up different channels on a server, or add features such as gated access or third-party apps.

“It’s the worst community tool, apart from any other community tool,” said Ian McMillan, head of growth at web3 platform Mojito. Its biggest advantage over social platforms like Twitter, he said, is that it makes it easy for members to talk to each other and not just direct public comments to the brand.

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But when a brand hosts a community, it also becomes responsible for managing it and keeping it safe. That can be a difficult task, as brands like Adidas have learned.

“I see community as one of the pillars of the web3 strategy – probably the most important,” said Erika Wykes-Sneyd, co-founder of Adidas’ web3 studio. “Discord is a very important channel for us to be able to have that unfiltered conversation with the community. But Discord has its own challenges. It’s not perfect.”

Community management

Adidas’s Discord server, established in January this year, has almost 60,000 members from all over the world. The company has a team of seven full-time moderators who work to answer questions and make sure users don’t break rules, such as posting hate speech.

It is a demanding job. Adidas’ server is focused on its “Into the Metaverse” NFTs, which at launch cost around $800 before rising in price and even after the downturn in the crypto market are still trading at around $700. That means that many of those in Discord have a financial stake in the project. When Adidas has not moved as quickly as it would like to provide updates or has been slow to deliver products it promised to NFT holders because the supply chain was backed up, the brand has faced backlash. As on other channels such as Twitter or Instagram, a vocal minority that is angry and loud can quickly sway sentiment.

“We’ve learned a lot along the way,” Wykes-Sneyd said. “You don’t want to hype up your projects, because then it can create this false expectation in the community, and what you really want to do is launch things in co-creation with them and have this ongoing communication.”

She added that Adidas has generally tried to “overcommunicate” and that she herself will sometimes jump on the server to help. In the main server chat on the last day, users talked to each other about an attempted scam targeting members and tips on staying safe, shared their confidence in the long-term future of the Adidas NFT project and cracked jokes.

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Brands can get into trouble if they stay quiet, especially when things go wrong. Earlier this year, RTFKT, the Nike-owned virtual fashion and NFT brand, experienced technical glitches with a product release that left users waiting for hours. The lack of information from moderators became a complaint in itself for some.

For brands used to tightly controlling their communications, keeping their side of the conversation is easier said than done. Before joining Mojito, McMillan spent years at Nike, where he said social media copy could go through layers of scrutiny and approval before being published. On Discord, he pointed out, brands don’t have that luxury. Moderators may need to respond in real time to questions or complaints. That may make the platform easier to use at times for smaller brands, but to keep engagement up, brands must also provide a steady supply of content, which can take resources.

“The best Discords have a very high level of investment from the brand to create and share new content,” McMillan said. “It’s a channel they’re constantly programming, and you get what you put into it.”

Some brands turn to third-party agencies to help them with the initial setup and ongoing management of their Discord servers, but this help comes at a cost: their services can cost thousands of dollars each month, according to McMillan.

One of the biggest concerns for all parties is security. Hackers have managed to get into the Discord servers of some of the biggest names in web3. After an attack on Bored Ape Yacht Club’s serverone of the group’s co-founders publicly slammed Discord.

Adidas has been lucky so far, but it is always on guard, which requires work.

“A large part of our time is spent creating tools inside Discord to prevent us from being hacked,” Wykes-Sneyd said.

Will Discord Remain Web3’s Community Hub?

In a statement, a Discord spokesperson said they are always working to combat misconduct and continue to invest in education and tools to protect users. It’s also committed to making Discord easier to use. Recently, it launched a feature that makes it easier to keep focused discussions, instead of having a dozen different conversations between members going on during a single chat.

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One advantage it may have is its popularity with Gen-Z. During the pandemic, it increasingly became a place where people would go to hang out. Recently, in a survey by Morning Consult, it ranked second among the brands most favored by Gen-Z compared to the general public in the US, behind only TikTok.

Its prominence in web3 circles has helped keep brands flocking to the platform. McMillan noted that most of the brands that have come to Mojito in the past year have expressed interest in creating a Discord, although the frequency has begun to decline. He usually gives them a warning:

“You’re creating a new mouth to feed,” he said. “You create a channel that needs constant management, updating and moderation. You create a new cost for yourself. And unless you really invest, you’re not going to see a return on that investment.”

For now, many brands still see it as the best option for hosting a community — at least until something better comes along. Another group chat app, Genève, for example, has gained traction recently.

“I think [Discord] will continue to be the model in the short term,” said Brian Trunzo, the metaverse manager for the Polygon blockchain. “I think in the medium to long term, new media of communication will emerge. I don’t think Discord will be the place for branded activity.”

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