With millions of users, Discord has become a major tool for gamers and Twitch streamers alike.
Its prime focus has been gaming communities, which is why it’s so popular with streamers. However, anyone can use it for chatting with friends – both text and voice chat – in any capacity, for any kind of community group.
So, what is Discord?
Free to use – with a paid Nitro option available for enhanced features – Discord is a social tool to build a community. Once you’ve created a server, you can divide it into channels to separate whichever topics your community will cover in text chat.
Discord also offers voice chat channels, which is a key reason it’s so popular with gamers looking to chat while playing multiplayer games. Voice calls can be direct to individuals, groups or within channels.
Servers can be either public or private. Private servers are for closed communities away from strangers. Public servers allow larger groups of fans to come together under a common interest, use custom emotes, and dedicate moderators to ban unwanted members.
It’s these public servers that have become an integral part of the Twitch community. Many streamers will have a concurrent Discord server, allowing them to interact with their viewers off stream and organise multiplayer sessions with voice chat.
So why has it become so popular? We spoke with members of the Rainbow Arcade LGBT+ stream team to discuss their views.
Why is it used by streamers?
“Discord is hugely important for streamers and their communities,” says Rainbow Arcade founding member Justin Moore. “Live streaming allows us to connect with people in real time, and we build special bonds with our communities that often resonate outside of the stream alone. Discord servers provide a space for communities to grow together and flourish even when you’re off-stream.”
Twitch streaming might be a live activity, but community building happens 24/7. As Biggus Bennus says: “Twitch might be where your community joins, but Discord is where they become friends. There are some people who want to be part of the community but can’t be around due to work or whatnot and Discord is a great place to catch up.”
As such, streaming isn’t just about watching someone play games online. It’s about building a community, forming friendships, and fostering a safe space for LGBT+ viewers. Having a Discord server allows your viewers to communicate and help each other, even when you’re not live.
“Discord gives you a great way to stay connected with your community even when you’re not streaming, and gives your viewers a place to hang out where the vibes are the same as your channel’s vibes,” says Jeff Brutlag.
“It’s also a great place to do things like movie nights, off-stream game nights, and other events that you can make more intimate as a way of fostering a closer connection with you and the members of your community. This way, you can schedule events where you don’t have to be as ‘on’ in an entertaining way, and you can still foster some great community vibes.”
How can it help your community?
A Discord server brings your community together even when you’re not streaming. It’s a great way to keep momentum going and inform your community of your schedule, make announcements, or host community events.
“Discord is amazing because it’s always community engagement 24/7,” says TopazTVee. “It being available on mobile is amazing for those who may not have access to a computer. Discord is amazing for accessibility for all to be able to participate, get information to your community fast, and to stay connected.”
It’s particularly helpful for setting up multiplayer games both on and off stream. Sealburn’s community uses voice chat for “watching videos, chatting as you work/do school work, or playing games together. This has helped a lot of people become very comfortable with chatting with each other and building friendship with not only you as a streamer but with each other.”
For Justin’s community, Discord has proved an invaluable tool during the pandemic. “Discord becomes a place where the silliness and fun can continue or – perhaps more importantly – a place where your community can rally around and support each other during the hard times,” he says. “I especially saw this through 2020 with the COVID pandemic. The community rallied together during streams obviously, but it was absolutely amazing to watch folks come together and support each other [in Discord] during the very trying past year.”
Discord also provides an opportunity for streamers to curate their community more closely than on Twitch itself. Says drag artist AmethystMillennia: “[Discord] gives my community the opportunity to have a safe, brave space to be their most authentic self because they know that no one will judge them. Plus memes. So many memes.”
How do you moderate your community?
Creating that safe space is especially important for LGBT+ streamers. There are plenty of ways to safeguard your server like permission gating and member roles, as this video from Stephneee_plz outlines.
What’s more, moderating your Discord channel can directly impact your Twitch stream.
“For me it’s also been a good place to have fun but also state rules and boundaries,” says Go_JG. “I keep a few different documents that I let the community know will change and evolve over time and when I share them in the Discord I also let people know I’m interested in their feedback. Discord is also great for organizing fundraisers or special events, and having a safe space for Mods to speak off stream.”
Drag streamer Dona Tarte also praises the benefits of moderators: “As streamers, we do tend to rely on our moderator team and for me, Discord has allowed me to get to know them better and with their help, fashion a much more welcoming safe-space.”
Having a Discord server, then, is a great way to expand your Twitch community. Many streamers use it, but it’s not totally necessary to add to your stream. As Cheratomo says: “Discord has given a core hub to my community for people to bond in and hang out and play games together. I really love my Discord and consider it a big part of my streams, but if you try it and dislike it, don’t feel pressured to keep it.”
We’ve also got a guide to Twitch by Rainbow Arcade, you can read it here.