Mailing lists have been circulating as the predominant source of direct personalized contact with your Medium audience for quite some time, and for quite the good reason!
According to statistical research conducted by the website ‘99 firms’, this year, there are 4 billion individuals scattered across the world’s dense landscape who are using an E-mail as part of their day-to-day and working lives. Whilst the number alone is evidently gargantuan, let me put this figure into perspective — 4 billion constitutes more than half of the world’s population. 50% of us have opted into a formal relationship with our E-mails, which are often the first thing we attend to in the morning barring our families.
Then why am I here recommending you move away from mailing lists?
Well, pragmatically speaking, those words never directly left my mouth. Instead, I am suggesting not to throw all of your eggs into one basket. Whilst mailing lists are guaranteed to have staying power over the next decade, I’m suspecting a shift back in the direction of a live stream of unfiltered thoughts that can only be achieved via text and voice chats.
Whilst individuals who sign up to your mailing list have a clear vested interest in receiving your blog updates, product offers and a means to stay in the loop that extends beyond following you on Medium, what E-mail notifications sorely miss is an intimate line of communication. This is a non-issue from the standpoint of a corporate business trying to keep a channel for impersonal contact, but as an individual attempting to market themselves as the focal point of growing a hobby into a career, it is highly recommended they also branch into social media territory, where emphasis is placed on interpersonal connection that stems from being social. In this sense, Discord shines.
What is Discord?
Discord is a free web / mobile app that is considered the modern day love child of both Skype and Slack. What was initially branded as a resource for gamers to converse over voice chat with their friends while gaming, soon became a multidisciplinary tool following its explosion in popularity back in 2017. Today, Discord boasts over 250 million concurrent users.
Discord was designed as a resource-efficient platform for gamers to congregate and socialize while waiting for their friends to group up in-game. Over time, it morphed into a social forum whereby any individual can sign-up for free, create their own server, organize and assign text chats within as many unique categories as they like and send out an invite code to as many like-minded individuals as they wish.
Why Discord is the perfect home for budding writers?
Above all else, Discord is a place to hang out with people of similar mind, a place for unrestrained, authentic conversation that is free from the confines of a structured algorithm. Unlike other social media platforms, the beauty of Discord is that you don’t need a substantiated follower count to be recognized by others in your server. Everybody operate on a level playing field.
Take feed-based platforms such as Twitter as an example, when replying to your favourite large content creator, the probability of being left by the wayside is greatly more significant when you have less likes, retweets and influence within the same niche. In comparison, text-based platforms such as Discord allow you to interact freely without the need to formulate the most humorous or controversial comment in response.
“Discord has always been an opt-in, private, chat-oriented product.” — Eros Resmini, Discord’s chief marketing officer.
For writers specifically, this and more can be achieved to create the perfect storm for cowriters looking to collaborate, freshen up their ideas and grow their brand in harmony with other writers.
What does Discord offer to writers looking to grow on Medium?
User-defined text and voice channels
The central functionality available to server owners on Discord is the ability to tailor text and voice chats to their own branded passions. Each hashtagged text channel caters to a different purpose. Take for example my own Discord server, I have multiple text channels (i.e. #medium-profile-link, #blog-ideas) that fall under the umbrella category that is “Medium writers”. These individual text channels can be clicked, granting entry to that text channel which then allows members of my server to share their medium profile link or to brainstorm thematic narratives for future articles.
Concepts for new and intriguing text channels are limitless. I’ve a dozen other channels dedicated to providing tips to those suffering from writer’s block, a book club for users to share and discuss their latest reads and an unrelated channel labelled food for thought for people to offer a more personal glimpse into their private lives with a first-hand photo of their food, their pets and their neighbourhood. Whatever you can think of can be turned into a reality.
“Today, Discord is used by everyone from local hiking clubs, to art communities, to study groups.” — Discord.com
The magic of niche-specific text channels is that members can identify a source of intrigue or an avenue for support, and rather than seeing a flurry of unwoven messages convoluting the general chat, a separate forum is introduced to satisfy the needs of the user. One minor gripe I have with E-mails is that I’m often having to scour through an array of spam before I can find the exact E-mail I’m looking for.
For those inclined, both text and voice chats can be set to private or public. Imagine that a specific member of your Medium audience is looking to collaborate with you over Discord, you might wish to apportion a private voice channel and drag that individual user into voice with you. This way, you can discuss at ease without the looming prospect of another member seeing a public channel as an open invitation to settle their curiosity.
Server owners can assign custom role names to active users and name tags that can be customized with colours to better identify, and to assign special privileges such as a moderation role to a trusted member who can support your endeavour to ensure that the chat remains family friendly and adheres to any rules that you enforce. Chat bots can also be instated to provide a warm welcome to new users and to encourage communication through a levelling up system that rewards you the more you speak.
More than just a place to converse, your Discord server can be set up to increase engagement with weekly / monthly writing competitions and giveaways.
Direct contact with the owner of the Discord server you joined
An advantage of Discord is that it not only permits you to socialize within the server itself, but should you wish, you can send a direct message to the owner of the server (or any other member) privately. As a writer, if the owner of the server is not immediately available to respond, you’re in safe hands with the knowledge that you can interact with other members of the server who also share your interest in the writer who runs the server.
Switching between servers and direct messages is seamless. Servers can always be found in the same location relative to other servers, whereas direct messages are always found at the top left-hand side of the server list. The clean user interface creates a smooth experience that can be picked up from the get-go.
Discord Vs. mailing lists Vs. Social media
The reality is that you’re going to want to integrate all of the above to grow your following, but there’s nothing to say that you can’t realistically embed your mailing list and social media links within your Discord server. It’s as effortless as creating two text channels named #mailing-list and #social-media-links within a new category.
On the topic of embedding, as with showcasing an in-house image, older blog or mailing list template at the end of your Medium article, the same can be done by embedding your Discord invitation link (which can be found by clicking on your server’s name and selecting ‘invite people’ from the drop-down menu).
In conclusion, whereas Discord doesn’t have the colossal following to be compared with E-mail and Facebook users, and whilst it’s mostly targeted at the gaming market, that does not rule out it’s slick user experience, the room for creative application of its text and voice channels, and the freedom with which you can engage in off-the-cuff conversations with anyone and everyone. For writers, it provides an excellent platform to build an authentic, devoted community of cowriters, and for readers, it poses a place to further discuss elements of an article written by your favourite blogger.
If we consider the importance of balance as professed by the Taoist concept of dualism, otherwise knows as yin-yang — there’s an argument to be made that Discord (with it’s algorithm-free text chat) is the Yang that is necessary to create equilibrium against the backdrop of feed-based social media platforms predicated on using complex algorithms to drive content.
If you’re looking for balance in your life, I sanction you to go forth and conduct your own research into the benefits of running and being part of a Discord server.