We’ve previously looked at how ChatGPT, Stripe, and GitHub were marketed at developers—and the marketing lessons you can learn from them.

Now, we’re turning our attention to a company that’s huge in the developer space as well: Discord.

This social platform allows for instant messaging and communication through voice, video, text, etc., privately or through servers—A.K.A., virtual communities. Discord has 150 million monthly active users (a growth from 56 million in 2019) and was valued at a whopping $15 billion in 2021.

What is Discord?

Discord is a digital platform made specifically for creating communities and enabling communication in dedicated environments. It launched in 2015 and became immediately popular in the gaming community for its ease of use and versatile features (for example, allowing gamers to chat, share media, coordinate play sessions, etc.).

A Discord server refers to the channels where people can communicate, share files, discuss topics, and more, and these can be private (as mentioned), public, open to anyone with a link, or requiring an invitation to join.

The platform offers a wide range of customization options for users, including the ability to create bots for automation, moderation tools, and integrations with other services like Twitch and Spotify.

Discord operates on a freemium model, offering basic features for free with the option for users to subscribe to Discord Nitro. Nitro subscribers gain access to additional features, such as higher quality video during screen sharing, larger file uploads, and custom emojis.

Discord grew a lot during the pandemic and, in 2020, they even raised $379.3 million to rebrand to more than just the gaming community. As The Financial Times put it in 2021, “Discord has won over gamers. Now it wants everybody else.

So, over time, more people joined the platform, from hobbyist groups to professional orgs and educational communities.

In 2022, Discord generated $445 million in revenue, with most of the money coming from Nitro subscriptions.

Why do developers use Discord?

There are many reasons why developers choose Discord, including:

  • Real-time communication
  • Community building and engagement
  • Integration with development tools
  • Customizable bots and automation
  • Resource sharing and collaboration
  • Diverse ecosystem of servers
  • Learning and mentorship
  • Accessibility and cross-platform support
  • Privacy and security
  • Informal and social interaction with others
  • Rich text formatting and code snippets
  • Screen sharing and live streaming
  • Networking and professional growth
  • Inclusive and diverse communities
  • Event hosting and participation
  • Reliability and performance
  • Free to use

Discord marketing strategies

Discord allows developers to engage in their interests and form communities, collaborate with one another, and more. But what specific developer marketing tactics did Discord undertake to become the titans they are today and really draw the attention of devs around the world?

Embedded App SDK

Discord's launched its Embedded App SDK, which will help them in their goal to allow developers to "do it all", including building, sharing, distributing, being discovered, and monetizing their work.

In Discord's words:

"Embedded App SDK lets you build apps that are embedded in an iframe within Discord, i.e. the Activities you know and love today. Long story short, Discord Developers like you create amazing Apps on Discord, whether they’re helping in your conversations, or rich interactive experiences that you and your friends can play instantly within Discord."

Tools developers are interested in

Something Discord excels at is innovating: improving existing features, adding new ones to the platform, and, overall, ensuring all users enjoy the Discord experience to the max. This includes developers.

Developers love to innovate and want to get hands-on with products and features, and Discord understands that (after all, its CEO is also a software developer). By providing access to tools, Discord attracts many developers who want to build with what the social platform has to offer.

For example, Discord’s AI Incubator program is part of a $5 million ecosystem fund dedicated to funding, among others (including start-ups), developers—and ensuring they apply their creativity to Discord. This means developers can get cash grants to support product development, as well as the chance to get office hours with Discord dev teams and early access to platform features.‍

Developers can also build social AI experiences on Discord with the open-source Avatar Remix, which is an app that lets users remix each others’ avatars using generative AI. The code can be found on GitHub.

Other tools directed at developers include native Premium App Subscriptions, which means that developers in the US, UK, and EU can offer additional features on their apps for a monthly fee.

There are also many platform and API updates that benefit developers, such as adding new team member roles in the developer portal, markdown formatting options, and more. Discord also released AutoMod APIs, which they keep improving, from increasing keyword limits to including new fields. Developers can quickly create custom bots that automate tasks, moderate chats, and integrate with other services.

Word of mouth and partnerships

Discord also benefited from word-of-mouth marketing—as more and more people heard of the platform and its offerings, the more it grew and thrived. Developers tend to recommend their favorite tools and products to other developers, and once Discord established itself as a great platform, devs helped to market it for them, acting as brand advocates.

Another thing that contributed to the growth was partnerships with big names like Spotify and Microsoft. This further boosted the platform’s visibility.

Developer Portal

The Discord Developer Portal is a central hub where developers can manage their applications, access documentation, and find resources. By offering a dedicated space for developers, Discord has made it easier for them to get started and continue developing for the platform.

Marketing on social media

Contrary to what some may believe, developers don’t hate marketing and social media—they’re skeptical and averse to pushy tactics, however, which most people can identify with.

So, you can find a huge community of developers on social media, including X, where Discord carved its own niche too. They understand developers use platforms like X to communicate, stay on top of the latest news in tech, to look at memes, etc., and they capitalized on that.

A focus on safety

“It’s important, given the position that we’re in, that we are proactive in trying to improve the community and the world around us. Our goal is not to be political, our goal is to do the right thing.” – Jason Citron, Discord CEO and Founder

Developers are hyper aware of privacy and safety concerns and, therefore, prefer products that address those issues. The fact that Discord takes active steps to ensure the safety of its users means developers flock to the platform to not just build products but also communicate with one another, share code, connect with other devs, etc.

A variety of servers

There are many servers on Discord that developers can and do join, including Programmer’s Hangout, TensorFlow, The Coding Den, Programmer Humor, Devcord, and more. There are countless servers for anything and everything, meaning developers are spoiled for choice!

Discord and hackathons

Developer events like hackathons are a great way to get developers engaged and talking about your product and/or company—which Discord understands. The platform engaged the developer community by participating in and sponsoring hackathons and other dev events, boosting its visibility and credibility, as well as its passion for supporting innovation.

They also partnered with GitHub and Major League Hacking to offer a one-stop-shop full of tools for anyone wanting to run a hackathon, including creating a Discord hackathon server template (this allowed people to tweak the template to get a fully functional server straight away).

Discord also offered educational tools and discussions for people who were new to the social platform or to organizing online events.

The use of a freemium model

Discord’s pricing models also led to an engaged community of developers at their doorstop. While the social platform does offer two paid accounts, called Nitro Basic and Nitro, Discord is still free to use for anyone who doesn’t want to subscribe (or need paid features).

This freemium model ensures a basic service at no cost while offering paid subscriptions for additional premium features—the approach aims to attract a broad user base and then convert a portion of those users to paying customers.

The free service is still very comprehensive, as it offers:

  • Unlimited text and voice chat,
  • Server creation and management,
  • Basic security features,
  • Integration with other services and games,
  • Custom emojis (use limited to the server they're uploaded on),
  • Basic file sharing capabilities, and
  • Access to public and private servers.

The two Nitro tiers offer different features, but developers aren’t forced into them if they don’t want them.

Seamless integration with other tools

Understanding the importance of interoperability in the developers' world, Discord ensured that the platform could easily integrate with other tools and services.

Whether it was GitHub for code sharing and collaboration, Trello for project management, or Twitch for live streaming, Discord’s integrations made it a central hub for project communication and management.

This seamless connectivity reduced friction for developers wanting to consolidate their workflows and communication channels.

Developers can promote their own games

Gaming developers can find a huge community of gamers on Discord. While the platform is now used by many others, gamers still make up a huge slice of its audience. In fact, there are many servers for games like Minecraft and Terraria, as well as for countless other games.

Developers can use their own servers to connect with fans, promote new features, offer sneak peeks, and so much more.

Plenty of documentation

Good documentation is crucial for developers when they’re choosing the right tech stack for their projects. Companies that provide products to developers also build comprehensive docs that create great developer experiences.

It’s not a surprise that Discord’s developer portal is rich in documentation and resources, then. These docs make it easy for developers to get started with integrating Discord into their projects or developing bots.

Helpful guides

Whether onboarding new developers or making sure they have an answer to all questions they may have about the platform, Discord has it all. Their guides are comprehensive and detailed, and ensure that no stone goes unturned: you get how-tos, getting started guides, FAQs, announcements, and more.

After all, a great user experience means being able to find what you’re looking for.

A stable platform

Another thing to take note of is how Discord came into the scene as a place that could handle many messages at the same time without crashing or glitching—in fact, they can handle trillions of messages at the moment.

They use Scylla, a database written in C++ that can handle large amounts of data across many servers, allowing the company to offer a reliable service to developers without pauses or messaging issues.

Quick to use

It’s also quick and easy to use Discord, meaning you can quickly sign up and start creating channels, personalizing them to your liking and needs, and engaging with others.

As mentioned, there are also plenty of guides to help you along the way, especially if you don’t find it user-friendly. While many don’t have that issue, others do consider it a slight con.

In short

Overall, Discord’s invested in a developer-friendly ecosystem by providing comprehensive documentation, APIs, and SDKs that make it easier for developers to integrate their services or create bots and apps for the Discord platform.

Their social media presence, focus on privacy and safety, guides, stability, variety, ease of collaboration, etc. also attracted the attention of developers worldwide.

There are many lessons you can learn from Discord, so think about what your developer audience needs and how you can address their pain points and challenges—and make their lives easier.

Download your free copy of our State of Developer Marketing report for insights into the current industry landscape, from budgets to challenges and more.