Discord is similar to Slack or Microsoft Teams, but you wouldn’t know that looking at the home page. The gamepad and colorful characters quickly make it clear that Discord is branded as a way for people to hang out—and not as a productivity tool.
I don’t like being told what to do by branding, though, so I couldn’t help but wonder: could you use Discord for work?
My definitive answer: maybe. Let’s go over the pros and cons and explore some possible business uses.
Discord is easy to set up and basically free
Discord is really easy to set up. In a couple of minutes, you can sign up for an account, create a new server, invite your team members, and start conversing. Every server on Discord supports multiple text and audio channels, allowing you to split conversations down by team or project. You can also send direct messages (DMs). Basically, this is a chat app. Everything should feel familiar if you’ve used other chat apps.
But there’s one big difference: Discord is essentially free. Individual users can pay $3-$10/month for Nitro, but that only really offers cosmetic upgrades like animated avatars and higher-quality screen sharing. The free version of Discord is more or less the full version. Slack, by way of contrast, only lets non-paying customers see the last 90 days of messages.
So that’s Discord’s biggest advantage: it’s easy to set up and free to use. This means there’s not any risk in trying it out.
Persistent audio is perfect for co-working
Discord started as an audio chat app for gamers. The idea is that you could quickly start a server, click into a voice channel, and leave Discord running in the background as you play. Being able to talk to other players out loud makes coordinating a lot easier. It also makes it feel more like you’re playing together.
But it’s not just gamers who can benefit from this kind of always-on audio. Your team could decide to leave this feature on while working, as a way to remotely co-work. Just click any voice channel in the sidebar to enable the audio—you’ll immediately be able to hear everyone else who enabled audio. That means you can quickly ask coworkers for help when you need it, or just have the occasional side conversation. It’s easy to turn a channel off when you need to focus or to start a new channel when you want to work with a smaller group. (Just try to remember when you’ve left audio on, especially if you wear a wireless headset, because people really can hear everything. Everything.)
Some conversations are easier to have out loud. Thomas Storey, a software developer at Feathr, told me his team uses Discord to do exactly this:
We were able to prioritize voice chat over text chat, which means complex things get discussed faster rather than typing out a long message and waiting for dots to turn into a long reply.
Discord doesn’t stop at audio: just like Slack or Teams, there are also video calls and screen sharing. You can start a video call in a group DM, or you can just head to an audio channel and enable video. In my experience, the video quality is pretty good, meaning Discord could also be an alternative for apps like Zoom or Google Meet.
It seems like Slack caught onto these benefits, considering that it added its huddles feature in 2022. But it still doesn’t have the option to create multiple voice and video channels like Discord.
Other things to think about
There are a few other reasons Discord might not be the ideal app for work. Here’s a quick roundup.
DMs are universal, not per-server. Direct messages are Discord-wide, as opposed to being contained in your company’s server. This might make it hard to separate work from play. It also means that employees who quit will still have access to DMs with their team members.
Limited file uploads. File uploads are limited to 25 MB in the free version of Discord and 50 or 500 MB in the paid versions, meaning you can’t use it to upload larger files. You can work around this by linking to files on other services.
The branding and documentation are very casual and make occasional gaming references. This might not seem like a big deal, granted, but things could get confusing for people who aren’t familiar with gaming culture and language.
Only 50 regular and 50 animated custom emoji per server without paying for Server Boosts. This might sound like plenty. It isn’t. Zapier’s Slack has over 10,000 emoji and couldn’t couldn’t operate under these sorts of conditions.
If any of these limitations are dealbreakers, Discord isn’t for you. Consider using an alternative chat app instead. If you can live with these limitations, however, Discord might be worth a shot.
Business uses for Discord
If everything you’ve read so far sounds good to you, you may be wondering how you could use Discord for your business. While it started as a voice and text chat platform for gamers, Discord grew into a tool that anyone could use to build a community. This versatility lends itself to all sorts of business uses. Here are some ideas.
Internal communications: Just like your favorite business chat app, Discord has separate text channels to organize your conversations, making it just as usable for internal comms. The Champion Leadership Group team uses Discord’s text and voice capabilities for communication and project management. “We’ve also built project-specific channels to track progress and keep everyone informed,” CEO Jeff Mains says.
Client communications: Discord also offers a space for you to communicate with clients. For example, you could make a server specifically for a client and use Discord roles to separate internal and external communications. According to Sammy Hardesty at Heaven Media, the agency often uses Discord to communicate with clients because they work in the gaming industry, where it’s the go-to platform.
Communities: Discord offers a wide range of community-centric features that you can use to build one for your audience. You could create a free community like Newegg, where you can get to know your customers. Or, you could use Server Subscriptions and Server Products to monetize it.
Audience research: The casual nature of Discord communities makes them a great place for you to learn more about your audience. When Dogwood Solutions started working with a truck driver insurance company, they turned to Discord’s trucker communities to better understand their lives. “We learned the language they use and what their day-to-day lives are like and looked at lots of pictures of their rigs,” owner Liz Sweeney says. The Dogwood Solutions team even found truckers to interview to develop buyer personas.
Image generation: Midjourney is one of the highest-quality AI image generators, and it’s available exclusively through Discord. If AI image generation is core to your business, Discord can be a part of those workflows.
Supplement Discord’s integrations with Zapier
Apps like Slack, Google Chat, and Microsoft Teams offer official integrations with other apps, allowing you to do things like see when a new file is uploaded to Google Drive or your company is mentioned on Twitter. Discord doesn’t offer much in the way of official integrations, at least not for business-facing apps. There’s pretty much just user-created bots, most of which don’t offer any kind of support.
You can build your own Discord bot using Zapier as a sort of workaround. Or you can use Zapier to connect Discord to any of the other apps you use, allowing you to build just about any Discord integration you can imagine. You could, for example, find out when there are new posts on a Twitter page or RSS feed or when a new YouTube video is posted. But you could also create more work-related workflows, like alerting you when a meeting is about to start or when a new task has been added to your project management tool.
Learn more about how to automate your Discord server, or try one of these pre-made workflows.
Zapier is a no-code automation tool that lets you connect your apps into automated workflows, so that every person and every business can move forward at growth speed. Learn more about how it works.
This article was originally published in April 2020. The most recent update, with contributions from Melissa King, was in October 2023.