Discord is now an instant messaging and digital distribution platform designed to build communities. It started because the founders wanted a communication tool for their gamer friends without depending on Skype and TeamSpeak.
The Discord founders rustled up their first users through a gaming thread on Reddit. Word-of-mouth started taking over, and Discord eventually became the go-to platform for gamers to communicate.
Discord is often described as "Skype for gamers."
Today, Discord is a lot more than just a bunch of gamers chatting with each other.
There are communities, or servers, for all kinds of topics and events. Musicians release new music on Discord, businesses run public events, friends do their homework together after school, and much more. You can find Discord communities chatting about cryptocurrency, sneakers, and plenty of other topics.
Building an online community was just a happy accident—both communication and collaboration weren’t the goals. This is why online community building can’t (and shouldn’t have to) depend on the platform to serve the needs of their community.
Why Do We Need A Discord Alternative?
If you’re an online creator (regardless of if you’re a gamer or not), chances are that you have at least considered using Discord regularly to connect to your online audience.
It’s proved itself to be an overall useful and user-friendly team communication tool that allows instant messaging, voice calls/voice chat, video calls, screen sharing, file transfer, and much more.
However, if you’ve used Discord on a more regular basis, you have probably encountered quite a few problems and a lack of features that could have substantially improved your experience — as well as the experience of your community.
Luckily, there’s a wide range of communication platforms available today — that have better functionality, offer end-to-end encryption, low latency, high-quality calls, and a MUCH better workflow for you as a creator/ community builder.
This article will focus on what you as a creator/community builder are probably missing out on if Discord is your main way of communicating with your community, and how you could benefit from Discord alternatives that aim to make the experience of you and your community much more enjoyable.
Any online community building platform should empower community builders to manage their communities, not the tools. It should serve as a tool for both communication and collaboration. Unfortunately, Discord isn’t the right fit for people building business communities.
Let’s explore a few of the most outspoken pain points felt by Discord users.
Problems with Discord :
1. Limited Channel Library: Voice/Video and Text; that’s all you can do on Discord. If you have at some point been an admin of a buzzing Discord server, I don’t have to tell you how chaotic the chat channel sometimes get. Moreover, it is impractical to follow conversations on the endless text channels if you drop-in during the middle of a conversation.
2. Broken Notification System: Say you have 1000 members on your Discord server. When you make an announcement calling for all your community members, the notification does not reach 100% of your community. What good is a community platform that doesn’t allow you to reach all your members?
3. No Incentivization: Discord has Nitro for community incentivization; but it comes with a cost. What if there were a way to incentivize your community at zero costs and in addition, help retain your community members? Keep reading.
4. No Space For Forums/Links: Say you want threaded discussions like the ones you have on Quora/Reddit, Discord has zero options for this. Everything is clogged into one bug text channel.
5. Not Built For Phones: Platforms like Discord and Slack were built for desktops-first and mobile-next. When 61% of internet users around the world access it using a mobile device, it calls for a community platform that is built for the mobile.
6. You Can’t Charge For Membership Directly :This is a very self-explanatory problem. If you’re looking to charge your community members, you likely have to use a different platform to bill your community. Not to mention that you have little to no insight into the actual engagement of your audience.
7. You Can’t Sell Your Content Directly : If your sell digital content, your community, and content have to exist on separate platforms: Discord for the community, and another service like Teachable or Thinkific for your content.
8. It’s Messy : As you see in the screenshot below, and as you have probably seen countless times. Using Discord can be very overwhelming and can have your community feel disorganized. They have very likely experienced something like this:
With tons of various types of notifications, your members have an extremely hard time trying to follow conversations and engaging with your content. A fraction of what you’d like them to hear actually reaches them.
Furthermore, your members probably follow other content on Discord. If they follow three separate servers, this is what their discord looks like after just a few hours of being inactive:
Yep. It’s a mess.
As an online creator, you’re basically put in the position of having to compete for your community members’ attention — because it’s so easy to get distracted by different notifications from other communities.
9. Limited customization for you and your users : Discord favors larger communities. The ability to add custom banners and create custom invite links, for example, are given to the largest communities on this platform. If your members do want some customization (like changing their profile picture across communities), it requires them to essentially “boost” the server using Nitro (money that goes into Discord’s pocket, not yours). Not being able to change your profile pic may not sound like a big deal, but if it’s not appropriate for every community, members are either forced to use the same one or create a completely separate account.
Finally, you can’t really personalize your server all that much. The lack of branding and ownership and the inability to use custom domains mean that you don’t really have full control over how your community perceives your content.
What ends up happening is that you primarily build up the Discord brand, instead of strengthening your community by focusing on building your own brand.
And in case of any technical issues, oddly enough, your clients probably view YOU as unprofessional, rather than blame it on Discord.
Yep. It’s unfair. But there is a way around it — with these superior alternatives.
10. No integrated monetization :The biggest downside for creators using Discord? The lack of monetization. Discord wants your users to pay them for Nitro features, not pay you. They basically want to take credit for your work! There are some third-party workarounds (like using bots) but they can be a headache to create and unreliable at best — why not use a platform that actually wants you, the creator, to make money?
11. Limited event management
Discord lets you schedule events and lets your community know about it in advance, since they’ll be notified. When it comes to creating, starting, modifying and deleting events, permissions differ depending on where you’re hosting an event (Stage Channel vs. Voice Chat channel).
The downside to Discord’s event management is that there’s no integration with third-party calendars like Google or iCalendar, so calendar-specific reminders aren’t created automatically. There’s also no support for repeated events, like weekly meetings.
12. It’s difficult to stay organized : As a creator, you want to be on top of your game. That means staying organized. With Discord, this may be extra challenging. Admins do have the ability to group different conversation channels into categories, but that’s pretty much the extent of it. Channels tend to have a lot of chatter and this can be difficult to keep up with. On top of that, managing notifications can be an absolute nightmare.
If you’ve never set up a Discord community before, it can be overwhelming, trying to decide which permissions your members need to thrive in your community.
We studied a range of online community platforms that have been built to solve the shortcomings of Discord as a communication tool. Here are some features that we found were of utmost importance to finance and business communities to help them manage, moderate, and monetize their communities on one simple, powerful app.
1. Multiple Channel Types: An ideal community/online course platform must support multiple channel types and not just text and video/audio. A community needs separate places to have topical discussions, post links, chat casually and also an event calendar to check up on upcoming events.
✅ Alternatives: Pensil, Slack, Podia
2. 100% Community Ownership: Algorithms can’t stop your community from accessing all the platform’s content, links, and events. You, the admin, have complete control over your community. This is what an ideal community/online course platform should possess.
✅ Alternatives: Pensil, WhatsApp Groups, Telegram Groups, Podia
3. In-App Reward System: A community/online course platform engages effectively when incentivized correctly. We, as human beings, get a kick when we get rewarded. An ideal community management tool must have an in-built reward system.
✅ Alternatives: Pensil
4. Mobile-first: A community/online course platform MUST be built mobile-first. There is no option here!
✅ Alternatives : Pensil, WhatsApp, Telegram
5. Forum and Resources Channel : A built-in Reddit-like channel where discussions can begin and their threads can be tracked. Another channel where links and documents like newsletters, etc can be shared.
✅ Alternatives : Pensil, Slack, Podia, Mighty Networks
6. Customization : As a creator, you want to be able to show off your brand. Yet, as mentioned above, Discord doesn’t allow you to create your own brand or customize features. When you’re searching for a good alternative to host your community, look for one that lets you customize to your heart’s content.
✅ Alternatives: Pensil, Tribe, Circle
7. Monetization : Monetization shouldn’t be complicated, and unfortunately on Discord it is. Often, you’re stuck squeezing in third-party platforms and services, which can be confusing for you and your members. You want to look for an alternative that lets you easily create membership tiers, subgroups, and charge for courses — hassle-free.
✅ Alternatives: Pensil, Gumroad
8. App : Discord has a good app (desktop and mobile), so any community platform should have this feature as well. We want to be able to access our information anywhere, at any time, so having an app should be a given for any good alternatives to Discord (especially considering how much time we spend on our phones).
✅ Alternatives: Pensil, Mighty Networks
If you look at the alternatives once again, Pensil clearly stands out as the best alternative for Discord as it solves each of its shortcomings
Pensil = A Discord Alternative for Educators, Creators and Businesses
Whereas with Discord you don't own your members. It's not your brand. Discord is too complex for the average Mia.
Learn how to create and manage online communities for various purposes with Pensil
Pensil is a platform that lets you create and manage your own online community with ease and efficiency. Unlike Zoom, Pensil offers you more features, customization, and engagement options to make your community stand out and thrive.`