In our digital era, brands live and die by the strength of their communities. Cultivating an engaged, loyal audience that feels connected to your brand’s purpose requires thinking beyond traditional social media. Young consumers especially yearn for authentic interaction and ownership within brand communities. They want immersive experiences that make them active participants in an unfolding story, not just passive spectators.
The most successful brand communities today fuse digital and physical engagement across experiential events, social content, messaging, and interactive forums. Two platforms leading this charge? Discord and Geneva. These digital hub spaces allow brands to embed themselves into users’ lifestyles in an organic way. Let’s dive deeper into why Discord and Geneva deliver the sense of belonging and creative empowerment that defines thriving brand communities.
Discord: Built for Shareable Fandom
If you think Discord is just for gamers, it’s time to think again. Discord is a free voice and text chat app that lets users set up shared servers for any interest or niche community. Brands from entertainment to fashion have discovered creative ways to leverage Discord to engage fans in authentic experiences that feel native to the platform.
Discord first gained significant traction as a gathering place for video game clans and guilds. The app’s robust communication features, like persistent public and private voice/text channels, direct messaging, screen sharing, and advanced moderation tools, made it perfect for building thriving gamer communities.
But soon, brands outside gaming realized Discord could help them cultivate the same deeply engaged user bases and subcultures. Music, sports, fashion, art, and other industries have now adopted Discord to unite superfans in a digital HQ immersive with insider access and experiences.
One standout example is the streetwear label Supreme. In 2021, Supreme launched its official Discord server, which quickly amassed over 30,000 members. The Supreme server features various public chat channels where hype beasts gather to discuss new product drops, share photos of their latest outfits, and buy/sell goods with other members. For premium access, special private voice channels host surprise Q&A sessions with visiting designers, artists, and other brand collaborators.
This level of behind-the-scenes connectivity and real-time community dialogue entrenches Supreme fans deeper into the brand’s culture. Discord lets Supreme give their loyalists a 24/7 hub to geek out over everything Supreme together. The always-on nature of Discord is perfect for fostering brand obsession.
Other brands like Glossier and Pitchfork have cultivated similar superfan communities on Discord through exclusives like early product previews, contests, playlists, and virtual events.
Discord lets brands give fans a non-stop space to shape the culture and unfiltered narrative of their community. The flexibility of text and voice channels segmented by topic allows users to self-organize into niche subgroups.
Brands can drive media sharing and creativity on Discord through exclusive screenings, workshops, feedback sessions, and more. But the community itself leads polls, threads, watch parties, AMAs, and whatever else members collectively imagine. Discord fandoms feel like living organisms because members make it their own space.
Geneva: Reimagining Social for Generation Z
While Millennials may feel at home on Discord, Generation Z is already shaping what social community 2.0 will look like. For them, Discord can feel outdated. They desire fresh, visual digital spaces purpose-built for the values of trust, accountability, and creative expression they hold.
Enter Geneva, an invite-only group messaging app quickly gaining steam as the spiritual successor to WhatsApp. While Geneva offers the standard features you’d expect from a messenger, it goes beyond basic chat to provide public/private forum spaces, audio chat rooms, video chat, live broadcasting, and more.
In particular, young female users have embraced Geneva as a safer, more intimate way to build cloistered communities and stay connected with inner circles. Brands focused on marketing to Gen Z should take note of Geneva’s meteoric rise in adoption among the demo.
Here are some of the key features that make Geneva a potential game-changer for building brand communities with next-gen audiences:
- Creative “Homes” – Users can curate a private digital “home” space as a hub for their core friend community in Geneva. Within the home, they can spin off specialized public or private chat “rooms” dedicated to particular interests, subgroups, or topics. Brands could similarly offer fans a main branded home to join, with rooms designated for product feedback, staff AMAs, creative contests, influencer collaborations, local meetups, and more.
- Safety & Accountability – Phone number verification boosts accountability by tying profiles to real identities. Users can turn on ID Badges in rooms to display the actual first names of members. Homeowners can restrict access using social graphs and questionnaires. These safety features help curb bullying and harassment, allowing brands to cultivate positive spaces.
- Multimedia Engagement – Chat, voice chat, collaborative forums, video chat, screen sharing, and livestreaming give community members options to engage across different media depending on their preference. For brands, this flexibility lets you appeal to multiple learning and interaction styles.
- Native Event Integration – Group video chat, community calendars, and RSVPs make coordinating real-world events and meetups simple. Brands could seamlessly connect IRL and digital programming in one space.
- Design Aesthetic – Geneva’s minimalist interface looks and feels sleek, youthful, and uncluttered compared to Discord. It’s inherently more visual. Brand content posted in the stream won’t get buried or lost in a chaotic cascade of messages like other platforms.
The common thread between Discord and Geneva is that the next generation of users yearn for brands to act as facilitators, not dictators, of community experiences—they want autonomy, creativity, and ownership. When users exercise freedom in shaping the community’s culture, values, and conversations, they form deeper emotional bonds with each other and the brand that transcend mere transactions.
Best Practices for Building Next-Gen Brand Communities
If you’re ready to explore Discord or Geneva as a home for your brand community, here are some proven strategies and best practices:
- Know Your “Why” – Have a crystal clear purpose and value proposition for your community before launching. Don’t just create an account because it seems trendy. What specific need will this fill for your customers?
- Pick Ideal Moderators – Your moderators will set the tone and shape first experiences. Choose socially savvy moderators who genuinely get your brand voice and can connect with your audience authentically.
- Make Engagement Effortless – Give new members fun icebreaker prompts and conversation starters to kick off dialogue easily. Share regular creative challenges to get them interacting with content and each other.
- Spotlight User-Generated Content – Digital communities thrive when users drive storytelling and content creation. Amplify their voices.
- Stay Hands-On – Be consistent in monitoring and engaging with the community daily. Nothing kills member activity faster than an inactive brand. Be responsive.
- Blend Digital with Real-Life – Exclusive member events, early product access, and other IRL brand experiences help reinforce the digital community. Give them something to bond over.
- Keep Innovating – Consistently introduce new community features, activities, and experiences to maintain interest. Let members vote on ideas to give them ownership.
The future of marketing is community-driven. If you want to build a brand community that fosters trust and safety for your consumers, schedule a demo with us at Hugo. Our experts can help you create custom digital hubs tailored to your niche audience using platforms like Discord and Geneva. Let’s connect to explore how we can help you cultivate authentic, transparent relationships between your brand and next-gen consumers.