This is the final article in this week’s series on video conferencing software. Discord is a freemium web application that combines text chat and forums with video and voice chat. It was created with gamers in mind, but is steadily growing as a solution for creating other types of online communities. This article will explain how Discord works, and how to use it in your business. Discord is an appealing alternative to Slack as a team collaboration tool. Also, online content creators like YouTubers and bloggers can create communities for their followers and make money in the process.
How Discord Works
Discord is free, with 2 premium versions, and can be used in a web browser or standalone app on PC, Mac, smartphones, and game consoles. Its communities are called “servers,” and a user joins one by being invited or creating it. Discord is not a social network in the same sense as Facebook or Twitter, but there are separate websites for finding new servers and making online friends. You can also connect your Discord account with your profiles from other social networks.
Servers are divided into “channels” which are created by community members, and center around different topics. There are channels for forums, text chat, and video chat. The servers you belong to, and each server’s channels, are listed in a menu on the left side of your screen. Servers require moderators, like forums and message boards in years past.
Digitaltrends.com goes over the text, voice, and video functions available in Discord (“What Is Discord?”) Texting is the simplest, by which you type messages in the bottom of the main content section. You can also upload images, GIFs, links, and outside videos. To use voice chat, you enter a voice-enabled channel, or click the telephone icon in your friends list.
“Go Live” is the video streaming feature in Discord, and it must be enabled by the server’s owner. Then, a server member can click the Go Live button and share his or her screen in a channel’s main content section. Other members can watch the streamer by clicking the “Join Stream” button.
On May 14, Discord’s official blog announced Server Video, a full-fledged video conferencing option in response to the COVID 19 pandemic. Before, video chat was limited to 1-on-1 direct messaging, but now up to 25 server members can have an online meeting a la Zoom or Google Hangouts.
There are 2 premium versions of Discord called Discord Nitro ($10 per month, or $100 per year) and Discord Nitro Classic ($5 per month, or $50 per year.) The main benefit of these upgrades is improved video quality over the free version. They also include fun treats like exclusive emojis and artwork.
Using Discord For Business
As mentioned before, Discord is like a casual counterpart to Slack, with the added bonuses of voice chat and video. Users can organize inside their servers to take on projects or get a multiplayer gaming party together. How-To Geek compares it to Slack and Microsoft Teams, and notes its pros and cons (“Is Discord Right For Your Business?”) The first problem is your organization doesn’t have exclusive rights to its content in Discord. If you have confidential or vital information for your team, there’s no guarantee it won’t be deleted if Discord chooses. The article concludes it’s better for communication with the public rather than internally in a company.
As a public relations/marketing/community app, however, Discord is great. Game developers make their own Discord servers to interact with their customers. Also, as I mentioned in an earlier paragraph, many YouTubers, Twitch streamers, and bloggers are turning to Discord to further serve their audiences.
There is a market of 3rd party extensions for Discord called “bots,” and they can be found at https://top.gg/. A very popular one is the Donate Bot (https://donatebot.io/) which lets server owners make money. The Donate Bot links to one’s PayPal account. A content creator can publicly share their server’s invite link, and either charge for admission or collect tips from members.
Because of the limited viewer count in Discord Server Video, Discord is not suited for marketing webinars like Zoom is. Discord is better for more close-knit community building, so as to encourage trust and customer loyalty. A server probably places in the “Like” and “Trust” phases of the marketing funnel. There are better apps for internal project management and growing initial brand awareness, but Discord is great for deeper business/customer relationships.
Google offers 3 different services for video conferencing: Google Hangouts, Google Meet, and Duo. This article will help you tell them apart, and whether any of them can help in your online business. As you will see, Google’s products are in transition, so users should always be prepared to adapt.
Google’s conglomerate runs many successful businesses and apps, but it has created many more that failed or have been phased out. This is the same for other tech companies including Facebook and Amazon. Businesses must always try new things and not give up if they don’t work out. We’re seeing many industries and brands collapse because they didn’t change with the times.
Google Hangouts is a free video chat service available to users with Gmail accounts. It was included in the floundering Google+, and has lived on by integrating with Gmail. It enables video calling for up to 10 people, phone dialing, and text messaging. One needs a Gmail account in order to start a Hangouts session, but can invite non-Gmail users by sending invite links through email.
Google Meet is the paid enterprise version of Hangouts, and has different pricing tiers based on the size of your organization. It is part of G Suite, which is a bundle of business apps beyond just video conferencing. Users can host up to 100 or 250 meeting participants depending on their tier. You can record meetings with Meet and save them in the cloud, which is not possible in Hangouts. Both Meet and Hangouts support screen sharing when on a desktop web browser. They’re both available on mobile devices through apps.
Google Duo is a free person-to-person video chat service meant to compete with Apple’s Facetime. However it has grown to support up to 12 users per chat. Users call other people through phone numbers or email. The Pocket-Lint article surmises that Google Hangouts will be discontinued either this year or next, and consumers will be left with either Meet or Duo.
How To Use Google Meet In Your Business
It’s apparent Google intends for Meet to compete with Zoom. Starting at $6.00 per month, you can subscribe to G Suite and use Meet along with all the other included apps. Zoom’s paid plans start at $15 per month, but you can host more participants.
You can read my previous post about Zoom for ways to make money with video conferencing. These are 1-on-1 consulting, selling tickets to events, hosting video meetings with paying website subscribers, and running webinars for subscribers and for marketing purposes.
Currently, Zoom has more features than Meet, notably the ability to host webinars. There is the current and frequently updated WordPress plugin to integrate Zoom with your website, which is great for taking ownership of your conference content. I haven’t found an equivalent plugin for Meet, and all the corresponding plugins for Hangouts haven’t been updated for several years.
This doesn’t mean Meet won’t have these uses in the future. Last year, Google released an official site kit plugin for WordPress, which means it takes WordPress-based businesses seriously. Keeping WordPress plugins up to date is a crucial security concern, so it appears Meet should be used only in Google’s environment, for now. Google Meet is actually free for consumers until September 2020, likely to assist businesses during the COVID 19 pandemic, but possibly to also grow its installed user base.
For the time being, Google Meet is best used as a meeting app for businesses with several employees. Its feature set doesn’t benefit solo entrepreneurs or freelancers wanting to use their websites to power online business. Google Duo is preferable for communicating with clients that you can invoice for services rendered.
Messenger Rooms is Facebook’s new video conferencing tool, available now in its family of social media apps. It’s a response to extended COVID 19 lockdowns and the need for employees and business customers to communicate from home.
How to use Messenger Rooms
Forbes has probably the most succinct guide to using Messneger Rooms:
On both desktop and mobile, users who are logged into Facebook will see a Rooms section below the status bar.
Click Create to start your own room or click Join to add yourself to a friend’s video call.
You’ll be able to set a purpose for your room or choose one of Facebook’s examples, such as “Happy Hour” or “Here All Day.”
Users can control whether the room is public or private in the Who is Invited section.
Choosing to invite all your friends means everyone can see your room at the top of their homepage and join. Clicking the Invite Specific Friends button lets users choose which friends can see the room. An active public room for a graduation party, for example, lets friends or invitees pop in and out as they please by opening Facebook and clicking Join.
If you click Invite Specific Friends, the bottom right corner of the window has a Skip button that lets users forgo inviting anyone at all. Instead, users are given the option to turn on link sharing, meaning that anyone with the link, including people who aren’t your friends or don’t have Facebook, can join the room. After you turn on link sharing, the Create Room button will bring you to a window where you can copy the link.
In Facebook Groups or Events, users can create a room that will automatically appear as a post, giving group members or invitees the option to join.
Messenger Rooms, like other video conferencing platforms, has uses inside businesses and organizations for holding team meetings. Facebook already offers Workplace, a Slack competitor, for other forms of communication inside an employer’s account. We can expect Messenger Rooms to sync with Workplace if it hasn’t already.
How to Monetize Messenger Rooms
Facebook’s official Messenger Rooms web page lists some other features, either available now or in development, meant to help businesses and content creators make money with the service. These are best for businesses that host events, teach classes, offer coaching or consulting, or create content for entertainment or journalistic purposes. They’re also helpful for churches and other faith groups for broadcasting their services online and accepting collections.
We’re bringing back Live With so you can add another person into your live video, no matter where they are in the world. Bring on a guest speaker, interview an expert or perform with a friend.
You’ll be able to mark Facebook Events as online only and, in the coming weeks, integrate Facebook Live so you can broadcast to your guests. To support creators and small businesses, we plan to add the ability for Pages to charge for access to events with Live videos on Facebook – anything from online performances to classes to professional conferences.
To help you raise money for causes, you can now add the donate button to live videos wherever nonprofit fundraisers are available.
To help you support some of your favorite creators, we’re expanding Stars to more Pages and more countries. Once you buy Stars you can send them to creators while they’re streaming, and they’ll earn 1 cent for every Star.
Messenger Rooms has the benefit of being part of the Facebook environment, for good or bad. Facebook is the most used social network in the world, so Messenger Rooms’ potential users are already available. It is likely more secure from unwanted guests than Zoom, which has exploded since the COVID 19 pandemic reached the U.S.
On the other hand, Facebook has different security issues. Although the company has publicly committed to protecting users’ privacy, it’s likely that it collects user data indirectly. Facebook makes its money through advertisements, therefore it needs detailed information for efficient targeting. This is important for businesses of all sizes, who need to sell to their potential customers for the least amount of money.
There is also the concern of Facebook’s monopolistic ambitions. It’s not healthy for the economy if one or a few tech giants control the software app market. Facebook is great for marketing, but it’s my belief that a business should have its own website to carry out other work for customers. That way the business can control its messaging and be independent from Facebook’s ever-changing terms of service.
This week I will discuss other online meeting apps. If you follow my Xiphos Web Marketing Facebook page, you’ve probably seen my choice of service for both online meetings and membership websites.
If you run a retail business, it’s more important than ever to sell online. In the past few months, Google has stepped up its services to help its visitors find products, whether they’re sold by major retailers or local shops. Google Shopping is a network where stores can directly feed their product information to the search engine, which leads to their ecommerce sites.
At the end of April, 2020, Google made it free for retailers to list products in Google Shopping. According to Search Engine Journal, it was a decision made to help businesses during the Coronavirus pandemic. PayPal is also joining Google; businesses can connect their PayPal accounts to Google, supposedly so customers can buy through the search engine.
WooCommerce, the plugin that enables ecommerce in WordPress websites, has been a Google Shopping partner for some time. LearnWoo.com lists different extensions to WooCommerce that let stores feed their products directly to Google Merchant Center. There is another free extension that lets you run Google ad campaigns through your site. The only money a store would spend is on the ads themselves.
The YouTuber Darrel Wilson offers an excellent tutorial for building a WordPress ecommerce site with WooCommerce and the Divi Theme.
Small Business Trends reports on their website that email marketing is coming back in popularity, and has the best return on investment among digital marketing methods. The article refers to a new study titled “2019 State of Conversational Marketing,” which also discusses the use of chatbots. Chatbots are apps that automatically converse with website visitors, similar to virtual assistants like Alexa. Chatbots aren’t mainstream yet, since there’s a learning curve to programming them. Read: “1/3 Of Businesses Used Email More Frequently Last Year – Because It Works.”
It’s my opinion that email is seeing a resurgence thanks to the drop in Facebook users. Facebook has clamped down on free social media marketing strategies, making it so businesses must pay for advertising. The current political climate isn’t good for Facebook, either. Businesses are treating social media as just another traffic source to their own websites and landing pages.
One advantage of social media over email is its quickness in letting businesses react to unhappy customers. Yesterday I reported on the importance of online reviews, and how responding to negative ones is in a company’s best interest (“Online Reviews Can Make Or Break Your Business”). This is where chatbots come in. It may also help to include a customer service phone number, as well as a forum to a business website. Earlier I suggested forums as a community building strategy for growing brand awareness. (“Brand Awareness: Build It, Use It.”)
The article on Venturebeat.com summarizes the findings. According to Venutrebeat, “…Womply’s data science team conducted an in-depth analysis of transaction and online review data for more than 200,000 U.S. small businesses in every state and across dozens of industries, including restaurants, retailers, lodging places, salons, auto shops, and medical offices.”
Womply’s CEO is quoted as saying that small businesses typically don’t have access to data about their online reputation and how that affects their revenue. It appears Womply’s goal is to make it easily available through their software as a service.
According to Venturebeat, here are some additional findings:
Recent reviews have more value: Businesses with more than nine “fresh” reviews (reviews posted in the past 90 days) earn 52% more revenue than the average business. Additionally, businesses with 25 or more fresh reviews earn 108% more than average.
Response rate matters: 75% of small businesses don’t respond to any reviews, which is a problem, since businesses that reply to more than 20% of their reviews earn 42% more revenue than businesses that don’t respond at all. Consequently, businesses that reply to at least half of their reviews earn $166,000 more in annual revenue than businesses that don’t reply to any reviews.
More is better: Businesses with more than the average number of reviews (83) earn 82% more annual revenue than businesses with review counts below the average. In addition, businesses with 200+ reviews earn twice as much in revenue compared to the average business.
More profiles claimed equals more revenue: Businesses that claim their free listings on at least three of the major review sites (e.g. Google, Yelp, Facebook, and TripAdvisor) average $107,000 more annual revenue than a typical business, and $179,000 more than businesses that don’t claim their listings on any review sites, a 60% swing in revenue.
All this goes to show the importance of customer service and building relationships with your customers. This report is also a sign of Google’s power on the Internet, since its review platform is so easy to use and search engines have largely replaced the old phone book yellow pages. This should be a sign that every small local business needs a Google My Business profile.