CollaBrands: Sony and Discord Create a New Future for Social Media

This week‘s column focuses on how two complementary technology brands are collaborating to develop more robust digital experiences for consumers.   

One major consequence of the global pandemic has been the rapid digitalization of our everyday lives, covering activities from shopping to personal interactions. Social networks have seen their total user base quadruple over the past decade, from 1 billion in 2011 to 4.20 billion users in 2021. Stay-at-home orders during the COVID-19 outbreak reinforced the importance of technology to maintain social connections and offer interactive experiences, and we are continually discovering new digital tools that encourage improved communication.

Social Media to Meet the Needs of Users

Credit: Hootsuite / We Are Social

Social media is transitioning from the static model of Facebook and Instagram to more interactive formats. TikTok, for example, has seen spectacular growth over the past year, amassing nearly 700 million users who embrace the entertainment if offers via non-stop short video. However, even in the case of that hugely popular app, it lacks real-time interaction for the most part. As technology evolves, the future of social media will require the option of live, two-way communications. 

Clubhouse and Discord are two apps that have taken off over the past year, and both boast real-time interaction. Similar in their underlying technology, the major difference is accessibility: Discord is open to all mobile phone users, while Clubhouse requires an invitation to join and was only available to Apple iOS users until very recently. What makes both attractive is their ability to connect users in live conversations. Thus, what was once one-way social media (via posts from an individual or brand) has given way to engaging online discussions.

Not Just Gaming

While Discord was originally created for gamers, it has quickly transitioned to much wider usage, enabling the development of communities that can support active communications. 

Discord is a VoIP (voice over IP) platform that combines video, voice, and text communications. The versatile app has a strong focus on community, and the ability to build them has helped fuel its growing popularity. Groups topics range from gaming to anime to music to politics. You name the interest, and members can start a community for it on Discord.

The Sony Collaboration

With more than 140 million active users, Discord is one of the largest online communities, particularly for gaming enthusiasts. Sony PlayStation’s network has 109 million players. Last week, Sony Interactive Entertainment and Discord announced a partnership to bring their users together. Accompanying that news Sony’s investment in Discord for an undisclosed amount. (Back in March, Discord rejected a $12 billion acquisition offer from Microsoft.)

According to a statement from Jim Ryan, president and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, “Our goal is to bring the Discord and PlayStation experiences closer together on console and mobile starting early next year, allowing friends, groups, and communities to hang out, have fun, and communicate more easily while playing games together.”

 The Impact for Brands

Discord is open to brand partnerships and collaborations and offers significant opportunities to promote social commerce, given its Gen Z and teen user base. Brands that create communities on Discord can obtain valuable feedback in real-time on their brand positioning and how consumers perceive their offerings. 

As noted in previous CollaBrands columns, digital brand collaborations are still in their infancy and hold great promise for brands seeking to reach digitally native consumers within the comfort of their preferred social communities.  

Steven Ekstract is Managing Director of Global Licensing Advisors, a consultancy that provides companies with insight and strategic direction to succeed in the $300 billion a year licensing business. Ekstract is the founder and former Publisher of License Global magazine, the leading information source for the consumer licensing business. He can be reached at steven@globallicensingadvisors.com.

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Content Commerce, Market Analysis