How Midjourney Built a Business on Discord

Discord lets developers and brands connect and engage with their audiences in unique, powerful ways. One of the most effective ways to engage and monetize with the communities that live on Discord is by building an app, which is probably what you’re interested in if you found your way to this spot on our website! 

In this article, we’re showcasing the story of one of our Partners, Midjourney: a brand synonymous with AI that has led the wave of Generative AI globally by leveraging Discord to build both a thriving community and a successful business.

Midjourney and their Discord App

Midjourney is an independent research lab that aims to expand the imaginative powers of the human species by empowering people with the ability to generate images that illustrate anything they can imagine. Quite the lofty goal, eh? 

To achieve this, the Midjourney team developed an app on Discord that lets users create AI-generated images using a simple slash command named “/imagine.”

Caleb Kruse, Midjourney’s Chief of Staff, describes the brand as “a vehicle for people to reveal and explore their own creativity,” inviting users to directly participate in the creative process with the help of their Discord app. 

Organic Growth and Community Building

Midjourney's success lies in the visionary thinking of its founder, David Holz. While deciding on the best platform for Midjourney, the team ran user tests to understand which platform their users preferred to engage on and found that AI enthusiasts preferred Discord over other platforms.

Recognizing the immense potential of building an app on Discord, a platform known for its highly engaged communities, Holz took the feedback from the user tests and chose the platform their users wanted to see — a strategic decision that would prove to be game-changing.

By leveraging Discord's passionate user base as valuable testers for Midjourney's product, their Discord app was able to gain traction quickly and achieve unprecedented virality. Midjourney's growth was bigger and faster than they could’ve ever imagined. 

It all started with a small beta group as the foundation for what would become a thriving community. Initially, the Midjourney Discord server was invite-only. At that point, the server offered conversation spaces where people could share their AI creations. 

Midjourney eventually switched to an invite system where every paid subscriber could invite five friends to the server, which created more demand (and perhaps a bit of FOMO). When Midjourney was ready to open up its beta to a wider audience, they welcomed everyone from their waitlist and made their server publicly joinable in July 2022. Engaging with their Discord community to drive organic virality allowed their server to flourish, attract new users organically, and ultimately create a vibrant ecosystem of knowledge-sharing and excitement. 

The results speak for themselves: in the three months after private testing, the Midjourney app surpassed all of the team’s expectations, causing their server to reach the prior server cap of an astonishing one million users. At its peak, Midjourney was gaining thousands of new users daily, most of whom were starting their journey directly in the Midjourney server.

Fast forward to today, there’s a very high chance that if you know someone who uses Discord, they know about Midjourney’s community — or are a part of it, or know someone who is. 

Discord Features that Helped Midjourney Succeed

Midjourney's success can be attributed to several key features that helped them stand out and engage their users effectively:

1. Real-time Image Updates:

Midjourney keeps users engaged throughout the /imagine flow by allowing them to see their images generated in real-time. This feature utilizes Discord’s APIs for editing past messages to let users watch their creations come to life — Midjourney turned this not-so-glamorous process of “submit a prompt, wait a bit, see the result, then repeat until satisfied,” into an exhilarating reveal that almost feels like magic!

2. Sharing Inputs and Outputs:

Instead of using ephemeral messages that are only seen by the person using the app, Midjourney chose to share the prompts users input and their output images in public text channels. This decision allowed users to learn from each other, exchange tips and tricks, and share their best practices for prompt engineering. By promoting a collaborative environment, users could pick up valuable insights from friends and strangers alike.

3. Iterative Image Editing:

Midjourney provides users with a simple set of buttons beneath each image response. They let users iterate on their generated images and refine them over time. Additionally, users could "heart" images posted by others, fostering a sense of appreciation and recognition within the community. 

4. Thematic Showcase Channels:

Midjourney crafted a variety of interesting thematic channels in the "Showcase" section of their server. These channels encouraged their community to break out of their boundaries and try generating images based on specific interests and share their results. By exposing new users to these impressive creations right from the start, Midjourney encouraged immediate engagement and interaction with the creators, providing a valuable learning experience.

5. Daily-Theme Channel:

Midjourney implemented a daily-theme channel that would generate high levels of activity. As the name suggests, this channel encourages users to return on a daily basis. Gamifying the channel brought a sense of community excitement and an innovative creative momentum during the peak of their popularity as users riffed on each new topic. 

6. At-Mentioning the Prompter:

Midjourney goes the extra mile by at-mentioning the prompter when the image is final.
This has three significant benefits:

  1. Users who navigate away from the channel are automatically brought back to it, even on mobile devices with push notifications.
  2. Since @ mentions are highlighted in chat, users scrolling through text channels filled with others' creations have a convenient way to easily find and access their own generated images.
  3. It publicly attributes the image to the user who created it, allowing others to comment, react, and riff on it. This creates a strong feedback loop that's addictive and fosters a sense of community engagement, no matter the server size. 

These app features and server channels, combined with Midjourney's commitment to listening to their community and continuously improving their Discord app based on feedback, played a crucial role in their success. Developers looking to build on Discord: we encourage you to look towards Midjourney's innovative approach as inspiration to create engaging experiences for your communities.

Leveraging the Community Platform

Today, around seven million servers on Discord have installed the Midjourney app in their communities. For enthusiasts who are spending hours a day generating images with “/imagine,” Midjourney and Discord have become a catalyst that injects a new level of excitement and liveliness into the creative process of millions of people around the world.

Community is at the heart of Midjourney’s product, especially within their official server — by holding weekly office hours with the founder, conducting user feedback polls, and offering dedicated support for new users, their team fosters a supportive environment where users can find inspiration from both their team and within the community. Users connect, share their creations, and help refine each other’s prompts to generate their unique images. 

A large portion of Midjourney’s Discord app usage is now outside of their official server and has found a home in millions of small, cozy servers and larger, interest-led communities — a mix that’s been vital to Midjourney’s growth across the platform.

Overcoming Challenges and Evolving

Discord provides end-to-end solutions for developers to test, build, grow, and even monetize their apps. But even with all the support that Discord offers aspiring developers looking to build on the platform, putting together an app as powerful as Midjourney on Discord presented its own unique set of challenges for their team. 

The biggest hurdle: how do you design a user interface that offers something as powerful as Midjourney’s image models while having it blend seamlessly within the limitations of Discord's text-based platform? The answer: a careful balance of simplifying the UI for ease of use while still providing advanced functionality for power users. You can see the results of this by browsing the app’s screenshots in the App Directory

With its server growth, Midjourney also found that joining a 14 million-member Discord server and simultaneously learning to navigate Midjourney can be… overwhelming for newcomers to say the least. Picture going to the biggest convention or event you’ve been to in your life to meet new people and learn how to use a new tool you’re interested in, by yourself. The dedicated team at Midjourney remains fully committed to enhancing the onboarding process and ensuring a seamless and enjoyable experience for all users.

They have taken specific actions to improve the onboarding process, such as iterating on their initial server structure and leveraging Discord's Server Home beta to showcase the best creations of their users. By continuously refining and optimizing their approach, Midjourney has been able to provide a more focused and engaging onboarding experience for new users.

As Midjourney continued to evolve, the team received invaluable support from Discord themselves. An app with exponential growth as impressive as Midjourney’s needed more than a bit of tailored support to make sure all its users could enjoy it while Midjourney was experiencing explosive growth. This support came in the form of enabling mega-servers beyond 1 million users, a feat of Discord engineering you can read about in this blog post and apply for your own server to benefit here, as well as early access to features like Home, Automod, and other moderation features. Midjourney also utilized stage channels with over 1,000 listeners for their office hours, providing a unique and interactive experience for their community. Additionally, they benefited from Discord's extensive API documentation, which served as a valuable resource for their development efforts.

Advice for Developers and Brands

Reflecting on their (Mid)journey, the team offers valuable advice for developers and brands considering building an app on Discord. Kruse says that "designing a server with a clear purpose and layout is crucial to ensure that users can easily engage with the brand and app." If you’re interested in building a successful community on Discord, take a look at Discord’s built-in tools for keeping your space welcoming, such as Community Onboarding and AutoMod.

Midjourney also emphasizes the importance of actively listening to the community, gathering feedback through surveys, and hosting community office hours to ensure that the product aligns with users' needs and preferences.

Midjourney's massive success story showcases the immense potential of expanding a business on Discord. By leveraging an engaged, collaborative community and continually improving their app based on user feedback, Midjourney has created something special: one of the biggest, most vibrant community ecosystems where users can unleash their creative potential together.

As Discord continues to evolve and grow, more brands and developers have the opportunity to build thriving communities and businesses, just like Midjourney. We encourage you to explore the Discord Developer platform and learn about other success stories! Who knows — yours could be next.

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