12 Days of Data 2023 Day 2 Instagram for Brands (1)

12 Days of Data 2023 Day 1: Private Social Media Communities


Welcome to the 12 Days of Data 2023 Edition, our look back at the data that made marketing in 2023. We’re looking at the year that was (and oh, what a year it was, something we’ve been saying for four years straight now…) from an analytics perspective to see what insights we can take into the next year. Sit up, get your beverage of choice ready, and let’s celebrate some data and look forward to the year ahead.

Private Social Media

On the first day of the 12 Days of Data, we check in on private social media, the social networks that sit behind closed doors. Back in 2019, we identified platforms like Slack and Discord as being strong contenders for private, “velvet-rope” social media communities that escaped the grasp of Google and Facebook, but provided people with safe spaces to interact, such as our Analytics for Marketers Slack community.

This year, social media itself was in considerable turmoil, and private social media benefitted. The two networks that saw continued strong growth from last year were Discord and Telegram, each adding tens of thousands of new servers every month.

Let’s take a look at the big picture, looking at data from January through the end of October 2023.

Key Statistics

Some of the headline statistics:

  • 418,000 new Discord servers started in 2023
  • 14,000 new Slack servers started in 2023
  • 322,000 new Telegram channels started in 2023
  • 377 new LinkedIn Groups started in 2023

These statistics are based on the first date a link to a unique server/channel was detected by AHREFS, an SEO software service. Note that the LinkedIn number is almost certainly flawed, likely because LinkedIn aggressively prohibits scraping (including scans by SEO software).

Let’s take a tour through the statistics to see what the big picture is for these networks.

Private Social Media

We see that of the four networks, Discord and Telegram had consistently the strongest growth in 2023 from the very beginning of the year. People invested a lot of time promoting their groups, and there are so, so many to choose from.

The key takeaway here is that both Discord and Telegram are exploding in terms of popularity. What about overall usage? We turn to a different marketing software package, Semrush, to make that general determination:

Semrush traffic estimates

Of the difference services, Telegram has the most overall traffic, with 2023 being a banner year for the service with 1.3-1.5 billion users. Discord comes in strong at a billion users per month. Slack is a distant third at about 100 million users a month, and then everything else is really small.

What can we tell about these different audiences? Not a ton, because servers are all inherently private, but we can make at least broad inferences based on the language of the web pages linking to the various services.

Slack languages

Slack’s dominant audience language is English, followed by Japanese and French.

Discord languages

Discord’s dominant audience language is English, followed by Russian and German.

Telegram languages

Telegram’s dominant language is Russian, followed by English and French.

So What?

The explosive growth of these platforms is a testament to the willingness of people to add yet another service to their social media habits if the service provides them the benefits they’re looking for. Given all the chaos in public social media this year with X, Threads, and other services, it’s no surprise that private social media networks continued to draw millions of users.

Private social media platforms like Slack, Discord, and Telegram incorporate no algorithms in what members see, opting instead for a simple chronological timeline – an appeal of the mainstream social media platforms early on that have since been lost due to services using AI to promote retention.

Critically, these platforms also make money differently; Slack charges companies to administer their platforms after a certain number of messages. Discord charges users who want to upgrade their servers to have more premium features like improved voice and video chat and other appearance customizations. Neither uses advertising to pay the bills, which means that both have different financial incentives. Instead of selling ads, these services are incentivized to promote member retention in their communities. Telegram makes money by selling sponsored messages.

Inside each service, multiple offerings exist for community managers to maintain and improve their communities, from moderation tools to member retention activities like events.

If you had to pick a platform today to build a community on, which would we recommend? For any community other than Russian-centric audiences, we would pick Discord, hands down. With a billion users per month and communities on nearly any topic, it’s the strongest choice for private social media communities.

We said in 2019 that companies should give serious consideration to adopting and innovating on private community platforms like Slack and Discord. Those who took that advice early on benefitted strongly during the pandemic, with communities growing like crazy. For those that did not jump in, there is still time if you can curate a valuable community.


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