Up to this point, we’ve shared many articles that touch on different aspects of community management, but in this new series that we’re introducing, we’ll be covering a number of community platforms and how we recommend they best be utilized through our strategic lens.
For years being community experts in the forum space, we’ve developed a community model and methodology that we apply to each and every project that we do. The model includes different areas of focus that have become our principles to help guide communities in a better direction regardless of the platform or field of expertise.
To see more on what we’ve written for other platforms, you can check out our guides on Twitch and Forums. We also have future plans of covering YouTube, Facebook Groups, and Reddit.
If you’ve found yourself here though, you may be interested in starting your own Discord community or already have an existing one and looking for useful tips on how to improve. A beginner or not, we hope this guide can help you unlock the potential of your community.
What is Discord?
Discord is a video and chat platform where:
- users can voice and video chat with others
- live streaming can be used to host events or just hang out with other server members
- communication is divided into servers, each with their own members, topics, and channels
Discord was initially created with a focus on gaming, but has since rebranded to now focus on more general communities. So whether for education, music, or just a group of friends getting together, Discord may be the ideal platform for your users and community. The Discord platform has a focus on real-time chat where conversations are logged in organized channels rather than stream chats or forums. There’s also little tech overhead with getting a Discord server started and a number of free bots available to integrate for more enhanced features.
There’s pros and cons like any platform, but to help you determine if Discord could be the right fit, we’ve outlined below the key takeaways about Discord as a platform.
Discord is ideal for communities that:
- Don’t want to worry about infrastructure
- Are just getting started or already have an established community
- Attract a younger audience
- Don’t need a white-labled solution
- Have a target audience that is already using Discord
- Not necessary, the server is held within the Discord platform
- Owned by Discord unless you centralize your user data in an alternate platform
Common use cases:
- Teams and organizations
- Lifestyle and special interest content
- Easy to use interface and functionality that’s available through browser, but also on apps for both desktop and mobile devices.
- Large bot library to add plenty of extra functionality to your community.
- Voice calls that include streaming and screen sharing are great for events like conferences, tournaments, video game sessions, or a simple hangout with friends.
- Quick and easy support: Create channels for a variety of topics related to the products you offer and grow your support community to help your customers get their questions answered faster.
- The base Discord platform is completely free and gives the server owner the ability to create a stable community without needing to worry about hosting or site maintenance.
- Users will need to speak to a moderator about questionable content.
- Limit on number of users and channels per server.
- Without safeguards in place, there can be trolls and chat abuse.
Why treat Discord as a community?
Discord allows for a dedicated space where people with common interests can join and connect, whether it’s regarding a video game, sports team, product, or hobby. You’re creating an experience for members by keeping your server engaging and can benefit from it with improved monetization strategies.
Oftentimes these platforms are seen as just ‘tools’ but they have real value in being their own standalone community.
What are community principles?
We talked at the beginning about how we’ve identified a set methodology that we apply to every community which have become community principles. Together, the principles focus on 8 key areas that make for a strong community no matter the type of community (digital or physical) or the platform. Below we’ve put together some useful ideas on how to apply the community principles to Discord and what they mean in more detail. Keep in mind that communities are unique so use the ideas, strategies and tools that make the most sense for you.
Ways to apply the principles to Discord
The software and tools you use, and how they are used, determines the effectiveness of your infrastructure. Those materials make up the foundation of your community.
Ideas on how to improve foundation:
- Centralize your user data to allow for viewer communication on your own terms
- Segment your users in order to have a better understanding of your community via analytics
- Complete a competing server analysis to make sure that you stand out
- Set up a community server to better the experience for your users and create more ways to moderate and grow your server
- Utilize Discord bots to enhance your community and improve the experience of your users
The experience is the ease and intuitiveness of the platform for the user and how the experience and aesthetics make them feel throughout the user’s journey.
Ideas on how to improve experience:
- Customize your server with an avatar, description, and custom voice and text channels.
- Use custom emojis to add personality to your server and enhance the experience of viewers
- Establish brand guidelines for consistency across Discord and your other platforms
- Use Discord functionality like threads, live streams, and event scheduling to make your content organized and easily discoverable
- Leverage server boosting to offer a higher quality server to your users through more community-specific emojis, higher audio quality, and better live stream video quality
Members, admins, and moderators all impact and are affected by the culture and health of the community. The wellness of a community plays an important role in onboarding, engagement, and retention.
Ideas on how to improve wellness:
- Train your admins and moderators and set expectations
- Help everybody play by the rules by showcasing guidelines and rules in a clear, effective manner and follow through on the expectations you set
- Monitor toxic content
- Have an open dialogue with your users
- Encourage positive activity
A community can monetize in many ways which tend to vary based on the community and goals. Planning a structure to at least cover costs and allow for growth helps ensure long term stability of the community.
Ideas on how to improve monetization:
- Use custom subscription plans through Mee6 and the subscriptions you can provide within your personal community to maximize revenue and offer perks to your users
- Establish sponsors with links to your server
- Crowdfund so members of your server can invest in the community itself
- Promote products to your viewers with affiliate links
- Sell merch to let your community purchase something or select a reward for themselves through you
Strong first interactions that create a unique experience, establish a sense of belonging, and make getting started easy can help improve retention and engagement while setting users up for success in the community.
Ideas on how to improve onboarding:
- Welcome new users by recognizing them and introducing them to your server using a welcome screen
- Include and incentivize new members to create their first messages, threads, and other activities in the onboarding process
- Give first time chatters the recognition they need to become regularly contributing members of your server
- Help members get acquainted with the community through guides and tutorials
- Have an introduction area where new members can introduce themselves, meet other new members, and dip their toes into the community
Users should always have a reason to return and things to do when they arrive like participating in a contest or answering a question. There are many strategies that can keep your users engaged and returning to the community for a long period of time.
Ideas on how to improve engagement:
- Regularly add in new content to your server in order to keep users engaged
- Engage members to keep them coming back with fun contests, rewarding giveaways, and special events
- Balance when and why you alert your users
- Interact with your audience because long-time and regular chatting is crucial for a vibrant community
- Hang out with your audience and add some personality to your community
Incentivize participation and provide a sense of accomplishment to members by rewarding them for engaging in valuable activities.
Ideas on how to improve gamification:
- Reward your viewers with built-in and custom perks specific to your server
- Incentivize healthy competition between users with leaderboards
- Host gaming events
- Use achievement-giving bots to reward your users for positive actions within the community
- Incentivize engagement by using XP bots to increase users levels as they chat more in your community
Optimizing your platform can lead to a better user experience and have an impact on sales, conversions, and a variety of other metrics.
Ideas on how to improve optimization:
- Make your server accessible by enabling accessibility settings and adding bots
- Use server insights to inform your server trajectory
Let’s wrap it up
Large or small, Discord lets communities talk directly via voice or chat that can be invaluable in creating a close-knit engaging community.
The common perception of Discord being only for gamers is no longer true and with the infrastructure already in place, it’s incredibly easy to get your Discord server started. This guide has been a high-level overview on ideas for building a community on Discord and we’ll continue to share more on best practices. Of course there’s more you can do and details to figure out but we hope that there are easy wins for you to already start implementing or ideas that get you excited for the future.
Community Strategist for Audentio. Alex is a true Jane of All Trades so when not managing our community clients, she’s a lover of all things pasta and board game enthusiast.