It costs absolutely nothing to set up a Discord community where members can gather to interact and connect — extremely similar to Slack but, in my opinion, even better.
Discord is free, highly customizable, and has millions of users. It’s an extremely popular choice for gaming and web3 communities, but it’s not exclusive to them. Discord is open to anyone who wants to use it to build their community. It even provides a whole library of tools and resources to help brands and people host their communities on the platform.
If this checks off your big requirements, then Discord might just be what you’re looking for.
(Discord calls its communities ‘servers’ or ‘guilds’, and the term can be used interchangeably on the platform. I’ll refer to them as communities in this article.)
Ready to set up a successful Discord community? Let’s dive in.
👉 Not sure if Discord is the right space for you? Read this blog post to know how to choose a community platform.
Discord lets you choose whether people can join your community only if they have a link or whether anyone can find or join it. Which option to choose comes down to your overarching community mission and vision:
If you’re creating an invite-only community, you want to ensure that people can’t join unless they’re on the approved list.
The best way to do this is to restrict the permission to create invites to administrators, so that other members can’t add new people to the community/server. Your administrators will then be able to generate one-time links to join the community for members who are whitelisted. You can then email or DM this link to the member.
Another way to stop non-approved people from gaining access to your community is through what’s called a join gate. With this, a person can join a Discord community but won’t have access to any channels or members until an administrator verifies them.
You can also make a community open to anyone who is interested in joining, and you might be wondering — how do I promote and grow it?
The main thing it comes down to is your target audience, who they are, and what they want. Below are some different strategies you can try to help grow your community.
Discord’s built-in listing tool lets you share your community in its discovery tab (available at the bottom of your server list) so that anyone can search and find your community. Discovery isn’t automatic — you have to submit your community and have at least 500 members to be eligible.
These sites are like Google for Discord. They allow users who own communities to add their community to a directory for others to browse. Your Discord community will also show on actual Google under the keywords and description you assign it.
A great way to encourage people to join your community is to run a referral program with prizes for your members who refer others. You can give your members a special role or access to a special channel depending on how many members they invite.
If you already have a social media following, you can add your Discord link to a post and your profile and encourage your followers to join in on the conversation over on your Discord community. It’s a great way to bring your followers from other platforms across to your community platform.
Similar to social media, if you have (or are building) an email list, you can use your newsletter to invite your subscribers to your community and bring people from other platforms to Discord.
Be wary, though, not to spend too much money on off-platform advertising, as you need to be sure the people you are targeting actively use Discord already or are prepared to use it for your community.
Setting up a community on Discord is quite similar to Slack — with some added complex permissions and roles systems. Here are some tips for creating channels and roles within them.
In Discord, you can club your channels under categories based on different themes. You can use these channel groups for different areas of your community.
You might have the following as an example:
Don’t overdo it with channels. Bombarding your members with too many channels will make it difficult for them to understand how the community functions.
Use emojis in channel names to add color, vibrance, and some personality to the community. Channels can be public to the entire community or private.
Roles are tags you can apply to members which can give them special powers or access — it’s like giving them a key to different parts of your community.
Make use of self-assignable roles, where members can choose roles — from a list that you set up — to assign to themselves on a list that you setup via a bot. Some examples of self-assignable roles that you might have could be age, location, pronouns etc. It can also give members access to a special category if configured that way. As long as you set these up correctly, there aren’t anyways for the members to abuse them.
Make sure to disable all permissions on the @everyone role that aren’t needed. The everyone role is the default role that every member has and sets the base powers. An example is the ability to ping everyone or to change emotes etc.
Set up your community to only send notifications on mentions, and not for every message, to avoid spamming everyone’s cell phones each time there’s a new message in a channel.
Discord has a range of built in tools to help personalize and manage your community. Here are some of the common ones and how they can help grow your community.
Have up to 10 people in a group DM (though by that stage it usually gets quite a bit hectic) to facilitate discussions and work on plans. Group DMs are better than private channels in situations where you want everyone to be notified when messages are sent and you want to restrict access to a very few specific people.
Boosting is Discord’s reward system where with each level of boost you unlock, you receive perks such as being able to add more emotes (aka emojis), or getting your own vanity URL.
To unlock each level, you need to have a certain amount of boosts which comes with Discord’s Nitro Subscription (or can be purchased separately monthly). Increasing levels gives you access to further perks to enhance your Discord community.
One of the most important roles of a Community Manager is to get the onboarding experience and flow right. It’s the first impression new members have once they’re through the gate, and having a poor onboarding experience starts things off on the wrong foot.
Luckily though, Discord has a range of great tools to help onboard your members properly.
Discord’s onboarding flow lets you give members a personalized introduction to the community. You can send them a questionnaire to work out what channels are best suited for each member, and to assign roles.
Many communities use bots such as Dyno to send a personalized welcome message to new members when they join. It allows you to reach out to them in a personal space. A great welcome message should have a short introduction as well as a bit of a guide to the different channels and how to get started in your community.
👉 Wondering how to help your new members get comfortable participating in your community? Our Communities of Practice guide shares tips on what new members can do after they join a CoP.
This allows you to have members agree to a set of rules or community guidelines before they can interact with the community. This is a great place to share vital information with new members, such as who to get in touch with if they have questions or any specific rules you may have.
Discord has an extensive built-in moderation system that allows you to ban, mute/timeout, and kick members, letting you get rid of your bad actors. The platform also makes use of AI when it comes to raids (i.e., lots of users joining at once to spam, which generally means bots) as well as individuals spamming, and it can block this based on different factors that are Discord sets.
You should also make use of a bot such as Dyno or Wick. These have additional features such as advanced automod, which is dependent on the bot (known as an integration on Slack) you use. A lot of bots will have tools such as anti-duplication (sending the same message over and over again) and image spam (sending a lot of images in a short amount of time).
Engagement on Discord is similar to other communities, and it also has some features that let you make the most of the platform itself.
Discord has stage channels that allow you to essentially host a virtual event with speakers and an audience. Make use of it for events such as AMAs.
A stage channel is similar to any other channel in that it is created by clicking the + and selecting stage channel. You can then edit settings such as if there is a slowmode (how often messages can be sent in the audience) and the audio and video quality. Stage channels allow you to also have members of the audience participate by requesting to speak, and you can then virtually bring them onto the stage.
Discord has a tab at the top of each community where you can add and list all your events. The events tab appears at the top of the channel list, and you can add an event by clicking on “create event”. From there you’re able to select where the event will take place as well as include the topic, start date and time, a description, and even a photo, if you want. Once you’ve created the event, you can then copy a link to it so that you can promote it in your community (or elsewhere).
Discord runs a verified server program, where brands and well-known public figures can request verification of their community — which comes with a few extra perks:
Having a verified community is a great way to show that you’re the official Discord community for your brand, but there are some downsides to the program.
Discord also runs a similar partnership program for content creators rather than brands. Content creators accepted as Partners receive similar perks, as well as free Discord Nitro (Discord’s premium subscription), access to the Partners-only Server, and a partner hoodie.
When it comes to measuring your community’s impact, I strongly suggest you use Discord’s built-in server insights tool — it gives you access to metrics only Discord has, such as what channels people look at. It also provides benchmarking, meaning it can compare your community to the other top communities to see where you sit.
You can combine this with tools like Statbot, which can look at things such as retention and what your members get up to such as where they talk, what games they play, who they talk to etc.
Best of luck with your Discord Community!