If you're thinking about building an online community, the popular platform Discord probably comes to mind. Discord started as a place for PC Gamers to chat as they played, but over time it's morphed into a more generic community platform–although there are still a lot of gamers on there.
In this article, we'll talk about how to figure out if Discord is the right place to set up a community, and we’ll give you a step-by-step guide to building a community on Discord, from idea to launch.
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In this article...
What is a Discord community?
A Discord community is a group of people who come together on a Discord server to build relationships and discuss things that matter to them. While the platform has been associated with gamers, and there are a whole bunch of game-related communities, communities of all different kinds are popping up on Discord.
A Discord community is primarily made up of message boards and voice chats since those are the features that Discord does best. More on this in a minute.
Should you build a Discord community?
Before you get down the path towards actually building a Discord community, it's worth doing a bit of research. For starters, if you're looking for a place to discuss something really important to you, take a look to see if there is already a Discord server dedicated to that thing. Chances are, if you want to talk about a video game or a hobby, it already exists.
That doesn't mean that you shouldn't start one. But do drop in and see how it's doing, and if you would do something differently in your own community. Rather than starting from scratch, you might be able to put work into growing an existing community.
Advantages and disadvantages of a Discord community
- Easy to set up and use
- Lots of people know it
- Apps for every platform
- Great discussion board functionality
- Live chat and event options
- Almost no customization options
- No monetization options
- Limited event functionality
- Limited messaging functions
- Limited moderation functions (notorious for issues with this)
- No growth options (e.g. adding a course, a paid subgroup, etc.)
How to build a Discord community
Figure out if Discord is the right place
There are a lot of platforms out there that could host an online community. So the important question is, is Discord the right place for you?
Basically, Discord gives you a message board and chat function. It works well for gamers, and for live conversations. It doesn't give you things like the ability to charge for your group, host a course, or create comprehensive live event options.
And because it's all based around real-time chat, it can quickly become noisy and overwhelming as you scale.
That might be okay! If you decide Discord has everything you need to build your community, fantastic.
Get clear on what you want
Why are you building an online community? What will your members get by being in it? What can you offer them as value? What will you get out of it as the creator?
At the beginning of any online community, it's important to do a deep dive into what you want it to accomplish. We've developed a process at Mighty Networks that we call Community Design™ that helps you lay the groundwork for your new community.
One of the first steps is to have conversations with some of your potential members. Ask them why they would be interested in joining. Find out what they care about. Most importantly, get clear on if there is a transformation they're looking for that your community can help them accomplish.
When it comes to planning content to support your Community Design™, here are the three steps that we think about:
Year in the life: if you could take a time machine to next year and interview your members, what will they have accomplished by being in your community? What will they say it helped them to do and be? Answering the questions at the outset is an important part of planning.
Monthly themes: what should you focus on each month to support your year in the life. For example, if your community was bringing people together to start their first business, you might include monthly themes on business plans, product development, marketing, and customer acquisition.
Weekly conversations: Once you have your monthly themes in place, you can get a bit more granular. Start to lay out some of the weekly conversations you want to host. At this point, just think about the first few weeks—you don't need to have every week planned before you start.
We also run a Community Design™ Accelerator if you want a full immersion!
Set up your server and channels
Once you know what your community is actually for, you can get started! Click the button with the plus sign on it to add a new server to Discord. It will give you the option to either "start from scratch" or to "choose a template." There are a bunch of pre-made templates you can choose from, from a gaming community to a study group.
At this point, you will also have the option to choose your server name and a photo.
Once your server is launched, you can set up your own text or voice channels.
Set clear rules
An important part of building a community on Discord is setting up some clear rules for your channel to make sure users know what's expected. Moderation is an important part of an online community. To do that, you'll have to set up the community feature under the “server settings” function. You can then add rules to the community.
If you're stuck on what sort of rules to put in place, don't get obsessed with going too granular. Focus on a few big-picture questions.
- How do you want users to treat each other?
- What kind of content do you allow?
- Are there any limits to types of content, frequency of posting, or external links?
You don't have to go overboard with rules, in general people get it. And leave yourself or someone you appoint as a moderator the final judge of what's appropriate or not.
Invite your members
Ok, your Discord community is set up and ready to go. Congratulations!
There's really only one problem. It's just you in there! This means that the time has come to invite your members. Depending on what type of community you are building, there are different approaches to inviting members.
Some leaders may choose to send an invite link to a select group of people. Some might choose to post it on a social media platform for the world to see, throwing the doors wide open. It really depends on you and your goals.
When you invite people, do try to make sure that there are people who will benefit from your "year in the life." Cramming your community full of people who are only remotely interested in what you are offering is a recipe for a community that doesn't go anywhere. It's better to focus on people who really care, even if it means you have fewer people join at first.
Once you’ve started to invite members, you may choose to assign some roles to different people. One of the most obvious roles that you could assign is the role of moderator. This means that you would enlist one or two members to help you with the moderation, which could grow as the community gets bigger.
In many cases, members will be flattered to be asked, although not everybody might want the responsibility. Make sure the moderators understand your rules, and ask if they agree or if they’d change something. By doing this, you're not just putting your moderators in charge of enforcing rules that you came up with. You’re giving them ownership of the process of keeping the community safe, and that's a good thing.
If you have done all these steps, your Discord community is up and running. Congratulations!
The next step is maybe a bit too obvious, but it’s the part that matters the most. Work on building your community! Get posting. Start some conversations. Announce your weekly activities, and create any relevant channels you think that you'll need.
As your audience grows organically, you may find some channels don't do very well and it's okay to delete these. And you may find that you need more as you go; definitely add them. You can also enlist members to run conversations in an individual channel if your community is growing quickly.
If you’re getting started with Discord, we hope this short guide helps you! Remember, setting up a thriving community doesn’t take a ton of work, but it does take some clarity on who it’s for and what it will accomplish.
If you want to try another alternative, consider checking out Mighty Networks! It’s a great place to build, grow, and make money from your community. You can get it up and running today and try it free for 2 weeks–no credit card required.
Ready to launch your online community?