Guide to a successful Discord Server
Chapter 1: Introduction
Well, you want to create a community on Discord. You might think it is easy, so you think on how to get members and keep it active, which you guess might be harder but not that hard. In reality, all the parts, from creating a good looking server, gaining members, and keeping the server active is hard. Discord isn’t very easy to understand, especially for new users. And you cannot just directly in one night get your server popular. Most servers spend months or years trying to get more members, and dedication is very much required.
In this guide, I will go over all the points you need to know to grow your server, as well keep it active, and just how to be a good owner and so on. Read it till the end as I am sure you will enjoy it! Well, I know you wouldn’t want to read 4000+ words, so there istable of contents below.
Just a heads up, I have been on discord since Mid-2020, and I own a server(est. August 2021) with 340 members(as of Feb 2022). And at one point I even had a Discord Bot in about 60 servers. I even have managed to moderate many communities, so you know these tips are coming from someone who knows about Discord(but I still have a lot to learn).
Chapter 2: Creating your Discord Server
Ok, before we begin, you must make sure to have a good looking discord server. A bland server with nothing won’t look appealing to users overall, and will definitely impact your growth. Here are quick ways to start with a good looking server.
Setting up your server
This is the most basic part, you would first want to start out with the roles like Owner, Admin, Mod, Members, Level roles and few reaction roles if you want. And make sure to set up the role permissions right now.
Next up… channels, start with a category all about your server information like Rules, roles, FAQs, boost perks, announcements, etc. Next category could be the engaging content of your server like giveaways, events, starboards, polls etc. Next few channels need to be where users would talk in, so the main chat, bot commands, media channel etc. At this point the rest of the channels(and roles to some extent) depend on your server category.
But if you want my tips (as for a community server), I would add a few fun channels, followed by a few VCs, and then end it with self promo, partnership and staff channels(sometimes, staff channels can be near the top).
If all these seems difficult, you might want to use a pre-made server template, which is fine, but the problem is that it makes your server less unique as other people also use the template and it is not as satisfying as when you see your own made server grow. (You can find free basic templates in my server, Lemon&Mint — https://dsc.gg/lemonmint)
Symbols & Emojis
One of the basic ways to improve your server is just to add some basic symbols you can find online or even unicode emojis which look great in channel names or even role names.
Emojis just give out a pop of colour to a channel which might make the server more lively and interesting. Oh, and not to mention, adding custom emojis in your server can give a reason for users to join and you can have a more lively & colourful chat. You can find emojis at https://emoji.gg/
You can find symbols at https://symbolcopy.com/aesthetic-symbols.html
Server Name & Icon
When people see your invite, the first thing they notice is the server name and the icon you used. Just a rule of thumb, while giving a name to your server, make sure to check if a popular server with that name already exists or not, since then your server is likely to get hidden from the larger server. Another tip is to try to be creative with the name, and not just use something that most servers might use, or an idea for a server name you might have found from another popular server, or the basic name that discord provides(XYZ’s Server) or even something like “XYZ’s community”. A server name should be very appealing to the user. You can again use symbols to further improve the server name.
You will always have to go with the process of trial and error: finding names, searching if it exists online, and rinse and repeat.
The icon for the server represents the server in some aspect, so make sure it is very unique and not just a few letters or a basic image you found online. Even without good editing skill, you will be able to improve on the image you might have found online. One of my favourite editing tools is https://pixlr.com/e/ which is free and easy to use. Just adding a bit of text, adding effects, changing the base and how it looks can make your icon ever so slightly unique.
Server bots are a key component of a discord server. There are tons of bots each with different use cases and all being helpful for your server in automating some stuff. Below are a few of my favourite bots that you can use in your server:-
- Arcane for Levelling, Moderation and Welcoming. (https://arcane.bot/)
- Carl Bot for Starboard, Moderation, Custom Commands, Welcoming, Reaction roles. (https://carl.gg/)
- Dyno for moderation. (https://dyno.gg/)
- Mimu for server economy, welcome and boost messages. (https://mimu.bot/)
- Chip for Music (https://chipbot.gg/)
- GiveawayBoat for Giveaways with requirements (https://giveawayboat.com/)
- Wick for server security and moderation (https://wickbot.com/)
You can find more bots on a website like top.gg (https://top.gg/). One tip is that you shouldn’t add too many bots to a server especially if they have the same functionality(exception is Moderation bots as if one goes down, you can have a backup)
I will talk about growth related bots like Disboard later on in this guide.
Roles, Level Roles and Special perks Roles
Upon adding a bot like Arcane, you should generally go ahead and set up a levelling system in your server, and offer roles on certain levels. This encourages people to talk more to get these roles. As a bonus, you could also give special permissions like Change Nickname at a certain level. Other than level roles, you can create other roles which can be given to few users but have a ton more perks like Server Voters(on top.gg, more on that later), Boosters, etc.
But for the normal roles now, you should make the roles of unique colour to distinguish users apart, and most of the time, it is preferable to have a similiar colour set for similiar role type, for example: the colour range from Dark Blue(#0000FF) to pink(#FF00FF) can be used for different roles in the staff category(like Mod, Trainee, Admin, Owner, etc.). Another tip is to make the Member’s role colour very similiar to your server theme(for example: your server is based on nature, you can give green colour to the roles).
Another important way to distinguish members is to hoist a few roles, mostly the Staff roles, and then any perk roles like Voters or Boosters and Level roles too!
Profile Customization & Reaction Roles
Allowing users to pick roles of their choice is a great way to make a good community. Most popular of the customization roles is Colour Roles, which show a different color in the member list. Other reaction roles include Age Roles, Pronouns/Genders, and Ping Roles.
Every server should have ping roles; each user can choose which all announcements they should get pinged, like for giveaways, events, server announcements, shoutouts, etc. This also makes it so that you don’t have to ping the @here or @everyone role everytime, which may also cause users to get annoyed and to leave the server. This will be a good step in your later success.
Permissions for staff roles
This part is totally my recommendation.
For Moderator role, I would recommend Manage messages/threads/users-in-vc/roles/channels and, View audit log, and Timeout/Kick/Ban Members
For admins, I would suggest all the permissions except Administrator, Manage Webhooks, and Mention everyone/here/roles
Administrator, Manage Webhooks, and Mention perms should be restricted to only the owner and maybe trusted bots(bot’s own managed role, not a collective role). Do not give the perms to the collective bot role as a mod can give themselves that role.
For Junior Mod/Trainee, Manage Messages/threads, and Timeout members is enough for their training.
Permissions for special roles
In my server, we do not provide many permissions at the base Members role to get people to talk more using level roles
Special permissions you can give to Level/Booster roles include Creating Public/Private threads, Use external Emojis/Stickers, Changing nicknames, adding reactions, Send TTS message, Embed links, Attach files, self promo channel access, staff applications access, etc.
Users with nitro are able to boost servers of their choice. You should offer a reason for users to boost your server by providing specific perks exclusive to the Boosters role. This gives users a reason to boost your server if they like it, and are more likely to boost if you have more appealing perks.
Remember, boosting also gives the server itself some awesome perks like Banner, Splash, Vanity Invite, Animated Icon, more emojis, stickers are more.
Server Rules & FAQs
A good server has to have good rules to have a great community. Setting up the rules for your server depends on each server and each server category. Advertising servers may allow promotion, whereas in a community server, it may be against their rules.
When creating rules, make sure to keep your rules short and straight to the point. No one will be interested in reading 34 different rules. Combining two rules of similiar kind can reduce the number of rules that users have to read. In my server, Lemon&Mint (https://dsc.gg/lemonmint/), we just have one rule with a few important sub-points like following ToS, proper profile, not spamming, and so on; as well as a descriptive list of rules for those who may be interested.
Your server must also have an FAQ channel including some server related questions, perks of each role, and other information that may not fit in the rules channel. Having this channel will prevent the need of users asking each time.
Use of Webhooks
Using webhooks embeds for stuff like server info, rules, faqs, roles info, reaction roles and so on, makes your server look much more cleaner, as well as you can make use of hyperlinks to compact down your text. Webhooks can also be given a custom name and an icon which means that rather than using a bot, you can use a webhook with your server icon and name, or anything else, which may look more professional.
Chapter 3: Growing your server
Ok, now that we have made our server, the next part is to invite people to your server and to grow your server. This is usually the hardest part of owning a Discord server. There are various methods to gain members, but you have to understand that you don’t just get members overnight, you must have patience as well as dedication.
Inviting your friends
At the start of your server, inviting your friends and asking them to be active is the best method to get started since most people would see your server having a low member count and won’t join. If you already have a few members i.e. your friends, people will take note that there are members in your server, and will join your server.
Server Ad & Advertising Servers
Ok, now before you advertise you would need a basic server ad. Your server ad should always contain these 3 things at minimum: Your permanent server Invite, things your server offers, and some amount formatting.
Formatting is basically making text bold, italics, underlined, striked out, etc., which makes your ad look more appealing and stand out.(I have a guide on discord formatting in Lemon&Mint — https://dsc.gg/lemonmint). Your permanent server invite is required because well, people need to join your server. And finally, showing what your server offers is important because that will be the reason why users join your server. Just a random link without any description won’t get you any members since users don’t know what your server has. Just mentioning simple stuff about your server like the bots your have, the community you have, the purpose of your server can help a lot in attracting users
Two other less important things I would suggest are: Server banners and using Symbols or Emojis in your ad. Using symbols/emojis in ad is good for the same reason you used it in channel names, it just makes it more appealing. Server banners are usually there to take up a larger area of the user’s screen, which may attract them to your server ad, and would result in them joining your server.
Now that you have your server ad, you need to join a few advertising servers. Advertising servers are servers which basically allow you to advertise your server in different channels. You just have to follow their rules and then advertise your server in the channel which fits your server type. This can be a painstaking task, but that is how you can grow your server. You can further hire some Advertisers for your server who can help you advertise on your behalf.
Here are few of my favourite advertising server:
- discord.gg/McrCCqeud8 (Magicly Advertising)
- discord.gg/csYRuS5tPU (Molten Advertising)
- discord.gg/7t3HtSbQth (SPC)
- discord.gg/8uHNSNuDeP (AYS)
- discord.gg/bM2KGWb3Kz (Self Advertising)
Self Promo channels
One of the other basic ways to advertise is to use a self promo channel in servers. Some servers allow you to advertise for free, whereas some require you to have a certain level, nonetheless, this method is effective since people in these servers are not there to advertise their own server but to talk, so your ad is likely to not get covered by other server’s ad like in advertising servers.
My server, Lemon&Mint(https://dsc.gg/lemonmint) has a self promo channel with a Level requirement of 15.
Partnership, Welcome DM promotion, & Networks
Partnership is a simple way for a server to advertise another server and in turn, you advertise their server in a partner channel of your server. This method is generally not that effective but well, it still works. You can also sometimes ask people to do ping4ping in which both sides will ping a particular role or @everyone. Advertising servers usually have a channel where people can find servers to partner with.
DM promotion is where a server sets up a bot to DM any new users who join the server with the invite link of your server and you do the same with their server. This is kind of an effective method since most users tend to check their DMs always. But be careful as this can get very annoying sometimes.
In a Network, servers with a similiar theme(like community) advertise multiple servers together in a channel and other servers do the same. This is sometimes accompanied by a bot DM too.
Bump Bots & Listing Websites
Bump bots are bots you can invite to your server, add your server to their website, and bump your server every so often to get on the front page of their website which allows people to see your server. Sometimes, there isn’t even a website, but the bot instead posts messages to different servers.
Few listing websites include:
Few server bump bots that I know of are:
- https://top.gg/bot/478290034773196810/ (Bump Central)
- https://top.gg/bot/389604896606781440/ (Liam Bump)
- https://top.gg/bot/415773861486002186/ (DSC Bump)
One other category is websites where people can vote for your server, and the more votes the server gets, the more likely it is to get to the front page and to gain more members. One such website is https://top.gg/ (the same website you can find some bots in). Make sure to give special permissions and perks to the voter’s role so that people have a reason to vote.
A fun thing I like about top.gg is that if you somehow receive 100+ votes in a month, you can collect credits and use them to bid in auctions, which can further increase the number of people who see your server, eventually leading to more members.
Shoutouts & Paid Promos
Some servers often give shoutouts to users who win giveaways or boost their server. This is a great way to gain more publicity in that server, though not that effective, but it is still worth trying.
Paid promos are weird in the sense that you have to pay, but outcomes sometimes don’t land in your favour. There are tons of servers, most notably, Advertising servers which have paid promos. There are many different promos you could buy, but here is my list and their pros/cons.
- Sponsored Giveaway where people have to join your server to win a giveaway. You get members very fast, but many don’t speak in the chat and leave after the giveaway ends.
- Auto Ads is where a bot advertises for you every few hours or so in a channel. Maybe a bit effect, but really, your ad gets covered up anyways
- Welcome DM, in which a bot DMs new users with your invite. Most users read their DMs, but the problem is that there is no description of your server.
- Sponsored Channel, where your ad is posted in a separate channel sometimes with pings. Better than Welcome DM as it can be viewed by everyone and you have a description. Problem is that most people won’t visit that channel.
But, at the end of the day, I wouldn’t recommend buying promos, especially Sponsored Giveaways, and I would just let the server grow more organically. But if you really want to buy an ad, I would recommend buying Sponsored channels, or Welcome DMs.
Note: As it seems, Discord updated it’s ToS to make paid promos illegal.
Chapter 4: Increasing server activity
Even if you get a lot of members to your server, server activity is still very important to show that you have a very lively, and fun community which is active. Just like getting members to your server, increasing server activity is very hard, and requires dedication. And to be honest, not always do all of this tricks work for me either.
You as the owner of the server obviously want the server to be active. The best way is to be active yourself in your server, by welcoming people, asking people how they are, responding to people’s questions/queries, and even taking part yourself in any conversations that 2 or more members might spark up in your chat. All these show the other users that you are active, as well as makes your server look more active, and another positive is that people won’t get sad after posting a message and not receiving a reply. One tip I would also give(if you don’t have a large member count) is to enable ‘All Messages’ in Notifications for yourself in the server(Note: Do not enable ‘All Messages’ in your server settings, but in your personal Notification Settings)
I talked about this earlier, but again, you need to provide a reason for people to talk in your server, a great way being through Levelling and Level roles. You can give different permissions to different levels, and this encourages users to be more active and to try to get these rewards
Server Giveaways & Events
Giveaways and events are a good way to get your server active. You can host giveaways with some message requirements for people to follow. This encourages users to talk in the chat and then be able to win prizes.
Events are better than giveaways because then the users can have more fun in the server itself. You don’t need to host very crazy events especially when your server is small. Basic events like creating a story, completing a sentence, drawing, XP Weekends, doing server quizzes, etc., are all good event ideas to start with. Moreover, events do not need to be competitive, they can be Game-nights, movie-nights and so on as well.
Even with the prizes/rewards for giveaways/events don’t need to always be Nitro or Gift cards, they can be as simple as some server currency, bot currency, to even a custom roles, or special perms are good prizes to giveaway.
Engaging with the community
There are many ways to engage with your growing community. Asking Question of the Day, Would-you-rathers, Daily facts, doing server polls, starboard, a counting channel are all good ways of engaging with the community. Most users find this to be fun, and would definitely answer the question/poll or even take part in counting, and thus increasing your activity.
Welcoming New Users
When a new user joins a server, you have to welcome the user so that they know that your server is not completely inactive, but also make them stay longer and talk a bit in your server too. One tip I would give is that you should make a bot welcome the user in your main chat, so that other users too welcome them and the new user who just joined is likely to send a few messages here and there.
Chapter 5: Keeping your server safe
Ok, now as members are joining your server, you would need to have a protection against server raiders, nukers and people who hurt your server and potentially wipe out your entire work in one night.
Adding a few bots with auto mod can always be helpful. Bots like Carl, Dyno, MEE6, Arcane, Wick and many more have auto mod system to prevent users from raiding your server, be it Invite Blacklist, Spam Moderation, Mass mention moderating, and more that can help you keep your server, and members safe
Anti Invite is useful to prevent users from joing and advertising their own server, which can be annoying.
- In my server Lemon&Mint, I have setup Carl bot to delete invites from users who are below Level 3. This may be better as to provide trusted users a way to help others if in need.
Anti Spam is well… for preventing people from spamming messages amd flooding your chat.
- With a slowmode of 1s in my server’s main chat, I have set the spam filter to 4 messages/5s
Mass mention filter pretty much needs to be setup so that people do not continuously mention people and cause chaos.
- Again, in my server, my filters are setup to 6 mentions/3s.
Other auto mod settings a bot may provide are up to you, but I consider these 3 to be important the most.
Making use of slowmodes in channels can help prevent a raid for one user at a certain extent. I recommend putting slowmodes all across your server.
The main I face is that the lowest slowmode duration is 5s, which is too long. But with a bot like Arcane, it is an easy fix. Using commands, you can set the slowmode to 1s, 2s, 3s, or even.. 4s or just 348s.
A way for members who join your server to verify themselves that they have read the rules is a great method of preventing raiders to some extent. Verification Systems can be as simple as reacting to a message, sending a command, or more complex stuff like using a captcha. Bots like Carl or Arcane can be setup with reaction roles to give the role in the rules channel, or a custom command can be hidden in the rules channel for users to read it. You might as well use the in-built feature of membership screening too.
But not always do people verify, or even if they verify, they don’t even read the rules. Finding a way complex system like a hidden command, users are likely to leave before they verify. All in all, I recommend a verification system only when you really start growing.
Upon hiring moderators/admins, there are always tensions that a mod could ruin all of your hardwork. Due to this reason, Wick is one of the best bots as it makes a note of many changes that might happen, and mute a moderator.
I had already mentioned before the permissions you might wanna give to a moderator and an admin, and those are good enough to prevent any major issues(like mass pinging, mass deletion, mass kick/ban). Another tip to add on to that is that you can remove access to Manage permissions/messages/threads in certain important channel to prevent mods form deleting them.
Chapter 6: Expanding further
Once you have your server up and running, and being active, here are a few things I suggest doing!
Occasional Server Changes
Changing your server layout once in a while: updating channel, roles and info, can make your server seem a bit different to the users who were already there.
Examples of changes we do in Lemon&Mint(https://dsc.gg/lemonmint/) include changing the server icon at every festive season, which attracts some amount of users.
Punishment System & Moderation Guidebook
Punishment systems vary from server to server, as well as from moderator to moderator. Some mods may give a stricter punishment to a user, whereas another mod may give one which is less harsh.
This is why, I would recommend creating a channel where Moderators/Admins can know what punishment to give for breaking certain rules, as well as the commands they can use.
Punishments given to users can depend from a verbal warning, bot warning, mute/timeout, kick, ban, restricted access to certain channels and more. As a small server, I would always recommend you to be less strict with your punishments and maybe forgive the users, so that the users stay in your server longer and do not leave. As your server grows, you can start imposing a bit more harsh punishments.
Listening to your community
You should always try to listen to your ever growing community: any suggestions they may have, any changes, or any ideas. Doing these changes, or even responding to the suggestions can all show that you are a good owner, making your server more fresh looking. As I said before, community engagement is required in having a good discord server.
Making your announcements look professional
The best way to make your announcements look cool, professional, and have people read it is by using text formatting, by bolding particular important points, or underlining them. Other ways are to add an image to your announcement, using symbols, and making good use of bullet points, paragraph breaks, and emojis.
Once your server grows, you will need staff to keep a look on your server. Hiring people who are just active in chat or hiring your friends won’t be a good method of picking staff. A better method is by doing interviews or even making use of forms so that people can apply at any time. You should always go for the user with the best reply in the form, who has more experience, the one who is trustworthy.
Also, Staff doesn’t just mean Moderators or Admins. Staff can also be Event managers, giveaway hosts, server advertisers, Uploaders, Human Resources, Partnership Manager and more. So make sure to have applications for different positions, and if possible, make it in one form so that people don’t get too confused.
Using different invites
A good way to track how your users join your server be it through disboard, listing sites, partnerships, advertising in ad servers and so on is to use different permanent invites. For example you can create a permanent invite in the rules channel and use it for top.gg and listing sites, an invite in your main chat through advertising or partnerships and so on.
This just helps in seeing where most users join from and to help focus in that area or even the other areas.
Organic vs Inorganic Growth
Organic growth is where people join your server because they wanted to join at their own will, seeing what you had in your server, and stay in your server because they like it.
Compared that to inorganic, where people may not have had an incentive to join your server based on what you had to offer, but mostly joined because of some other reason.
Inorganic growth is often not a good route as people in your server tend to be inactive in that case. Letting your server grow more organically, will make a better community and a long lasting relationship between you and the members, which is why I consider Sponsored Giveaways to be inorganic. Try to get as much organic growth as possible as it will help more in the long term.
Seeking help from others
Many of the tips in this guide might work for you, but may not always. See, I am not saying this IS the guide to grow your server, and I may still not have as much experience. With that, I would always recommend getting some help from other server owners, specially in advertising servers where there is usually a channel for growth questions.
I may not have experienced all the issues, faced all the problems, or just even learned much more about owning a server, because of which, seeking help from other owners, specially those with much more members than my server has, can be a good idea.
Chapter 7: Summary & Conclusion
Now see, I know you may not have read the entire guide, so here is a quick summary.
- Create an appealing server, with roles, emojis, useful channels
- Give it a good name and an eye-catching icon
- Polish up your server before inviting people
- Give a reason for people to join your server
- Create a good looking ad for your server
- Advertise consistently in AD server, partner with other servers, add your server to websites, and add bump bots
- Engage with your growing community, and listen to their suggestions
- Do giveaways, events, QOTDs, and other fun stuff
- Hire staff, and improve your server as you go on
- Enjoy the growth and activity!
As an ocean starts with a drop of water and slowly grows, a Discord server as well starts with few members and grows larger. All I say is to have some amount of dedication and be passionate about your server. You will always be able to form more memories, but without hardwork, you can’t.
If you are still stuck with your server, try joining my server https://dsc.gg/lemonmint, where we have a channel all regarding this, where you can get more help, or contact me on Discord (Frozen#4917)