Ethical Community Growth
Imagine a place where you can gather like-minded people together to have a good time. That’s one of the core uses of Discord! People love to build communities about interests from airplanes to zoology, and to do that, they need to find members.
There are a variety of ways to bring members to your Discord server, including community partnerships, funneling users from social media sites such as Twitch or Reddit, and migrating members from a community on another platform to Discord! You may even be able to enable Server Discovery to let people find your community from within Discord’s own server listing system.
Of course, there are nearly an unlimited number of ways to grow your community, and these options continue to evolve along with Discord as a platform. However creative you may be in growing your server, it’s important that you value not just the growth of your server’s member count, but also the experience of the users who join your server.
Ethical Community Growth
Ethical community growth is the concept of attracting users to your community in a way that does not violate the trust users have with Discord, third parties, and your community. Furthermore, this involves attempting to target people who will genuinely be interested in your community’s purpose and want to stay long-term. In other words, you could say that ethical community growth focuses on member quality over member quantity while providing a foundation for members to feel safe and welcome in your server.
Ethical community growth ties deeply into the way you advertise your server. Getting the word out about your community and convincing others to join is a key component in getting more members. However, in one’s passion to grow your community as fast as possible, it’s easy to overlook the ethics component of advertising.
In practice, this ethical framework must also extend to both the advertisements you as a community owner host for other communities, and the advertisements that you utilize yourself to grow your target community. This article will help you consider how to ethically handle community growth via advertisement by ensuring that it is:
- Relevant to the members of your community
- Avoids disrupting a member’s community experience
- Allows the user to respond to the advertisement without providing external incentives
Meeting all of these criteria will contribute to a higher proportion of targeted users joining, participating, and staying in your community. Doing so also contributes to a more pleasant and useful Discord experience for users compared to other advertising methods that may not meet all the above criteria.
When asking to advertise your community in another server, or when considering allowing a community to advertise in your own, a primary consideration should be how relevant the target community is to the members of the host community. For example, a server about cooking advertising in a server about football is not as likely to attract new members compared to an esports server advertising in a League of Legends server.
This also contributes to a poor user experience. The less relevant the advertisement is to the members of the host server, the more confused they will feel after seeing it, and creating an uneasy feeling in your community members is not conducive to healthy community growth.
It’s logical to think that if you want a lot of people to see an advertisement for your server that you should have the host server mention @everyone, and that is, in fact, true! However, this is something that should be done very sparingly. Although users are understanding of @everyone mentions for important server or topical updates, they will be less likely to feel good about being pinged to join another Discord server, even if it is relevant. Therefore, using @everyone pings or direct messages to ask people to join another Discord server for a non-urgent reason is highly discouraged.
For example, if you run a game-related server and are creating a separate regional community server for the same game, pinging @everyone may be a good idea to ensure they are aware of the directly related server. Be that as it may, pinging @everyone to check out a server related to a completely different game will be far more disruptive. By respecting users’ time on the platform and the experience they have with your server, you avoid causing a disruption and maintain their trust in your community.
Another tempting way to grow a server is to have direct messages sent to users to have them join your server. However, invading someone's direct messages for an advertisement is extremely disruptive to a user’s experience. Mass DMing users may even cause you to be reported for spam, and no one wants that. Instead, you should only send a direct message advertisement to someone when they have explicitly consented to receive a direct message about advertising. Don’t interpret someone joining your server as consenting to receive direct messages from everyone and anyone there, especially for advertising purposes.
Finally, it is important that users join your community completely of their own free will. Users that feel the need to join to receive some sort of perk on the host server, your own server, or some additional consideration (e.g., free Discord Nitro) are going to be less likely to stay engaged in your server compared to those joining purely of their own interest. Thus, allowing users to make the choice to take action based purely on the advertising message and explanation is vital to keeping your community healthy and its growth sustainable.
You can learn more about leveraging server insights to keep your community engaged further here.
Now that we’ve discussed the general principles behind ethical community growth, here are some examples of ways to grow your community directly on Discord, or to help someone else grow theirs!
Server Discovery: One of the easiest and most ethical ways to advertise on Discord is through Server Discovery! By utilizing a compelling description of your server and applying focused keywords directly related to your community’s topic, you can allow interested users to seek you out simply by searching related words on Discord! They’ll be able to browse your server a bit before joining as well, so they can determine in advance whether or not it’s a space they are interested in. This truly gives control of a user’s experience to the user themselves while also allowing you to showcase your community’s merits to the world. Similarly, you can also host public events via stage channels to entice others to check out your community and see what your server is about!
Partnership Channels: A channel where people can browse related servers at their leisure is a great way to help your members find other servers they might be interested in. Understanding your users’ interests is a key component in understanding what kinds of servers you should feature in such a channel. You can even provide a detailed description of what each server is about and why users might want to join it as long as you avoid external incentives for having them join such as entering them into a giveaway or providing other perks. This will ensure that users are joining the servers that genuinely interest them.
Also be sure to avoid intrusive methods of drawing attention to the channel such as mentioning @everyone or random individual users in the channel. This will ensure that having such a channel does not disrupt your community, and members can engage with the advertising on their own terms.
Opt-in Pings: A key component to establishing ethical advertising is that users consent to receive the advertising. The best way to do this is to allow for self-assignable roles that can be mentioned when there is a new community to share with your users that may be of interest to them. By allowing users to opt-in to these mentions (e.g., letting them request a role from a bot) it avoids disrupting them and thus remains ethical.
A dedicated channel for such pings would further allow for the messages not to disrupt the experience of other members while also allowing for easier backreading in the future. Just remember not to overly incentivize people to join these new servers and let them come to their own, unbiased decision based on the description and purpose of the community.
Some Final Words
Human creativity is unbound, and the list of ways to grow your community within Discord itself here is not exhaustive. When developing new ways to grow your community, it is absolutely vital that you start from the ethical framework listed here to try new methods instead of picking a method and attempting to justify it into this framework. If you find yourself attempting to justify a new method of community growth with “Well technically this is ok because…,” you should strongly reconsider using that method. In order to be ethical in growing your community, you also have to consider ethics first, not as an afterthought.
Even though starting from the ethical framework and arriving at a new growth method is more difficult than picking a method you want to use and working backwards into how it can be ethical, the effort is well worth it. You will ultimately be more likely to arrive at a way to grow your community in a way that will result in a better experience for your users and a long-term, healthy community.