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 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:
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.
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.
*Unless you are using the channel description for verification instructions rather than an automatic greeter message.
If you want to use the remove unverified role method, you will need a bot that can automatically assign a role to a user when they join.
Once you decide whether you want to add or remove a role, you need to decide how you want that action to take place. Generally, this is done by typing a bot command in a channel, typing a bot command in a DM, or clicking on a reaction. The differences between these methods are shown below.
In order to use the command in channel method, you will need to instruct your users to remove the Unverified role or to add the Verified role to themselves.
Markdown is also supported in an embed. Here is an image to showcase an example of these properties:
Example image to showcase the elements of an embed
An important thing to note is that embeds also have their limitations, which are set by the API. Here are some of the most important ones you need to know:
An important thing to note is that embeds also have their limitations, which are set by the API. Here are some of the most important ones you need to know:
If you feel like experimenting even further you should take a look at the full list of limitations provided by Discord here.
It’s very important to keep in mind that when you are writing an embed, it should be in JSON format. Some bots even provide an embed visualizer within their dashboards. You can also use this embed visualizer tool which provides visualization for bot and webhook embeds.
Even though this comparison is important for better understanding of both bots and webhooks, it does not mean you should limit yourself to only picking one or the other. Sometimes, bots and webhooks work their best when working together. It’s not uncommon for bots to use webhooks for logging purposes or to distinguish notable messages with a custom avatar and name for that message. Both tools are essential for a server to function properly and make for a powerful combination.
*Unconfigurable filters, these will catch all instances of the trigger, regardless of whether they’re spammed or a single instance
**Gaius also offers an additional NSFW filter as well as standard image spam filtering
***YAGPDB offers link verification via google, anything flagged as unsafe can be removed
****Giselle combines Fast Messages and Repeated Text into one filter
Anti-Spam is integral to running a large private server, or a public server. Spam, by definition, is irrelevant or unsolicited messages. This covers a wide base of things on Discord, there are multiple types of spam a user can engage in. The common forms are listed in the table above. The most common forms of spam are also very typical of raids, those being Fast Messages and Repeated Text. The nature of spam can vary greatly but the vast majority of instances involve a user or users sending lots of messages with the same contents with the intent of disrupting your server.
There are subsets of this spam that many anti-spam filters will be able to catch. If any of the following: Mentions, Links, Invites, Emoji, and Newline Text are spammed repeatedly in one message or spammed repeatedly across several messages, they will provoke most Repeated Text and Fast Messages filters appropriately. Subset filters are still a good thing for your anti-spam filter to contain as you may wish to punish more or less harshly depending on the spam. Namely, Emoji and Links may warrant separate punishments. Spamming 10 links in a single message is inherently worse than having 10 emoji in a message.
Anti-spam will only act on these things contextually, usually in an X in Y fashion where if a user sends, for example, 10 links in 5 seconds, they will be punished to some degree. This could be 10 links in one message, or 1 link in 10 messages. In this respect, some anti-spam filters can act simultaneously as Fast Messages and Repeated Text filters.
Sometimes, spam may happen too quickly for a bot to catch up. There are rate limits in place to stop bots from harming servers that can prevent deletion of individual messages if those messages are being sent too quickly. This can often happen in raids. As such, Fast Messages filters should prevent offenders from sending messages; this can be done via a mute, kick or ban. If you want to protect your server from raids, please read on to the Anti-Raid section of this article.
Text filters allow you to control the types of words and/or links that people are allowed to put in your server. Different bots will provide various ways to filter these things, keeping your chat nice and clean.
*Defaults to banning ALL links
**YAGPDB offers link verification via google, anything flagged as unsafe can be removed
***Setting a catch-all filter with carl will prevent link-specific spam detection
A text filter is integral to a well moderated server. It’s strongly, strongly recommended you use a bot that can filter text based on a blacklist. A Banned words filter can catch links and invites provided http:// and https:// are added to the word blacklist (for all links) or specific full site URLs to block individual websites. In addition, discord.gg can be added to a blacklist to block ALL Discord invites.
A Banned Words filter is integral to running a public server, especially if it’s a Partnered, Community or Verified server, as this level of auto moderation is highly recommended for the server to adhere to the additional guidelines attached to it. Before configuring a filter, it’s a good idea to work out what is and isn’t ok to say in your server, regardless of context. For example, racial slurs are generally unacceptable in almost all servers, regardless of context. Banned word filters often won’t account for context, with an explicit blacklist. For this reason, it’s also important a robust filter also contains whitelisting options. For example, if you add the slur ‘nig’ to your filter and someone mentions the country ‘Nigeria’ they could get in trouble for using an otherwise acceptable word.
Filter immunity may also be important to your server, as there may be individuals who need to discuss the use of banned words, namely members of a moderation team. There may also be channels that allow the usage of otherwise banned words. For example, a serious channel dedicated to discussion of real world issues may require discussions about slurs or other demeaning language, in this exception channel based Immunity is integral to allowing those conversations.
Link filtering is important to servers where sharing links in ‘general’ chats isn’t allowed, or where there are specific channels for sharing such things. This can allow a server to remove links with an appropriate reprimand without treating a transgression with the same severity as they would a user sending a racial slur.
Whitelisting/Blacklisting and templates for links are also a good idea to have. While many servers will use catch-all filters to make sure links stay in specific channels, some links will always be malicious. As such, being able to filter specific links is a good feature, with preset filters (Like the google filter provided by YAGPDB) coming in very handy for protecting your user base without intricate setup however, it is recommended you do configure a custom filter to ensure specific slurs, words etc. that break the rules of your server, aren’t being said.
Invite filtering is equally important in large or public servers where users will attempt to raid, scam or otherwise assault your server with links with the intention of manipulating your user base to join or where unsolicited self-promotion is potentially fruitful. Filtering allows these invites to be recognized, and dealt with more harshly. Some bots may also allow by-server white/blacklisting allowing you to control which servers are ok to share invites to, and which aren’t. A good example of invite filtering usage would be something like a partners channel, where invites to other, closely linked, servers are shared. These servers should be added to an invite whitelist to prevent their deletion.
Raids, as defined earlier in this article, are mass-joins of users (often selfbots) with the intent of damaging your server. There are a few methods available to you in order for you to protect your community from this behavior. One method involves gating your server with verification appropriately, as discussed in DMA 301.You can also supplement or supplant the need for verification by using a bot that can detect and/or prevent damage from raids.
*Unconfigurable, triggers raid prevention based on user joins & damage prevention based on humanly impossible user activity. Will not automatically trigger on the free version of the bot.
Raid detection means a bot can detect the large number of users joining that’s typical of a raid, usually in an X in Y format. This feature is usually chained with Raid Prevention or Damage Prevention to prevent the detected raid from being effective, wherein raiding users will typically spam channels with unsavoury messages.
Raid-user detection is a system designed to detect users who are likely to be participating in a raid independently of the quantity of frequency of new user joins. These systems typically look for users that were created recently or have no profile picture, among other triggers depending on how elaborate the system is.
Raid prevention stops a raid from happening, either by Raid detection or Raid-user detection. These countermeasures stop participants of a raid specifically from harming your server by preventing raiding users from accessing your server in the first place, such as through kicks, bans, or mutes of the users that triggered the detection.
Damage prevention stops raiding users from causing any disruption via spam to your server by closing off certain aspects of it either from all new users, or from everyone. These functions usually prevent messages from being sent or read in public channels that new users will have access to. This differs from Raid Prevention as it doesn’t specifically target or remove new users on the server.
Raid anti-spam is an anti spam system robust enough to prevent raiding users’ messages from disrupting channels via the typical spam found in a raid. For an anti-spam system to fit this dynamic, it should be able to prevent Fast Messages and Repeated Text. This is a subset of Damage Prevention.
Raid cleanup commands are typically mass-message removal commands to clean up channels affected by spam as part of a raid, often aliased to ‘Purge’ or ‘Prune’.It should be noted that Discord features built-in raid and user bot detection, which is rather effective at preventing raids as or before they happen. If you are logging member joins and leaves, you can infer that Discord has taken action against shady accounts if the time difference between the join and the leave times is extremely small (such as between 0-5 seconds). However, you shouldn’t rely solely on these systems if you run a large or public server.
Messages aren’t the only way potential evildoers can present unsavoury content to your server. They can also manipulate their Discord username or Nickname to cause trouble. There are a few different ways a username can be abusive and different bots offer different filters to prevent this.
*Gaius can apply same blacklist/whitelist to names as messages or only filter based on items in the blacklist tagged %name
**YAGPDB can use configured word-list filters OR a regex filter
Username filtering is less important than other forms of auto moderation, when choosing which bot(s) to use for your auto moderation needs, this should typically be considered last, since users with unsavory usernames can just be nicknamed in order to hide their actual username.
One additional component not included in the table is the effects of implementing a verification gate. The ramifications of a verification gate are difficult to quantify and not easily summarized. Verification gates make it harder for people to join in the conversation of your server, but in exchange help protect your community from trolls, spam bots, those unable to read your server’s language, or other low intent users. This can make administration and moderation of your server much easier. You’ll also see that the percent of people that visit more than 3 channels increases as they explore the server and follow verification instructions, and that percent talked may increase if people need to type a verification command.
However, in exchange you can expect to see server leaves increase. In addition, total engagement on your other channels may grow at a slower pace. User retention will decrease as well. Furthermore, this will complicate the interpretation of your welcome screen metrics, as the welcome screen will need to be used to help people primarily follow the verification process as opposed to visiting many channels in your server. There is also no guarantee that people who send a message after clicking to read the verification instructions successfully verified. In order to measure the efficacy of your verification system, you may need to use a custom solution to measure the proportion of people that pass or fail verification.
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