331: Community Engagement

So, you’ve finally set up your server. You’ve taken care of the technical aspects, recruited staff and have a certain level of membership in your server. As important as those steps are, your job is not finished. You will now have to focus on how you can keep your community alive and well. This is where engagement comes into play.

 

Community engagement is, simply put, the staff of a server engaging in certain actions to better communicate, and get more involved with the community in order to keep it active. It also includes directing users towards various activities in order to improve their communication with each other. It shows to your members how much you actually care for the community, as well as how willing you are to participate and improve your relations in it as a staff member. Additionally, these methods help you increase your personal contribution and your members’ contribution to the server, creating a stronger sense of unity in the process.

 

While this may sound somewhat complicated, it is actually quite simple to do, and eventually, will feel natural to how you run your community. This article will focus on explaining some of the previously mentioned actions and activities in detail as well as clarifying their importance in the process of maintaining a healthy community.

News, Updates, and Announcements

Each server has a purpose. People usually join servers because they are seeking a community built around that purpose whether it be in pursuit of more knowledge about a certain topic or for befriending those with a shared interest. After all, a servers’ purpose is the main reason why members keep coming back to check the server and participate. As a staff member, it is your duty to help provide up to date information to your members as well as providing safe spaces for them to talk about it. By not keeping your members informed you may inadvertently exude the feeling that you don’t particularly care about the server topic and, consequently, the community itself.

 

Before we continue, we must define each of the terms mentioned in the heading of this section. Keep in mind that these are not strict dictionary definitions, but ones that are more fitting for the topic of managing a specific community as they cover the different messages a moderation team may share with their community.

News consists of recent updates regarding the focus topic of your server.

Some examples of newsworthy updates would be:

  • Posting about a release of a new episode in a server about a TV series.
  • Sharing a link to an article about something that happened in politics in a server about politics.
  • Highlighting the new class schedule in a server about your school.
  • Noting that there is an official outage affecting the game that a server is dedicated to.

 

These are short and simple posts that keep everyone informed about things regarding the main topic of the server. Posting news should almost always be done as soon as possible and without biased opinion. The posts in #News should not be meta- that is, about the running of the server itself and not the topic in specific.

 

Updates are posts about changes in the server itself. This usually refers to changing rules, adding or removing channels, updating roles or permissions, and more. If it’s a change to a moderation system or the server itself, it is best to flag it for your users with an update post. These posts should always be short and comprehensive. It is very important for all your members to understand these changes so they don’t break rules after an update because they did not understand what you wrote. It also helps maintain transparency between the moderation team and the users.

 

Updates should be posted as soon as possible, but since you are the one deciding when they come out, you can time them in a way to post multiple updates in a single announcement post.

 

Announcements are usually larger posts that cover several updates and other server related things that you would like to post about on a larger scale. They should always contain information that is highly important to the community. Alternatively, they can be smaller in size if you’d like to post about one specific thing due to the timing of it, but be careful about which pings you use in that case. An example of this would be celebrating a server milestone by taking a look back on the history of the server, announcing new changes to accommodate growth, and sharing a giveaway in celebration of the new milestone all at once.

 

We recommend trying to keep these different types of posts organized into separate channels. This is done to avoid too much cluttering and makes things easier to find for both your moderation team and your members. Your larger posts, as well as server updates, should usually be focused into your main announcement channel. Having a separate channel for news is helpful for those using your community as an information source and not an engagement hub. Make any other announcement channels on a case-by-case basis. For example, if you host a large number of events, make a separate channel for event announcements. 

 

Announcement drafting tips:
  • Keep your posts brief, but provide necessary detail. Larger announcements should never be over 500-550 words long, unless it is extremely important. If something can wait, it’s better to move it to a later date as people will not fully read announcements that are too long.
  • Be succinct. Try not to beat around the bush too much and get straight to the point of the post.
  • Try to avoid using complex language. Discord has a lot of users all over the world, and not all of them speak English as a first language. You can use this simplewriter tool to limit yourself to the 1,000 most common English words. In case that you do need to use more complex terms, try to explain them to your audience.
  • Do not use offensive language. Your moderation team sets examples for your community and should abide by professional guidelines. Do not include derogatory terms and slurs in official communications.
  • Format your posts. Clearly list all your points into separate paragraphs with titles and use markdown to highlight important parts, or use an easy to read bulleted list depending upon the content of the post.
  • Use emotes. This one is optional. Emotes aren’t necessary, but they make the post more aesthetically appealing to the reader and make you seem relatable. Make sure not to use too many! 
  • Disable auto-embed. If you have multiple links in your post, use the format (replace the word link with the actual link you’re posting) to disable the auto-embed on that link. This will prevent cluttering below your post.
Usage of @everyone, @here, and other role pings

The usage of pings is usually implied for all announcements. What roles you will ping in your post depends on who the announcement is meant for. That being said, you should have a role for each ping you need. These roles should be listed visibly somewhere on the server and easily selectable or assignable. Having opt-in roles allows members to select what they want and don’t want to be notified about. For example: if you post a lot of announcements for a specific event- let’s say karaoke- make a karaoke role for the members who wish to be notified for it. 

 

In the same sense, make a related news role for people who want to get notified about the news on the server. This especially applies if you have a large number of these posts coming out frequently, since not everybody likes getting pinged constantly.

 

The most important ping in the server would be @everyone. This ping should only be used for large announcements and updates that do not happen very often. Do not use this ping unless it is about something extremely important for the server that everyone actually needs to see. For a more time-sensitive ping that requires immediate attention of those actively present, we recommend using an @here ping instead of an @everyone ping. Overusing either of these pings will likely anger your community. However, it is important to note that most users do not like usage of these pings at all despite them being very necessary from a moderation standpoint, and such pings can often lead to a small group of users leaving the server whenever utilized. Do not allow this to deter you from their usage, this is only noted to help you determine necessary usage for @here and crucial usage for @everyone. As such, the larger your community, the less often you should seek to use these pings.

 

If used correctly, pings will keep people, both active and inactive, coming back to your server to check these posts. Keeping your community updated is always highly appreciated by the members and could increase server activity over time. However, it is also important to note that you should not be discouraged by some quieter members exiting the server in response to these pings.

Server Events

Events are activities where both members and moderation staff socialize. What’s most important about the events is that everyone has fun! Usually you won’t see people communicating in multiple channels. Most users will focus their activity into one or two channels dedicated to the event. Events can serve as a way to bring users together in a single place that may dedicate their time within the server to different channels and allow them to meet new people. A user who only focuses on the creative channels in a server can quickly find themself befriending a bug hunter who mostly focuses on programming within the server, and bringing everyone together to have fun is what community events are all about!

 

There are a few things you should keep in mind when hosting an event:

  • Plan and announce the event ahead of time. Make sure you know what kind of event you’re planning and let your members know in time to clear their schedules.
  • Be mindful of the time. Take notice of what time your server is most active. Remember, not everyone lives in the same time zone. You should also prioritize evenings and weekends, because that’s when most people are actually available, but pick times that may allow international participation if possible. 
  • Try to include a lot of people. This doesn’t only mean going for having a large number of participants, you need to think about what is accessible to most users. Not everyone can buy that expensive game you want to host a tournament for.
  • Watch the participant count. Usually, your goal should be for your event to have as many participants as possible, but sometimes you can’t do that due to technical limitations. This is something you need to determine in advance and make clear in your announcement.
  • Utilize voice chat. Voice channels are a great tool that can make hosting some events easier as it allows bonding between participants. Keep in mind that with an active voice chat comes the need for moderators for that voice chat, which you can learn more about how to tackle moderating voice channels here
  • Have fun! Really. That’s the entire point of having events! The easiest way to to bond and form meaningful connections between you and your community is to have a good time on the server with them. 

 

These are just some of the basic and simple things to get you started. For a more detailed guide to hosting events on Discord, see here.

Contests

Contests are a good way of allowing your members to show off their skills. It’s a great way to give creators a platform to share their talents with the world. Contents can also allow participants to feel a sense of contribution to their community--a way for them to feel like they have done their part in building the server.

 

A great example of this would be art contents for emojis, profile pictures of self-hosted bots, the server icon, and even the server banner. Artists can give back to the community and gain exposure, and the community can show appreciation to artists. 

 

So what are the most important things to know when planning a contest?

  • What kind of contest is it? It can be writing, artwork, making a meme, etc. There are plenty of options, so pick whichever one is suited best for your community.
  • Set up fitting rules. Make sure contest rules reinforce the server rules, but are also keeping in mind various forms of art that can be considered for entry.
  • Decide on a voting system. Many prefer to allow server members to vote. However, moderation intervention can occur for final say and if there is concern about something being turned into a popularity contest.
  • Create an incentive. People may not participate just because there’s a contest--a reward can keep them interested and incentivize participation.

 

Giveaways

Giveaways are a great and simple way to reward your community. People always like free stuff, so you don’t even need an extra reason to justify hosting a giveaway outside of someone wanting to! 

 

One thing to keep in mind when hosting giveaways is transparency. One of the best ways to show that a giveaway is truly random is the utilization of a giveaway bot. There are a lot of bots out there that can fulfill this need, but here are a few to consider if you’d like to get started:

  • Giveaway Bot - Most commonly used bot for giveaways across Discord.
  • Eli  - Primarily has other functions, but has a giveaway tool as well.
  • Giveaways - Very useful for large scale giveaways of over 5,000 participants.

 

Using bots allows your users to easily participate without questioning the authenticity of winner selection. 

 

What can I give away? Well, pretty much anything that is legal to give away to someone. Always be sure that you have the reward ready before hosting the giveaway. It really doesn’t matter how big your giveaway is. Even small things can make someone’s day better, like a custom role, a piece of art from a beloved community member, or a month of Discord Nitro! Try to keep things in digital format. Sending a physical object can be problematic and expensive due to communities being mostly international and also requires sharing of personal information that servers members of minors may not be comfortable with.

 

When do I host my giveaway? Your moderation team and your server can host giveaways as often as you like. You don’t require an excuse to host a give, but any special celebration, such as a server member milestone or server birthday are common times for giveaways to pop up. If allowing a server member to host a giveaway, it is still the moderation team’s responsibility to ensure a smooth and scam-free giveaway experience for the winner.

Task Roles

As you may know, not everyone is capable of contributing to the server through artistic methods like in the case of contests. Still, there are plenty of users in the server who are looking to contribute in different forms. By granting certain permissions to select roles, you can create an environment more suitable for this.

 

Task roles are roles that have specific permissions granted to them pertaining to select tasks in the community. These permissions are for specified purposes other than moderation as it is still imperative to make sure you don’t give the wrong permissions to the wrong people.

 

Task roles can be very handy when you have some sort of manual work that can only be done with certain permissions, but also when your staff team is shorthanded. It helps ease the load on your moderators, while allowing members to help with the server and work directly with the moderation team. Additionally, giving users some level of permissions helps close the “power gap” between staff and regular members. It shows people that there isn’t too much difference between the moderators and everyone else, aside from the workload and the hoisted role.

 

One of the most common examples of a task role would be an Event Manager. These are users who organize events for the server. Staff can’t always set enough time aside to host events, and even if they could, they would run out of ideas at some point. Remember that you have a community with a certain number of people, who potentially have endless ideas on what events you can host. Allow these users to express their ideas and host them as well. Having multiple organizers, along with a staff member to oversee the schedule, can create a rotating event cycle that doesn’t place too much burden on any specific person.

 

If you begin to utilize task roles in your community, make sure that you carefully select those whom you are granting permissions to.

Suggestions and Feedback

It’s important for the staff to show their trust in the community and allow them to give their honest opinions on server matters. Suggestions and feedback are a great way to achieve this. Just like with events, your members could potentially have endless ideas on how you can improve the server. Listening to your members matters. They’re the ones who make up your community, without them none of what you are doing would even be possible. That’s why having a channel for suggestions and feedback is helpful.

 

There are a few thing to keep in mind when it comes to suggestions and feedback:

  • The channel should be open to everyone. To ensure full transparency, all server members should have the permission to read and write in the channel. In cases where you have to gate your server, try to make the channel at least readable for everyone.
  • Set specific rules for the channel. It should be very clear that it is not a place for memes or trolling, but for serious discussion. Inappropriate behavior should not be tolerated. Additionally, it should be kept strictly to server related matters.
  • Openly ask for feedback. Use your position to actively ask for feedback, either through announcements or whichever other platform on the server. Inviting your members to do so shows them you are actually interested in what they have to say.
  • Stay open-minded. While not every idea may sound great in the beginning, given enough thought it could turn out pretty well. Always be open to compromise. Don’t simply dismiss things because they seem bad at first sight. Start a conversation about it and see where the idea is headed, it could actually be good.
  • Not every suggestion will be good. Just because you should keep an open mind, does not mean that every suggestion will be good or accepted. Identifying good and bad ideas requires equal communication amongst the moderators and members of the server.
  • Be honest. When you are giving your decision on a matter, give a clear explanation why you made that decision. Honesty is the best policy, lying will only make members lose their trust in you.
  • Have a firm stance. When you come to a decision, try to make sure it’s the final one. Don’t simply change your mind on the first disagreement. Not everyone will always agree with your choice, but you still need to think of what’s best for the community as a whole.
  • Accept your mistakes. Sometimes moderation teams will make a wrong decision. Rectify your decision, and then acknowledge what you did wrong and fix it. Being stubborn about it will only make things worse.

 

Be sure to make it clear that if people are uncomfortable with giving this feedback in an open channel setting that they can send their concerns via DMs or another private outlet of your choosing. Approach that feedback with the same points in mind. With all these points in mind, you should be able to maintain a healthy relationship with your members.

Talk in the Chat

As simple as it may sound, this is one of the most effective ways of engaging with your community. While members join your server for its purpose, they often only actively chat and stay for the community itself. Moderators, as leaders of the community, should put their best foot forward by actively talking in the chat, both text and voice, themselves. This is the easiest way to showcase your care and interest. 

 

As a moderator, it’s helpful to get to know your members. Befriend them, be open with them, have fun. When you get closer to your members, they will trust you more. Of course, as a leader, you need to lead by example for your community and show good behavior in chat. When it comes to the rules, it’s okay to be forgiving, but do not avoid dealing punishments for some offenses due to friendly bias. Present yourself as just another member of the community, but do not forsake your role as a moderator.

 

Another thing you should consider is having your direct messages open to your members. Sometimes they won’t be comfortable with saying something in a public chat. That’s why you need to give them an option to message you directly. Be willing to let members rely on you even when it comes to topics they don’t feel like talking about in public. This is a sign that you are trusted. Do not misplace this trust. Once it’s gone, it can be difficult to earn back.

 

You should also consider reaching out to your members personally when you feel something is wrong. They are an important part of your community, so show that you care. Sometimes this can have a great impact, not only on their time in your server, but their lives in general. 

 

Casual chatter not only helps make your community more tight-knit, it also builds great relationships. What you may not realize is that you could be making some life-long friends in chat as a moderator, too.

Summary

There are many different ways you can go about engaging with your community which makes it a fun and easy task for moderation teams. Open communication and consideration of users’ feelings will result in maintained trust in your moderation team and a healthy server environment. Every server is different and members require certain things from every moderation team, but communication is key to cultivating a positive space that can continue to thrive for years to come.

 

Ready to test your moderator skills? Take the Discord Moderator Exam!