What I've Learned From Running a 10,000 Member Discord Server

June 09, 2021

I created a Smash Bros. Discord server in 2016. Since then, I’ve seen the Discord platform develop into what it is today, while achieving Discord Partner status along the way.

And Discord’s adoption rate isn’t slowing down. In fact, this voice and text chat app for gamers has grown from 10 million active users in 2017 to 140 million active users this year. That growth is nuts.

Discord is the best communication app I’ve ever used

So what makes this platform so special? For those of you who don’t know, Discord was initially an app for your phone or PC made for gamers. However, recently it’s expanded to cater to a broader range of users. Imagine Slack and Zoom had a baby, and that’s approximately what it’s like.

10 Things I’ve Learned

Are you looking to start your own server? Here are a few things I’ve learned from growing a one from 0 to 10,000 in about two years:

  1. Determine your Discord server’s purpose and optimize for it. Why are you creating a Discord server in the first place? Is it for chatting with friends? Is it around a type of game, or a theme? Once you’ve decided what your server is for, build text and voice chats around it. You can use categories to group similar chats to make it easier for members to navigate your server. Utilize the channel descriptions to provide more context for a new member.
  2. Set some clear server rules and stick to them. Typically the first text “channel” or chat in a Discord server contains the server rules. You define them - they can be as strict or as loose as you’d like. I’ve found this rule to be wildly helpful: This server is not subject to your definition of “fairness.” This makes it much easier to avoid silly quarrels when members don’t like how you run your server (remember, they can always leave if they like). Usually it’s a good idea to include what kind of behavior and content is/isn’t tolerated (i.e. not safe for work content, taboo topics, advertising, etc).
  3. Build a team of moderators you trust. As your server gets larger, chances are you won’t always be around when chaos ensues. The internet is full of trolls and ne’er-do-wells, and any moderately-successful internet community is going to receive an unwelcome visit at some point. Make sure your mods understand the rules clearly and are engaged enough to be privy to community happenings.
  4. Do not flippantly use “@everyone” - treat the ping sacredly. Nothing makes users more angry than a pointless notification. Using “@everyone” notifies every single person in a server - so use it sparingly. Reserving pings only for important announcements is ideal. Make sure to remove most users’ ability to use @here and @everyone in your server permission settings, too.
  5. Establish rewards for engaged members. Building an active community can take time - but rewarding special roles or privileges to active users can help incentivize more activity. This can be like a special color for their name, high spot on a list of users, or the ability to react to messages with emotes.
  6. People don’t read unless they have to. This means there’s a good shot people won’t have understood the rules in your server, despite your best attempts to do so. You can either force them to by setting up a bot to have them type in a special phrase to acknowledge they read the rules, or you can let your moderators remind unread users about the rules. Play this by ear.
  7. Don’t be afraid to swing the ban hammer. Trolls or problematic members can cause a community to become toxic. So be on the lookout for users that are stirring up trouble or have bad attitudes. Remember, this is your server. You have the freedom to remove anyone who you think may be contributing negatively to your domain.
  8. Get comfortable with roles and permissions. Setting up roles and permissions are very helpful for establishing mod powers, hidden channels, the ability to mute users, and plenty more. Roles can be highly customized, and Discord does a good job of preventing a user from locking themselves out by accident.
  9. Discord is addicting. Make sure you take breaks. Like other online communication platforms, it can be easy to get sucked in and never want to leave. So be mindful of that!
  10. Dark theme is the only theme. OK, so there’s light theme, too… but if you use it I will incessantly make fun of you. Dark theme is way better.

Bonus: share your Discord link and invite users to join on other digital platforms.

A huge reason the server grew were the series of calls to action we’d include on videos, social media posts, and blog posts that drove fans to the Discord before it was even known as SmashCafé.

Here’s a trailer I made that included a tease for one of the Legacy mods from years ago. Notice the call to action at the very end is to join the server. I also included a link to join it in the description.

Closing Remarks

A huge thank-you to the other administrators and moderators for helping make that Discord server an active, engaged community.

Do you have any tips to run a Discord server that I may have missed? Maybe you just are curious about the platform? I’d love hear about your insights and experience! Just @ me on Twitter. Or you can join my personal Discord server, I’d love to have you!


© 2021 David V. Kimball • Support my work on Patreon