How Our Discord Community Saved Powder

  • Applying the ‘superhuman’ methodology in a new way;
  • Growing a Discord community in record time;
  • Setting up a welcoming and fun Discord server;
  • Best (and worst) community management practices

PART 1: Growing the Discord community from the ground up

The ‘superhuman’ methodology: what it is, how it works

Example of a ‘superhuman’ survey we’ve used.

Gathering respondents for the feedback pipeline: how best to reach your target

  1. Users that subscribed to product updates via ads received a second email inviting them to join the Discord, which drove traffic there.
  2. Manual ‘fishing’, i.e. finding potential users on gaming-related servers and DM-ing them with an invitation to join.

PART 2: Building the Discord server

Server architecture

Checklist for setting up a server

a. Channels, pop-ups, and DMs

Our welcome screen!
Movie night is one of the regular events hosted on our server.

b. Roles

Example of a #get-a-role channel.
  • Powder fam— a universal role assigned upon joining, aimed at making new members feel included and affiliated with the brand from the start.
  • First 10k, 20k, 30k” — refers to the membership ‘cohorts’ and helps to strengthen a sense of belonging, while also highlighting that the community is vibrant and growing at a fast pace.
  • Alpha’’ and beta — we found that giving some people early access to alpha and beta versions of Powder really fuelled engagement and brand loyalty. Early users are more likely to give feedback, report bugs, and generally play a more active role in shaping the app. We also created exclusive private channels for alpha/beta role holders, dedicated to discussion on app features and improvements — a great small trick for iterating with the community!

c. Bots

  • MEE6 is a legendary ‘Swiss Army knife’ of bots. Designed by Discord itself, it combines a number of functions essential to any server: moderation, custom commands, reaction roles, as well as Twitch, YouTube, and Twitter alerts. MEE6 can also give ranks to people to reward engagement (i.e. number of messages) — which can help to fuel activity. The ranks can be somewhat misleading though: we found that only a small percentage of members is active in chats on a regular basis. That said, just because members don’t message, doesn’t mean there is no interest — some just want to follow announcements.
  • Danker Meme is the ultimate entertainment bot, famous for posting memes and generating images. It’s also a global currency game with over 20m users, where they can collect unique items, pets, and more.
  • ‘Powder Plus’ is our very own bot invented by one of our members, Majed (!!), to simplify the reporting of bugs and product suggestions through a ticket filing system. We’ve relied on it regularly ever since.
  • Carl-bot combines a lot of the functionalities mentioned above thanks to powerful custom commands — a true magic wand once you figure out how to use it.

Key takeaways

  • Build a clear server architecture. Design a server that will showcase the value of your project and make people want to become part of the big adventure. An experienced Discord community manager is highly recommended to make the most out of the many versatile tools the platform has to offer.
  • Reshuffle channels wisely. There is no one formula for what a server is supposed to look like. It’s important to resist the temptation of imposing your own vision of how the server is to be organized. Instead, pay close attention to the dynamics of your community: because while some channels may seem trivial or even quirky to your team, they could be essential to other members.
  • Bots are great, but humans are better. We found that no amount of bots can compensate for the lack of actual human activity when it comes to engagement, so make sure to enlist the best volunteers from the community and have at least one full-time staff member animating discussions and events on a daily basis. More on that later.
  • Think through the UX. To make sure the experience is fluid and optimized for low-effort feedback communication for those who join, we even created flowcharts (image below!) to help us get a holistic overview of all the steps.
Example of a flowchart used to understand the user journey on Discord.

PART 3: Managing a fast-growing community

Community management

  • What makes you interested in this position?
  • Have you had this role on another server?
  • What would you do in X situation, e.g. if a member of the community made an offensive comment on a public channel?
Preview of the feedback survey.
  • Admins — staff members with most powers in terms of influencing the server architecture, distributing roles, and ‘pruning’ members.
  • Moderator — whose main job is to moderate the server, i.e. keeping it active, answering people’s questions, and punishing misbehaviors.
  • Helpers — responsible for welcoming newcomers and helping the rest of the staff with smaller tasks, such as resolving bug tickets.
  • Curators — in-app moderators in charge of curating the gaming clips feed.
  • Game leads — in charge of animating game-specific channels.
  • Welcome team — whose primary role is to welcome every new member on the server and direct them to certain channels as per their requirement.
Preview of rules shared with Powder mod team members.

Key takeaways

  • Application forms. People who care to fill out the form will usually be committed, at least for some time. We noticed a correlation between the quality of answers and people’s subsequent level of engagement. It also helped to identify members that were older, hence more mature and fit to assume responsibilities.
  • Clear code of conduct and responsibilities per staff role. It can be difficult to moderate social situations, as a lot of behaviors are relative. There’s a thin line between humor and hate speech, and detailed rules on what constitutes a ban-worthy action and/or insult, help to get everyone aligned on how to handle ambiguous situations.
  • Sending out ‘thank you’ goodies. We sent out T-shirts and postcards to thank the most dedicated staff /community members, which they appreciate a lot.
  • Reviewing member activity. We used a spreadsheet to track which staff members were still active with messaging on the main channels as time passed. Whenever there was a drop in activity, a ‘three-strikes’ rule would apply. All staff that would get their privileges revoked as a result of inactivity were invited to reapply should they change their mind. This was a very time-consuming, manual effort for our team, but can definitely be worth it to filter out people.
  • Monthly calls with the Powder team. Regular online meetings create a true team spirit. Discord is about a sense of belonging, so you have to be there for your regular and staff members every day — with updates, follow-ups, etc.
  • Recruiting Discord staff with a gut feeling. First impressions can be misleading, so it’s better to rely on application forms and objective criteria for recruiting and promoting staff.
  • Growing the staff team too big. That will hinder effective organization eventually. For a server of 50k+ members, 5 admins and 20 mods max should be enough.
  • Promoting people too often. Promotions are a great way of rewarding staff for their hard work. But the bigger the team gets, the more difficult it becomes to stay ‘fair’. There’s a huge impact of who gets promoted on the overall mood in the server, which can lead to things getting too personal and even political, so it must be carried out wisely.
  • Outsourcing server management. Having spotted an active older community member, we offered to become the head administrator of the server on a freelance basis — which didn’t work out too well. Community management is a full-time position that’s best performed by someone familiar with your brand, culture, and values.
  • Having a separate server for the staff. This is not a mistake by definition, but in our case led to a drop in activity on the main server as the staff are also some of the most active members.

PART 4: Conclusion

  • Step 1: Make people learn about the product, fuel interest
  • Step 2: Build a Discord server that ticks all the boxes
  • Step 3: Advertise the server directly
  • Step 4: Ensure qualitative onboarding on Discord
  • Step 5: Build the hype for the product (alpha / beta) with the waitlist
  • Step 6: Send out regular surveys to assess user experience
  • Step 7: Master community management on Discord

Key learnings from the strategy as a whole

  • Being a community-led project pays off. All in all, we were able to build a sizeable community in record time and gather precious feedback for product development. Feedback-driven innovation has become a part of our DNA and has taught us a lot about the real needs of our target market. The size of the community was even taken into account as an important metric during our Series A round!
  • ‘Superhuman’ surveys should be formulated carefully when assessing market readiness. Beware of questions that yield biased answers (e.g. If we added feature X, would you use it?) or are too open-ended (e.g. What feature do you think are missing?). 1–1 user interviews may be a better alternative to email campaigns, particularly for a younger audience.
  • A Discord community does not automatically translate into a dedicated user base for your product. While strategically placed ads act as attractive bait, the people drawn to Discord this way are not always there because of you — they might simply be looking for friends — and hence will not be incentivized to give feedback, or even just use your app, in the long run.
  • Community management is a full-time job. A server like ours required at least one full-time community management. Outsourcing such an important function to a freelancer, or having your team members handle the Discord in addition to other tasks is not a good idea for sustainable scaling. However, automating the server via bots and recruiting volunteer staff can reduce the workload.
  • Moderation is a top priority for community managers. We strongly recommend elaborating a proper staff recruitment process, with clear and detailed guidelines on how to handle conflicts and misbehaviors. Things may get ugly very quickly on Discord, so one must anticipate as much as possible to protect the community and themselves.
  • Communities are earned, not bought. When building a community you must think long-term — beyond the Discord, and beyond the product pipeline. Paid ads will only get you so far, so nurture your community with care and listen to what they have to say every step of the way.



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