442: Using Insights to Improve Community Growth and Engagement

One of the best ways to grow or increase activity in your community is to put yourself in the shoes of your members, and experiment with ways to improve their experiences. For new members, consider how they arrive in your server. What are the first things they see? Where do they have to go? What could help them understand why your community is awesome and get them to stick around? For existing members, consider why they come to your server. What are they doing? When do they talk the most? Afterwards, come up with a list of things to try and make those changes! This is when Server Insights comes in to play: you can use Server Insights to verify if your changes are actually working. Here's a deeper dive on this framework

Improving Member Acquisition

The first component of strong community growth and engagement is making sure that the right people (aka “high-intent people”) are joining your server. In other words, you should consider “what are the characteristics of a member that will meaningfully contribute to the server, and where are (or aren’t) those members in my traffic sources?

While the overall traffic source data trends can be helpful in explaining phenomena you’ve observed on your server, you could also use a Discord bot to track how individual members join your server. If you can think of a handful of good (or bad) members and find that they all came from the same invite link, this may provide valuable information about the quality of that traffic source.

For example, you may want to remove your invite link from traffic sources that attract users who:

  • Do not speak your server language - This can occur if your invite link is shared in a foreign community or somewhere that has a high proportion of foreign users.
  • Join just to raid or troll - This can occur as a result of listing your server on Discovery or third party listing sites, but not always.
  • Expect a server about a different topic -  For example, an American football server that is attracting Europeans who are actually looking to talk about soccer.

However, you might want to add or further promote your invite link on traffic sources that bring users who:

  • Are knowledgeable about your server topic.
  • Behave maturely and follow the server rules.
  • Help other people.
  • Provide a large amount of activity.

Making these adjustments to your traffic sources will help you attract a higher proportion of users that will interact more quickly with other members (improving activation), and encourage them to subsequently return to your server more frequently and over a longer period of time (improving retention). However, this only accounts for the beginning of a member’s server experience. The next step is to further encourage these new members to interact.

Improving Member Activation

Once you are attracting high-intent members to your server, you need to make sure that these new members are able to participate in your community and encourage them to do so. The best way to do this is to provide an easily understandable new member experience with a simple explanation of the server, and a clear ‘call to action’.

The first thing you should do is enable the Welcome Screen in order to guide new members through your server’s layout and purpose. Directing people to the most important channels and providing a ‘call to action’, such as “introduce yourself here” will help new members know how to start their interaction with the community. These channels should have informative, easy to understand content that helps people know the purpose and rules of the server, as well as how to navigate it and use any special features you’ve implemented through Discord bots. Be sure to use concise and easy to understand role and channel names.

Limiting the number of channels visible to new members may also help them navigate the server more easily. Especially if your users are new to Discord, having a long channel list can be overwhelming. Some users may immediately leave if there are too many channels in the server. Fortunately, channel categories can help you keep your channel list organized. Keeping no more than five channels in a category makes it easy to navigate, and putting the most active categories at the top allows users to jump into the conversation without needing to scroll through a long list of channels before they’re ready. You can also make some channels opt-in and require people to type a bot command or click a reaction in order to join it, allowing them to define their own server experience.

If you do need a significant amount of channels, include a welcome or informational channel at the top of your server that lists all of your channels with a brief description of their purpose. This will serve as a resource for new members that get lost in your server, and give them a quick overview of everything they can do.

You can also use a Discord bot to greet new members after they join, or even send them a direct message with a brief explanation of how to use your server. Mentioning new users in a general discussion channel gives them guidance about where they should start talking. Including a question prompt about your server’s topic, such as who their favorite character is in a game or anime, can encourage them to send that first message and start making connections. Regardless of what incentives or prompts you implement, getting members to participate in their first conversation is key to helping them find a place in your community.

Implementing Verification

Implementing a verification gate is a good way to protect your server from low-level trolls and spammers. However, it can also be a barrier to entry for legitimate members. In this case, you should ensure that your welcome screen guides members to the appropriate channels for members to verify and that your instructions for verifying are clear. If members still have issues completing verification, you may want to evaluate the most common mistakes and how you can better explain or implement the process. One option is to have a bot explain the process in a direct message or in a dedicated greeter channel

Improving User Retention

The next step is to ensure new members ultimately stick around and stay in the community. Improving member activation is an important component of achieving this step, since a user that has already interacted with other members of your community is much more likely to return and continue visiting your server. The concept of a user coming back to your server after their initial join is referred to as retaining a user. Discord measures “first week retention,” which is the proportion of members that visit your server again between seven and 14 days after joining. 

Announcement Channels

If your server is focused around a game, TV show/series, anime, product or similar topic, invest in announcement channels that will provide your members with useful information and give them a reason to check on your server frequently. This includes both automated feeds, such as from a blog or a Twitter account, and manually curated news channels.

For example, giving new members a ‘news’ role when they join or allowing them to opt in to a news role will allow you to mention the role so that interested members can receive notice about important updates.

However, it’s important to make sure members can remove this role if they don’t want it, and not to abuse tagging it. Members that receive too many mentions from a server may be more likely to mute all mentions from the server or even just leave entirely. When applicable though, providing regular updates in this fashion gives members an excellent reason to visit regularly and remain engaged.

Encouraging Communication

A more universal - though more difficult - method of increasing user retention is to always make sure there is something to talk about on your server. Increasing the proportion of visitors that become communicators can be as simple as providing channels where people can talk about your server’s topic with others, ask for help, or engage in meaningful discussion. If your server is about a game that receives constant updates, for example, then there may be plenty of existing conversation material. These conversations can be further encouraged by making use of a leveling system through a Discord bot. As people chat, they can gain “exp” and level up on your server. These levels can grant special roles to the users or even special permissions. Such systems create a goal for which members can strive, and give them another reason to keep coming back. 

If you want to take matters into your own hands, consider implementing concerted community engagement efforts from your staff. This includes projects such as hosting server events, contests, and giveaways.

Experimenting and Measuring Results

Once you’ve optimized your server to improve acquisition, activation, and retention, you need to measure the results of your efforts. Some changes may be immediately visible in your insights, while others (such as ones made to improve retention) can take a week or two to show their effects.

Currently, server insights gives you the option to view statistics on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. These are all valuable ways to see how your server is performing in both the short and long term. However, it’s important to remember that because metrics such as communicators and visitors are tied to the individual user, the sum of the data for higher resolution time periods will not always equal the value for a lower resolution time period. For example, if one user visits your server every day for a week, they will be counted seven times if you view your insights at the daily level. However, if you view your insights at the weekly level, they will only count once. Analyzing your insights over multiple time resolutions may reveal slightly different patterns in each, and both the quantity and resolution of your data will affect your analysis results. While measuring changes in the first few days can help you understand any critical consequences, overall you should wait at least one or two weeks to ensure you have a representative amount of data and that daily variations are not complicating your insights.

It is important to note that depending on the nature of your community and what changes you’ve made that there is an almost infinite number of ways to interpret changes in your server insights. What might be bad for your server might be good for another, or vice versa. Keep in mind the following caveats as you read about measuring results:

  • The actions listed here are limited to the ones discussed in this article, and are not exhaustive ways you can affect your server insights.
  • Some actions may have additional possible results based on the nature of your community.
  • Implementing multiple changes at once may affect the same metric in conflicting ways or to a different extent. For example, if you add your invite link to one website and remove it from another website, the overall effect on your new member joins will depend on the net effect of both changes.

While the guidelines listed here are excellent ways to begin to understand how your actions affect your member insights, they are only guidelines. You should always evaluate your metrics critically and in your community’s context.

Measuring Member Acquisition

Measuring acquisition is done using charts and tables on the Growth & Activation tab. Although constant or mild growth is important to maintain the longevity of your community, what these users are (or aren’t) doing after they join your server is much more important than just joining it. While you should take corrective action if you notice your total membership decreasing over a long period of time, there is no absolute growth percentage or total number of members joining per day that indicates a healthy community. The table below summarizes the suggested actions to take to improve the quality and/or quantity of members joining your server and how you could expect these changes to affect your server insights on their own.

Hypothesis

Chart/Table Affected

Expected Result

Removing invite links from less relevant traffic sources will decrease server growth.

  • How many new members are joining?
  • Total membership over time
  • Most popular invites/referrers
  • New members joining decreases
  • Total membership over time grows more slowly or decreases
  • Total joins from the invite link/referrer decreases

Adding or promoting an invite link on a relevant traffic source will increase server growth

  • How many new members are joining?
  • Total membership over time
  • Most popular invites/referrers
  • New members joining increases
  • Total membership over time increases more quickly or decreases more slowly
  • Total joins from the invite link/referrer increases

Improving the overall quality of referrers will attract people that are more likely to stay on your server and engage with your community

  • Server leaves over time
  • How many new members successfully activate on their first day?
  • Members remain on your server after joining, decreasing server leaves over time from new members
  • Members are more likely to want to engage with your server prior to joining, and will be more likely to talk or visit multiple channels
Measuring Activation and Retention 

Measuring the effects of changes to improve activation and/or retention is more complex than measuring acquisition due to their interrelated nature. The direct effect of your changes can be measured from the respective graphs for first day activation and users retained in the next week  on the Growth & Activation tab. However, the implications of these changes extend to other parts of your insights as well. Improving first day activation tends to also improve user retention, and improving both of these will also affect charts and tables on the Engagement tab. Although these actions are not all designed to improve user retention, you can assume that any action that increases first day activation has a chance to increase user retention as well.

Hypothesis

Chart/Table Affected

Expected Result

Enabling or adjusting the Welcome Screen will guide users to the right introduction channels and encourage engagement

Welcome Screen

  • All metrics

Growth & Activation

  • How many new members successfully activate on their first day? - % visited more than 3 channels
  • Users click on each channel in equal proportion and send messages in equal proportion afterwards
  • % visited more than 3 channels will increase
  • First day activation increases

Streamlining the channel and role structure will make the server less overwhelming to new users and encourage participation


and/or


Greeting people upon joining the server in a general chat channel will encourage them to respond and participate in the community

Growth & Activation

  • How many new members successfully activate on their first day?

Engagement

  • How many members visited and communicated?
  • Message activity
  • Which text/voice channels do people use the most?
  • % talked (voice or text) will increase
  • % communicators will increase
  • Message activity will increase
  • Channels that are made opt in, require privileged access, or moved to the bottom of the channel list will have less engagement than other channels
  • The channel with greet messages will have an increased number of readers and, if send messages is enabled, a greater number of messages and chatters

Implementing a news feed announcement channels with role notifications will encourage people to check the announcement channel regularly

Growth & Activation

  • How many new members retain the next week?

Engagement

  • Which text/voice channels do people use the most?
  • Members retained will increase
  • Readers on the announcement channel will increase

Implementing community engagement campaigns will improve activity

The measurement and expected results of each community engagement campaign will vary based on the exact nature of the campaign. However, you can expect that they will improve some combination of first day activation, user retention, and/or percent communicators within your server.

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.

Conclusion

After taking the time to understand your community, you can begin to implement changes that improve your member experience and boost your server performance. However, the changes you make to your server can affect your community in varied and unexpected ways. Knowing what to expect is an important part of evaluating whether your changes had the desired effect, but careful analysis of your server insights with community context is vital to maintaining your server.

There are a multitude of ways to interpret your insights and a multitude of ways to improve them. This article is only one framework for doing so. Hopefully this has helped you make connections between the characteristics of your community, the way you manage it, and its overall performance so that you can broaden your understanding even further in the future.