What will it take for communities to leave Discord?

In this piece, we discuss:

  • How to delight community managers the most

    • Why member attention matters

    • Why moderation matters

    • Why member growth matters

  • How to support communities in switching off Discord

    • Why existing mental models matter

    • How to reduce friction by supporting migration

  • Which communities are ready to switch

Thanks to Status for funding and collaborating with OpenUX on this research.

OpenUX and Status collaborated to ask community managers why they still use Discord

Since the rise of web3 communities and DAOs in 2020 and 2021, Discord has been the web3 community standard. Its ‘good enough’ user interface and options for crypto-integrated bots made it an obvious choice for most community managers.

Three years later, is a platform originally designed for gamers and content creators still the best tool for web3 communities?

What will it take for communities to leave Discord?

Status, an early entry to the web3 social space with the launch of the Status consumer app in 2017, wanted to explore this topic. While their flagship app was focused on individual-to-individual messaging, Status had a hunch that the crypto social rails they had created could be leveraged to create a highly-tailored experience for tokenized communities.

OpenUX worked together with Status to develop hypotheses about the current experiences and needs of community managers. We recruited over 100 community managers from multiple industries to participate in a large survey and 1-on-1 interviews.

How to delight community managers the most

One of the outcomes of our research was the definition of different cohorts of communities. We found community managers’ behavior and preferences differed based on the size of their community, whether or not their community was monetized, and the overarching purpose of their community.

While we discovered insights relevant to only a few cohorts, there were many themes relevant to all community managers. Our recommendations are listed below:

Build more reliable ways to grab members attention

One of community managers’ most used features on Discord is roles: assigning members to categories that can be sent specialized notifications. While these features are advanced, community managers say utilizing them takes an enormous amount of time.

“We cannot maintain the roles in our community ourselves. We have a lot of people helping us from the community. With so many people in the community, it becomes hard to send relevant announcements” — Manager of a large, non-monetized, crypto contributor community

Even if a community manages to set up their roles efficiently, challenges grabbing members’ attention doesn’t stop there. The continuous chat-based layout of Discord makes it very difficult to direct members to information in a way that matches members’ natural user journey. Connecting members to important community information is another important area to improve on in competing applications.

“Discord does a bad job at creating sources of truth and other pinned information for most members to see. When you have everything in one chat, it is super clustered, and super hard to find information.” — Manager of a small, non-monetized, crypto contributor community

Build more automated ways to moderate both improper and distracting member messages

Managers from all cohorts invest a lot of time into moderating bad actors in an effort to protect their members and improve engagement. Workflows that make it easier to moderate bad actors and unfavorable content would serve a large, high-visibility need.

“The biggest challenge we faced came from people who aren’t part of our community. They join with bad intentions and threaten the security of our members.” — Manager of a small, monetized, crypto social/educational community

“We have people on Discord focusing solely on security and it’s surprising to see how many bots, scammers, and exploiters try to join our server. If bad actors manage to get in they'll direct message our members or spam our channels.” — Manager of a large, non-monetized, crypto contributor community

“We’ve had people engaging in aggressive self-promotion and it’s something we struggle dealing with sometimes. How can we promote the right behaviors?” — Manager of a small, non-monetized, crypto social/educational community

Help communities fuel their own member growth with tools that boost discoverability to new members

Most managers are actively broadcasting on multiple platforms where their potential members may gather. If they have enough time and expertise, they’ll also seek promotional partnerships.

New platforms could build tools that boost outsiders’ ability to discover new communities or platform-wide benefits that grow the pool of active potential community participants.

“Growth of the community is our biggest job. We’re always trying to figure out how we can grow it further. Right now our goal is to bring more Web2 people into the space and our community.” — Manager of a large, monetized, crypto product community

“It's really about which partners are aligned with us and will amplify our message to help us find more members and get organic growth” — Manager of a large, monetized, crypto social/educational community

How to support communities in switching off Discord

Work with managers’ existing mental models by supporting basic channels, roles, permissions, and notifications

Many managers have developed their mental models for how community management works in Discord. Those who do have existing mental models expect to set up their communities with a few core features, including multiple channels, roles, announcements, notifications, multi-platform availability, and bot integrations.

Discord’s broad suite of these essential features is another major inertia factor that keeps managers from trying newer, more focused tools.

“I like that in Discord you can have multiple channels in one server. I don't think Telegram has this function yet. That is a must-have.” — Manager of a small, non-monetized, crypto social/educational community

“I think the one thing I might miss about Discord would be the option to create a live call. So I can go to the lounge section and start talking to people there.” — Manager of a small, non-monetized, crypto contributor community

Support communities with their migration to alleviate concerns over member drop off and lost engagement

For most community managers, momentum with growing engagement is the number one goal. Most of the benefits a new community platform could provide pale in comparison with the risk of losing engagement and/or momentum by making a switch.

New community platforms must share messaging that addresses managers’ concerns about lost engagement and builds confidence that hands-on help is available to manage the transition. Larger communities would especially benefit from services that automate member transfer.

“We picked and continued to use Discord because our community was picking up steam and we had lots of engagement so we didn’t think about switching from it at all.” — Manager of a small, non-monetized, crypto contributor community

“I would say for now we're gonna continue with our setup. Not currently interested in switching.” — Manager of a large, monetized, crypto product community

Which communities are more ready to make the switch off Discord?

Smaller communities have a lower bar of requirements to switch and may also have less to lose in making a switch

It may be no surprise that smaller and newer communities have less to lose in switching off Discord than larger communities. In addition to having fewer members to migrate, smaller communities may perceive the switch as less difficult given they have fewer sunk costs invested into Discord. Smaller communities are also often run by a few entrepreneurial leaders who are curious enough to explore and in need of new tools.

Many larger, more corporate communities are ready to switch if the platform is right

For all the reasons mentioned above, convincing a large digital community to leave Discord is no easy feat. However, a platform that highlights ease of migrating members and highly accessible UX appealing to less tech-savvy audiences may ease fears of these managers. Additionally, platforms can delight larger, more corporate communities in unique ways: supporting automated ways to manage large community bases, supporting payments and transactions from members, supporting modern support ticket-like features, etc.

What does this mean for community managers and product builders?

If you’re a product builder who is building for community managers, consider the insights we shared above and validate them by talking to your own active and prospective users. OpenUX is a collective of user researchers, designers, and product strategists working to make insights like these more available to builders. If you need help talking to your users, feel free to reach out to us at https://openux.xyz.

If you’re a community manager who’s dissatisfied with Discord but uncertain about switching, don’t worry, you’re in the majority. We have seen a lot of new promising platforms propping up in 2023, including our very gracious supporter of this study, Status. If you’re interested in learning more about Status, visit https://status.im. We’re confident their support of this research demonstrates their commitment to supporting community managers.


  • Authors and lead researchers on this project: Henry Harboe & Manansh Shukla

  • Special thanks to John Lea, Reise Officer, and the rest of the Status team for supporting this research

Subscribe to OpenUX
Receive the latest updates directly to your inbox.
Mint this entry as an NFT to add it to your collection.
This entry has been permanently stored onchain and signed by its creator.