In early 2021, a popular YouTuber — who currently has over a couple million subscribers — created a discord server for his fan base. The inception of the server coincided with a marketing push for his merchandise that was set to launch in the early fourth quarter of the year. By taking an in-depth look at the progression and eventual decline of the server, we can gain a better understanding of how to effectively navigate a large online community. Furthermore, this case demonstrates the decisive role of moderators and ultimately exists as an example of why it is crucial to be able to harness mods to foster a continuously engaged and profitable discord community.
Before diving into the details, let’s get the timeline straight. For the first few months after the server launched, things were actually going well. The YouTuber was able to bring together a great team of volunteer moderators who were able to mitigate issues and maintain a positive tone on the server. On top of that, the YouTuber himself was quite active on the server. Around November and December of 2021, the tide turned due to internal issues. Many of the original volunteer mods left the team and were replaced by less enthusiastic ones. To make matters worse, the YouTuber no longer frequented his server after his book hit the market in September. Given this set of circumstances, we can divide this case study into two phases: before and after the fallout occurred.
Before and After
In the months following the discord server’s initial launch, the overall health of the community was high. This can be largely attributed to the quality of the moderators on board.
In the graphs above, it is evident that the moderator who worked from the beginning until late November (red) was significantly better at interacting with new users compared to the second mod (purple). New user interactions are a crucial aspect of fostering an engaged user base. Something as simple as a really positive and friendly first interaction could encourage new users to continuously be active in the community.
The difference in interactivity between the first and second mod is like day and night. The second mod seldom participated in chats. By neglecting their role, this second mod was damaging to the well-being of the server.
After the fallout occurred, activity within the discord server fell drastically. Due to the mod’s lackluster efforts in talking to community members, user interactions declined.
One way we can measure the health of a discord community is through our Potential Buyers’ data. By measuring a user’s level of activity within the discord server, we can label certain individuals as “potential buyers”. These are the people who are likely to purchase your products. Due to the unfortunate mismanagement of this server, the number of potential buyers steadily declined, especially around the months following November and December.
What can we learn from this discord server?
If you take away one thing from reading this, we hope it’s that high-quality moderators are incredibly important to the success of your project. When the Youtuber had enthusiastic and attentive mods on board, his fanbase reciprocated by being more active. Mods serve as a reflection of the creator or project that they work for. When mods uplift their server by facilitating high-quality interactions among users, it gives the impression that the creator genuinely cares about their community. On the flip side, mods who are lackluster in their performance can give users the impression that they aren’t valued, and subsequently, users will become less active in the community. On a more extreme note, a poorly performing mod can potentially be damaging to the brand or individual that they work under.
If the Youtuber had kept an eye out on mod performance, it would have been clear that the internal drama that occurred around November and December was incredibly damaging to the server. To give more context to the conflict: after losing interest in playing an active role in the discord server, the YouTuber stepped down and appointed a teenage fan to be the head moderator of the server. This new head mod was inexperienced and power-hungry. Other mods mentioned that there were many issues present under his leadership including long work hours, cyberbullying, and nepotism.
Many internal problems surrounding mods can be predicted or prevented by tracking performance. When there is an anomaly or shift in data, it can indicate that an internal investigation is necessary. Whether it be letting go of a problematic mod or hiring more to handle the workload, a number of steps could have been taken in this situation that would have prevented the server’s overall decline.
The poorly managed discord server failed to generate hype during the crucial months after the merchandise release. This YouTuber missed the opportunity to continuously convert his fans on the server into customers. While his merchandise can be characterized as a one-time purchase, mismanagement can be an even bigger issue within discord servers whose primary purpose is to market products that are meant to be replenished or purchased repeatedly.
When overseeing a discord community, being hyper-vigilant of the performance of mods is essential. In this delicate ecosystem, just a handful of underperformers can drag down the entire community and potentially cause your business to lose supporters and customers.