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Mastodon: What Is It and Is It Right for Your Brand?

Jamie Landry
March 15, 2023
Last Updated On
mastodon logo, what is mastodon blog header

New social media platforms emerge constantly, and while some have fleeting success (we miss you, Vine), competing with major players like Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter is tricky. However, a new platform has emerged with lots of buzz in recent months — Mastodon. But is this new social platform right for your brand? 

In this article, we discuss:

  • What is Mastodon? 
  • How does Mastodon work? 
  • How brands can use Mastodon.
  • How to create an account.
  • Is Mastodon the new Twitter? 
  • Mastodon FAQs

What Is Mastodon?

Mastodon is an open-source, decentralized social platform where users can host their own social networking services. This might sound complex, but it’s not — users are flocking to the platform to use their microblogging feature. For many, this feature is reminiscent of Twitter, which has made Mastodon a go-to platform for people who want to leave the platform. 

Mastodon does have a slightly more ‘technical’ appearance that some social users might not be used to, but this shouldn’t deter them — the platform is fairly straightforward.

How Does Mastodon Work?

On Mastodon, users can post statuses straight from their account (think of posting a Tweet from your profile), follow other users, and follow ‘Instances’ — the main point of Mastodon activity. 

Instances are servers where users speak a similar language and share a culture or subculture. These are similar to Reddit’s ‘subreddit’ forums which can be informed by location, interests, professions, brands, and more. Instances also have their own themes, rules, codes of conduct, website, and privacy policies. As of writing, there are 12,341 instances on Mastodon with 1,323,048 active users. 

Some of the most popular Mastodon instances include:

  • Mastodon Social: 878K users, 42.5M statuses. 
  • Pawoo: 780K users, 67.3M statuses.
  • Mstdn Jp: 291K users, 62.1M statuses.
  • Mastodon Cloud: 229K users, 45.55M statuses. 
  • Counter Social: 159K users, 8.6M statuses. 

Finding Instances isn’t necessarily intuitive, but luckily, there’s a fix — users can use instances.social to find Instances that fit their interests. You can select how many users you prefer in your Instance and which moderation rules you’d like to observe (whether you see spam, advertising, etc.). From there, you’ll receive a list of Mastodon servers that might interest you.

In terms of interaction, you can post to Instances from your own profile or comment and interact with others’ statuses — this means 'favoriting', saving, or ‘boosting,’ Mastodon’s version of retweeting. You can also pin Statuses to your profile, similar to how you pin Tweets. 

How Can Brands Use Mastodon?

Mastodon is growing in word-of-mouth popularity, but does this mean brands should run to incorporate the platform into their marketing strategy? It depends. 

Here are some of the different ways brands can use Mastodon in their social marketing strategy: 

Early-Adoption 

Mastodon is a great platform for brands to test if you're open to experimentation. Since this open-source platform doesn't host advertisements and paid promotions like other sites, organic content is a great opportunity to drive engagement. Brands that operate in hyper-niche fields could join Instances that relate to their brand and share news, updates, content, and more. For brands that understand the importance of social entertainment, this is a great way to see if your visual content garners positive reactions.

News Monitoring 

There are many ways to discover news relevant to your industry, but Mastodon is another great way to monitor news. From the 'Explore' tab, you can navigate to 'News' and find popular stories circulating or news related to Instances you follow. While there is a 'Search' feature, it doesn't offer 'Advanced' search options, but brands could use this to conduct basic social listening

Create an Instance for Your Brand 

Creating an Instance is the most natural thing brands can do on the app. Brands can create rules, start conversations, and create Lists with their most active users.

How To Create an Account on Mastodon

You’ll see the Mastodon feed with popular statuses when you initially sign in to Mastodon. To create an account on Mastodon, click the ‘Create Account’ button on the right.

mastadon sign in and create account button screenshot
Mastodon options to sign in or create an account.

When you create a profile, you’ll see a list of suggested user accounts to follow. 

mastodon suggested accounts to follow screenshot
Suggested user accounts on Mastodon.

From there, you’re taken to your home feed. In the right-hand menu, you’ll see tabs for: 

  • Homepage: Shows statuses from user profiles you follow. 
  • Notifications: Alerts from users you follow, Statuses you’re tagged in, and more.
  • Explore page: Trending hashtags, posts, and news.
  • Federated timeline: All public posts from Instances you follow. Federations are when Instances can communicate with each other. When one Instance blocks another, this is known as ‘defederating’. 
  • Direct messages: Messages sent straight to you. 
  • Favorites: Posts you favorite.
  • Bookmarks: Posts you save for later. 
  • Lists: Create lists of relevant users. When they post, it will appear in their respective lists.
  • Settings: Review and change your account settings.
mastodon explore tab screenshot
Mastodon's Explore tabs.

Under this, you’ll also see a ‘Trending Now’ tab with currently trending hashtags. 

mastodon side rail menu screenshot
Mastodon side menu.

Now, you can post Statuses, discover what’s trending, and browse users and Instances.

Is Mastodon the New Twitter?

So, is Mastodon the new Twitter? While it certainly has features similar to the microblogging platform, there is a learning curve — although technologically inclined people will have no problem navigating it. 

On Twitter, marketers can share both paid and organic content. Twitter is also more intuitive for users but is in a state of flux right now. However, it’s worth noting that Twitter also grew in features, so early adopters could benefit from future updates. 

Mastodon is not the new Twitter yet, but it’s a great alternative for those who don’t want to use Twitter and are seeking an alternative or want to reach a new, potentially untapped audience.

FAQs

What is Mastodon used for?

Mastodon is a microblogging platform used by users and groups to communicate with each other and share content.

How is Mastodon different from Twitter?

Mastodon is different from Twitter as it’s decentralized — this means it’s not controlled by one office or entity. It also uses different terminology and doesn’t offer quite as many features. For example, the ‘Trending’ tab on the homepage shows just three trending hashtags, while Twitter shows hashtags and general topics. 

Is Mastodon safe?

Mastodon is generally safe, but users should be wary of unfamiliar links like they should be everywhere online. The site is open to NSFW content — for example, when looking for relevant Instances on instances.social, the quiz asks which content you don’t want to see, which includes illegal content, NSFW, spam, and more. You should undoubtedly filter out this content, especially from a brand account.

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