Mastodon and Twitter logos.

Mastodon: It Might Not Be Your Twitter Refuge

Ever since Elon Musk officially purchased Twitter, the internet has been in a frenzy. Courtesy of a subscription-based Twitter verification program (Twitter Blue), imposter accounts wreaked havoc on Twitter’s platform that even extended to stock market dips for companies like Eli Lilly and Lockheed Martin. As a result, Twitter’s top advertisers have pulled funding from the platform, and many individual users have also abandoned the app in search of an alternative to meet their microblogging needs.

While Twitter may be facing some severe turbulence as it undergoes the change in leadership, it remains an important platform for many brands and users. However, understanding the alternatives that are cropping up can give brands an inside look at changing user habits. When it comes to alternatives, one of the apps that people have flocked to in droves is Mastodon, a free and open-source software for running self-hosted social networking services.

What Exactly Is Mastodon?

Beyond the vague and tech-focused definition of being “a free and open-source software,” Mastodon is defined as a decentralized social media platform. But again, what does that mean? To break it down, that means that Mastodon is not one giant social network similar to Facebook or Twitter. Instead, the platform is broken down into different “instances,” otherwise known as severs. Anyone with the know-how can set up a Mastodon instance in order to connect with like-minded individuals.

New Mastodon users are given the opportunity to select from a wide array of communities (or instances) whose users might share similar interests. One social media expert described instances as “dorms.” In other words, where other social platforms like Twitter and Facebook clump every user into one location, Mastodon uses instances to separate users into their very own “dorm room.” This can be overwhelming at first when you’re trying to find the conversations that are happening on the platform.

You see, on Mastodon, you may never have access to the people in every instance. The platform has three separate timelines:

  1. Home Timeline: these are the posts from the people you follow, whether on your instance or another
  2. Local Timeline: posts from everyone in your instance
  3. Federated Timeline: posts from everyone your instance knows about (local and other instances)

The instance that you choose to join at the beginning can influence the people you’re able to connect with. It allows for a diversity of cultures within the Mastodon community to form.

Should My Brand Start a Mastodon Account?

If you’re wondering whether Mastodon is right for your brand and your marketing strategy, the short answer is: probably not yet. Unless your brand focuses on video games and technology, which is presently the mass populus of Mastodon, the platform might not be the right move.

Additionally, the general consensus among Mastodon users is that they aren’t ready to see brands join their instances. Some brands, such as Volkswagen and Raspberry Pi, have joined the platform, in some cases just to secure their handles. As of the end of November, Volkswagen hadn’t posted to their Mastodon account. Raspberry Pi, however, had been active for several weeks, amassing more than 28,000 followers. Unlike VW, though, Raspberry Pi joined Mastodon by creating their own instance, giving them control over the rules they adhere to and the type of content they put out.

However, with only 1 million active users on Mastodon as of the beginning of November, the platform has a long way to go before it can be the next big social media platform. For reference, Twitter has over 300 million active monthly users, with an exact estimated number of monthly users disputed on several sites.

For brands, Mastodon will likely never replace Twitter because the platform has absolutely no paid or advertising component. This means that brands would have to wholly rely on an organic social strategy to find success on a platform that keeps people segmented into various instances.

An organic social strategy is still a viable strategy for many brands, though, in conjunction with a strong paid social strategy. While Mastodon may or may not be the future of social media as we know it, organic social strategies will continue to play a key role in the success of every social media manager’s playbook. Woodruff has a team of successful social media strategists that have years of experience in guiding brands through the constant algorithm changes from Facebook to TikTok both organically and through social ads.

If Mastodon Isn’t the Future for Brands on Social Media, Why Is It So Popular?

Mastodon’s popularity is similar to that of BeReal’s — an app that only allows users to post once in a 24-hour period, and specifically has a two-minute time frame when users are supposed to post their daily update. Both platforms offer an ad-free, more authentic place for users to be their unfiltered selves. In fact, it wasn’t all that long ago that TikTok offered the same thing. Videos on TikTok in 2020 were simple and unfiltered after nearly a decade of social media transforming into an influencer-driven business.

How Social Is it?

It’s been said recently that social media is becoming less social and more media. Social media is no longer about connecting with people, but instead is about being entertained. After all, Twitter has long been known for being the place people go when there’s something newsworthy. Back in September, Twitter reported that 94 percent of its users expressed an interest in current events. Their trending topics allow people to instantaneously keep up with what’s happening in the world around them.

Mastodon doesn’t offer that level of convenience, but for the users who are interested, the platform encourages connection and community. People are able to be their uncurated selves on Mastodon within 500 characters. It’s a true microblogging environment that brings back memories of the early days of the internet when people shared the more menial bits of their day on their timelines versus the perfected, Photoshopped, edited and filtered parts of their lives.

It’s Not the Answer…Yet

Mastodon is not and should not be considered a refuge for brands fleeing from Twitter. Instead, it should serve as a reminder to all social media managers and users that people don’t always want to see the perfect post. Sometimes they just want to be reminded that the person on the other side of the screen is a human, too.

While Mastodon may not be the future of social media, it could serve as a useful tool for brands looking to listen in to the conversations being had about them and the products they offer. Hashtags are a prominent feature on the platform, making it an excellent tool for the future of social listening. Brands can, and likely should, leverage Mastodon to listen in on conversations to see what people in your target audience are talking about.

If you’re struggling with creating authentic content that showcases your humanity for your brand, Woodruff has experts ready to help. Our team has a diverse array of experience in a broad range of industries. Whether your industry is in agriculture, animal health, pet care, financial services, sports marketing, health care or any other, the team at Woodruff can help you put the social back in social media.