What is Mastodon and Will Brands Need to Ditch Twitter for It?

Mastodon may have become overhyped following all of the drama at Twitter, but it’s not going to offer brands with conventional advertising products and will require them to be more creative.

There has been significant upheaval at Twitter ever since it was acquired and taken private by Elon Musk. Many reports have revealed that in the wake of this volatility, a lot of advertisers have decided against spending their marketing budgets on the microblogging network for now. There’s also concern among market watchers regarding the direction of the social network which continues to play an instrumental role for journalists, world leaders, artists, etc in addition to the average user.

Musk remains the acting CEO of Twitter and while has said that the job will be handed over to a permanent candidate once one is found, there’s no indication of that happening any time soon. While Musk continues to assert that user numbers at Twitter have never been higher than they are right now, some continue to take a view of doom and gloom, believing that Twitter may be on its way out.

If that happens, there would be a void that would require filling, and Mastodon is poised to do that. It has surely become a lot more popular as a result of all the Twitter drama, but is Mastodon uniquely poised to take over from Twitter, and should brands be looking to make the move?

What is Mastodon?

Mastodon can best be described as a decentralized social network. It’s not owned by one company or person like Facebook or Twitter. Independent servers power Mastodon and they’re organized around specific interests, themes, and topics. Each server is essentially its own social media site with Mastodon being the software that provides a unified user experience across them all. These servers work like any other social network. Members can follow each other, start conversations, interact with posts, etc.

Mastodon isn’t exactly new. It shot to popularity because of everything that was happening with Twitter. It’s been available since March 2016 with a stable version of the software only being launched in November 2022. The timing aligned with Twitter’s change of ownership and Mastodon thus emerged as a viable alternative for those who were thinking about leaving Twitter.

How does Mastodon work?

Users need to choose a server to join Mastodon. Some servers are private so they require an invitation to join. Others are open to the public and can be joined by everyone. It’s sort of how subreddits work on Reddit. Each server has its own moderates and rules for users. It also has its own privacy policy.

Users are able to join multiple servers and they can redirect their profiles across servers. Once a server is joined, the user can interact with anyone on Mastodon, regardless of the server they’re on.

The biggest servers on Mastodon are general and these are the ones that most resemble Twitter. They’re not focused on one particular topic so the conversations tend to be general in nature. There are plenty of specific servers too, such as those that are focused on technology, finance, photography, etc.

Do brands need to transition from Twitter to Mastodon?

It’s common for businesses to follow wherever their customers are going. This is to ensure that they can secure the maximum exposure for their content to the audience that’s most relevant to their business objectives. With a seemingly mass migration to Mastodon from Twitter, one would expect brands to jump ship as well. While a move of that magnitude hasn’t happened yet, even if it does, the opportunities for brands on Mastodon remain limited when viewed in comparison to Twitter.

Twitter has a robust ad product with great targeting and tracking tools. Mastodon has none of it. The decentralized nature of this social platform is also a barrier. There’s no single server or platform which means that brands have no single point of entry or contact to run their campaigns through.

What may have also gotten lost in all of this hype around the decentralized platform is that Mastodon has made it public that it will never serve ads to promote some profiles over others in exchange for money. The Mastodon software is run by a non-profit so they’re not motivated to work with advertisers.

As things stand, there are no ad products that brands can utilize to target all of their relevant audiences on Mastodon. That may remain the case unless the stewardship of Mastodon moves from the non-profit or that they eventually change the way this platform is run in the future. There’s no indication of that happening any time soon.

However, that doesn’t mean brands can’t derive any value whatsoever from Mastodon. There’s a case to be made for brands to get in on the action early and maintain a presence on this rising social platform so that they’re able to best leverage any opportunities that present themselves in the future.

Brands should view Mastodon as a way to expand organic reach

There may be no paid marketing features available on Mastodon but by virtue of how it operates, it provides brands with an incredible opportunity to maximize their organic reach. Each Mastodon server is its own community which means brands are served up highly targeted audiences on a silver platter.

Once a presence has been established in these communities, brands can run different types of organic marketing campaigns to not only build brand awareness but also increase sales. These may include sponsorships, affiliate marketing campaigns, and user generated content campaigns.

Influencer marketing campaigns can also be run on Mastodon. The process is not unlike how it would work on any other social network. It would require the brand to reach out to a user that has a significant following on Mastodon and have them promote a product or service.

Brands can also create their own communities on Mastodon to have the most impact. They will exercise complete control over their Mastodon server and will thus be able to filter who they want in that server, fully control content moderation, and guide conversations in a manner that suits their business objectives.

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