Mastodon strides into the digital age
Mastodon. Despite the name, it’s not the long-extinct distant cousin of the mammoth but a social platform that looks a little bit like X (formerly known as Twitter). It operates as a federated universe, or fediverse, providing a decentralised alternative to conventional social networks.
In this context, federated really means lots and lots of platforms, like microsites, run on the same technology stack, with each one serving a different audience or purpose. Decentralised really means not owned and controlled by Elon Musk, Darth Vader or any other oligarchical individual or organisation.
And it’s very popular. Statista reported that, as of March 2023, Mastodon had over ten million registered users, an increase of 300 percent since November 2022. This coincided with the purchase of Twitter by a well-known entrepreneur, whose name rhymes with ‘tusk’.
Impact on technical marketing
Technical marketing managers have relied upon LinkedIn, Instagram, Tik Tok, X and Facebook, probably in that order, to share social updates. However, with shifting social landscapes, and the increased uptake of decentralised platforms, such as Mastodon, will this leave X in the ice age?
The digital news project by the Reuters institute found that traditional social platforms were suffering, with Meta’s stocks falling by 66 percent. As X continues to decline in popularity, it only clears space for new platforms, such as Mastodon, to take its space. However users are describing an empty and fragmented experience.
“There is no replacement for the “old” Twitter. The idea was genius. Mastodon is not a replacement,” pledged Wolfgang Vichtl, chief correspondent at ARD in Germany. But, as users of X continue to decline, it is likely that we will continue to see the emergence of more Twitter alternatives.
For Mastodon to overtake X, the platform must first be moulded to suit the growing need for an alternative. Mastodon works through instances, individual pages that represent a particular topic or interest. Currently, most of the available instances are for general socialising for people in specific niches, such as techhub.social which has 10,000 active users and is aimed at technology enthusiasts.
FediScience.org is an example where an instance has been designed to act as a social platform for a targeted group, in this case scientists who are actively publishing papers. To gain access to this instance users must provide evidence that they are working as a publishing scientist by sending a link where admin can see contribution to publications.
However, the creation of specific marketing or engineering led instances, such as a 3D printing news instance could open up the platform for more opportunities.
How do instances work?
Each instance operates in a similar way to X, you can post your updates in a feed to be seen by other users. But, instead of them being shared with everyone, only other people within that instance will be able to see and engage with your content
Eugen Rochko, developer of Mastodon believes that “the future of social media must be federation,” hence Mastodon operates in instances. This gives “people the ability to create their own spaces, their own communities, to modify the software as they see fit…” explaining why each instance can set its own rules and guidelines for both joining and posting.
As a marketing manager, creating an instance for your client would mean that you are able to target content at a specific interested audience. If this were to work successfully it would mean higher engagement rates and the creation of an involved group of followers.
There is still a long way to go before a direct substitute is created for X, but as marketing managers, it is important to stay up to date with developing platforms. Involving yourself, and your clients, with evolving platforms such as Mastodon will mean that you are able to stay ahead of the curve and continue to develop impactful social media campaigns.
Just remember, no social platform is really a dinosaur, no matter how hard Elon Musk tries to make X into one.