I use Twitter heavily for my book marketing. In the interest of not losing that platform in case the bulk of my followers went elsewhere, I decided to look farther afield and see what was out there. I had heard of Mastodon, but was intimidated by the decentralized platform, the new terminology, etc. – until I actually went ahead and tried it…and so far it’s been AWESOME.
What is Mastodon? Disclaimer, I am not in IT/CS/etc. This is a lay description. It reminds me of a cross between Twitter (posting/discussion) and Discord (where you can have a single account and join a bunch of different “servers,” or individual communities of varying sizes)…only you have a home base of sorts (your “instance,” or Mastodon server) and the ability to connect to others on different instances/servers.
Here’s what my Mastodon user interface looks like (this is the advanced version):
You can scroll across the screen to see everything. From left to write: my “Toot” [post] box, the Home feed (basically your timeline w/all the people you follow), Notifications, my pinned hashtags so I can follow those, and then the standard menu…with Local Timeline (everyone in your instance/server, aka your local community) and Federated Timeline (people from the wider Mastodon community, aka other servers).
If you just use the standard version, it looks like this (notice you can switch to Local or Federated views). This is how Metatext, the app I use on my iPhone, looks as well, roughly speaking.
As mentioned, there are also apps. I personally recommend Metatext. I can’t speak for Android unfortunately but have heard good things about Tusky.
- I highly recommend you fill out your bio ASAP before you start commenting/adding people. I don’t follow people back unless they have a bio. Also add hashtags for searchability (see below) and write an #introduction post using that hashtag (I pinned mine).
- Mastodon strongly encourages people to add Alt-text to any images you upload. It’s to help visually-impaired users, and it’s actually neat to see how people describe their pictures.
- Depending on instance, self-promo is likely fine, but check. Don’t just self-promo either.
- Use hashtags! Mastodon isn’t searchable by text.
- Want to find friends? Search their full address. I’m @firstname.lastname@example.org
- There are no DMs, but you can make posts visible just to specific users. That said, admins and anyone you tag (apparently) can see them.
- Similarly, it’s best to add CWs (content warnings) to anything related to [stuff your local instance would rather not see without a warning, including mentions of Twitter]. People are likely to click on it anyway if they’re interested. This is a Mastodon-culture thing. I acutally get a lot of interaction on my CWed posts.
- There are no RTs or QTs. Favoriting something just tells the post author that you liked it. Boosting it shares it to your followers.
- There is no algorithm. Be yourself. Don’t “perform” for virality or reach or whatever. It’s a community.
That’s all I can think of for now!
I’m really enjoying Mastodon as well. I’ve been enjoying finding new people that I didn’t know on Twitter. Once I have more followers I’ll be checking to see if it can help get traffic to my website.