5 Things Communicators Need to Know About Mastodon

Since Elon Musk’s controversial and tumultuous takeover of Twitter on Oct. 27, some users are seeking alternative social media platforms. As a result, Mastodon, a lesser-known rival, has received a big boost.

Mastodon’s mobile app was downloaded 750,000 times between Oct. 28 and Nov. 6, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower. Quartz reports that was 53 times more Mastodon downloads than during the previous 11-day period, when the app was downloaded 14,000 times.

Mastodon now has 4.5 million users (compared with Twitter’s 238 million), Deadline reports. But the platform is struggling under the weight of those new accounts.

On the surface, Mastodon looks similar to Twitter. Users write posts (called “toots”), which others can like, reply to or re-post. But as the BBC reports, Mastodon works very differently than Twitter does, causing confusion for people signing up for new Mastodon accounts.

Here’s what communicators should know about Mastodon, which has been around since 2016:

  1. You must choose a server. Unlike Musk’s Twitter, Mastodon is not one platform owned by a single person or company. Instead, many different computer servers, owned by different people and organizations, use Mastodon’s free, open-source software and then link together to form a decentralized network. When you sign up for a Mastodon account, you must choose a server, which are themed by country, city or interests.
  2. Joining can be tricky. As Deadline notes, joining a Mastodon server is not always a straightforward process. You might have to wait for approval or an invitation.
  3. Users are sometimes hard to find. People you know can be hard to find on Mastodon, because they’re on different servers, CNN points out. Unlike Twitter, Mastodon does not suggest followers or use algorithms to curate the posts you’re shown. On Mastodon, you see what the people you follow are saying, in chronological order.
  4. Content moderation is not consistent. For now, Mastodon’s servers all have their own content-moderation rules, and some servers have none, BBC.com reports.
  5. No ads. Mastodon is crowdfunded and has no ads. Users can write posts that promote a company or product.

Greg Beaubien is a frequent contributor to PRSA publications.

[Art credit: koshiro]

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