What is Mastodon, and how can small businesses benefit from it?
What is Mastodon?
Mastodon is what you’d call a decentralised social network. Mastodon is made up of independent servers which are organised around specific topics, themes, and interests.
As a user, you can join different servers, follow other users or businesses, engage with them in conversations and do the things you’d typically do on a platform like Twitter.
But what’s that got to do with Mastodon and its suddenly rising popularity? Well, dozens of people have said they are leaving Twitter for Mastodon, and while current posts about Mastodon on the web might lead you to believe that “it’s just another Twitter”, in truth, it’s a more unique platform than the bluebird app.
How is Mastodon different from Twitter, and how does it work?
Well, if we look at one distinction that sets Twitter and Mastodon apart, its decentralisation. Twitter is a centralised social media platform – owned and managed by a single entity responsible for building its features, tweaking algorithms, moderating content and all other tasks associated with running your typical social network.
In contrast, even though there are people responsible for running and managing Mastodon, the platform isn’t centralised like Twitter. Why? Because, unlike Twitter, Mastodon comprises several thousand independent servers.
The average Mastodon server is like a mini social network or forum. Each server is typically organised around a specific topic, interest, or industry. So, once you join any one of these servers, you can follow, reply to, or engage with literally anyone who’s there, irrespective of whether the two of you are on the same server or not.
But this begs the question: What exactly can you do on Mastodon that you can’t do on Twitter? Well, mostly the same things! However, there are some differences, for example, the inability to start a thread like you can on Twitter, although you can post a reply to yourself to mimic a Twitter thread. You must also choose a server on Mastodon to host your account.
How might small businesses use or benefit from Mastodon?
Despite Twitter being mainstream and the go-to for most businesses, there are many ways you can benefit by having an account on Mastodon:
Twitter’s algorithm lets you search specific hashtags and topics, but even then, you get an uncategorised mesh of Tweets in no particular order.
The thing with Mastodon is that each server is a self-contained community revolving around a single topic – a shared interest, locality, or even a specific career, for example.
If you find the correct server, you can gain unfiltered access to what matters the most to your target audience or new market segment.
Aside from the market research aspect, you could also use Mastodon for advertising, even though, ironically, the people running Mastodon are very anti-advertisement. There’s no infrastructure to allow ads to run across multiple servers.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t put in your infrastructure to accept payments as a server owner – technically, those servers can sell ad space since each server operates independently.
With that said, running full-fledged ad campaigns on Mastodon will likely see you encountering some resistance – at the end of the day, others are on Mastodon because they expect to see fewer ads, if at all.
Not being able to run full-blown ad campaigns isn’t so bad – Mastodon lets you create your community which you can’t do with Twitter. Running your server means only you control it, and you control it fully. It’s up to you to approve every new account, moderate content, and steer the conversation in any direction you like. It can act as a potent marketing tool if leveraged correctly.
Mastodon can also be used for community outreach. Since there’s no algorithm bumping up specific posts above others, there’s no need to post, cross your fingers, and hope for the best. But you must do everything you can to engage with your target community. The best part, however? Mastodon is organised according to servers, so you never have to dive headfirst into the digital void, hoping to find your current and prospective customers.
What if you’re running a SaaS business? Finding servers where people are actively discussing SaaS is straightforward; working in the car parts supply business? Join a server where car part suppliers hang out – exchange knowledge, answer each other’s questions, and become trusted experts.
You can even become an authoritative voice for an underserved topic. Mastodon has more than 8,000 servers, but many are relatively quiet. If you search for “SaaS”, for example, you may find a single server with just 20-30 users. Search “car parts” or “marketing”, and you may find just 3-4 users. Do you see an opportunity here?
Create your account! Choose a topic that best fits your niche or expertise and upload content. You could even repurpose content from your existing blog, white papers, website, YouTube, or Facebook channel.
Creating a Mastodon account is easy.
To reap the above benefits, all you have to do is create an account. Just click on create an account, and you’re good to go.
Mastodon has seen a significant popularity surge, going from 1m active users to 2.5m in just a month – it’s not in Twitter territory yet. Still, there are some golden marketing opportunities, especially if you’re a small business. Missing out on Mastodon would be a mistake.