Of late, Mastodon has become a hot social media topic along with Twitter's latest revision to its reply feature. Mastodon can be confusing at first. The privacy controls, the federalized set-up, instances and so on, makes it easy to wonder if it's too complicated to find mass appeal.
Here's a quick intro of what Mastodon is and why brands should care about this new social network.
What is Mastodon?
Mastodon is a free social media platform that functions a lot like Twitter. It even bears a striking resemblance to Tweetdeck. Mastodon addresses a lot of complaints and concerns people have with Twitter (a major one being the introduction of the algorithmic feed).
A 'Like' is still called a 'Favorite' here, whereas a Retweet-equivalent is known as a 'Boost'. Instead of Twitter's 140 character limit, a 'Toot' can have up to 500 characters. Mastodon has a unique feature - instances. These work like communities or groups that can be dedicated to a particular topic. But it gets a little more complicated than that as it's possible for people who are in two different instances to communicate. In addition, the timeline is federalized. This means that you get to see Toots that are published in various instances.
Another key feature is that all the content is moderated. This is intended to curb harassment, hate-speech, etc. Users can also add a content warning to select Toots about sensitive topics like suicide, sexual assault or even those that contain spoilers or mention politics. While initial users welcomed these features, questions remain about how manual moderation can keep up as the platform scales.
Mastodon offers nuanced privacy settings so that users don't need to pick between keeping their handle private or public. For insights on how a heavy Twitter user would feel shifting to Mastodon, read this account.
What can brands learn from Mastodon's appeal?
From a brand perspective, Mastodon is free software that is not funded by any ad revenue. Several users find this key differentiator and a positive. Similarly, some have expressed their dismay at brands already finding their way into this safe haven.
While some big names like Walmart, Hyundai, Honda, Amazon seem to have jumped on board, it's hard to say whether these are in fact managed by the brands, or are spoofs (If you think the tick mark in the green box is a clue, it's just an emoji). Also, none of the brand profiles had any activity with the exception of Mr. Clean, which again, is hard to tell if authentic.
Mastodon's popularity is similar to when Diaspora created a ripple. That, along with the slightly complicated structure of Mastodon and the lack of an app (there is a list of Github apps you can use Mastodon on) raises questions about its long term viability. Either way, brands will have a tough time standing out without advertisements and abiding by community standards.
However, this does not mean that the Mastodon story is not without takeaways for brands.
There's definitely some discontent with the growing presence of brand content on social networks.
Check out the following Toot that perfectly summarizes this:
This, however, should be a wake-up call for brands to increase the value their posts provide to consumers.
Relevance should be a watchword in social media marketing. This includes keeping out clutter, quickly addressing concerns, and targeting messages to particular sections of your audience.
Social media marketers should prioritize strategy over all else to ensure that social media budgets generate the best ROI while creating an enjoyable user experience.
A good way for brands to raise the standards of their social media marketing could be to ask the initial question if their content is good enough for Mastodon.
(This article is written from an entirely tech-unaware perspective. For the more code-aware, read this link to know more about Mastodon's architecture).
Darsana Vijay is the resident Social Media Journalist at Unmetric responsible for handling the company's social media presence as well as creating website and blog content. Her research interests are broadly within Media Studies with a focus on New Media. She holds a Masters in English Studies from IIT Madras.