Twitter, Threads… Mastodon? The future of social media marketing

With the social media landscape in flux, opportunities for a new discussion based platform open up

Rachel Spratley

copywriter JWI Global


As Twitter’s problems mount and the exodus from the micro-blogging platform continues, so has the rise of alternative social networks. Since its leak - and subsequent launch - at the beginning of the month, Meta’s Threads has been hailed as the next big thing in text-based social sharing.

However, many are now also turning to Mastodon, the open-source, non-profit ‘antidote’ to billionaire nepotism.

But what is Mastodon? Does it work in the same way as Twitter and Threads? And could it be the next step to success in your social media marketing strategy?

Mastodon is a social network which was founded in 2016 as a more ethical, user-friendly alternative to Twitter. Although it has now been around for a while, it experienced a real upsurge in activity following Musk’s takeover of Twitter in late 2022, and the subsequent fallout.

Unlike the majority of social media platforms that we use daily - such as Twitter, Instagram, and now Threads - Mastodon is decentralised. This means that, rather than a single platform controlling and moderating all of Mastodon’s content, it is operated by thousands of smaller, independent servers, or ‘instances’, which can communicate with each other. So, although your account links to one server, you can still engage with users across different servers.

Within each server, users are free to post content, engage in conversations, follow other users, and build their own following. In this respect, Mastodon operates pretty much like any other social media network. However, each server operates as its own autonomous community which has its own ‘culture’ and abides by its own set of rules.

Many of the servers are built around different topics and areas of interest - so when new users sign up to Mastodon, they can choose to join a specific server ‘community’, which can make it easier to connect and engage with people with similar interests.

How does Mastodon compare to Twitter and Threads?

Following Musk’s takeover of Twitter, and before Threads was announced, many hailed Mastodon as the ideal ‘alternative’ to Twitter. However, whilst the user experience and certain features are fairly similar to Twitter, there are also some clear differences.

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly from a marketing perspective - none of Mastodon’s website traffic comes from paid advertising or boosted content. You can’t post sponsored ads or promote posts on Mastodon (so no audience targeting), its feed’s algorithm is chronological, and any marketing which takes place on the website has to be organic. This is because Mastodon was created as an anti-capitalist ‘antidote’ to the big tech social platforms, where users can escape push profiles, and where their data is not leveraged for advertising purposes. Instead, the focus is on allowing users to curate their own feeds to produce the exact type of content they want to see and engage with.

This means that, when it comes to building a presence on Mastodon as a brand, the focus needs to be on quality content and a watertight, long-term strategy. People are not on Mastodon to be ‘sold’ to - perhaps more so than any other social network, Mastodon users value building human connections. So any marketing efforts need to be subtle, with a focus on authenticity, insightful conversations and meaningful interactions, rather than amassing a large following quickly to drive sales. Anything too sales-centric, and you risk getting blocked or banned.

Where Twitter is all about building up your reach, Mastodon is all about relevance - you’re engaging a smaller group of people in more meaningful conversations.

Rachel Spratley, Copywriter, JWI

Secondly, Mastodon as a platform is built to be inclusive, safe and democratic, yet free from censorship and bias. So the use of features such as alt-text and CamelCase in hashtags is considered basic etiquette, rather than a bonus. Equally, unlike Twitter, full-text search is not an option on Mastodon. This mitigates trolling and negative interactions. However, hashtags are fully searchable - so if a user wants their content to be found, they can ‘consent’ by including relevant hashtags.

So, should you be marketing on Mastodon?

When considering whether or not Mastodon is worth the investment in time and resources, it’s worth taking a look at the current demographics of Mastodon users and their engagement levels.

Even late last year, at the height of Mastodon’s ‘anti-Twitter’ uptake, Mastodon had 4.5 million accounts - but only 1 million active users. Also, more than a quarter of Mastodon users are based in Germany (where the network was founded), followed by the US, the Netherlands, the UK, and Canada - so unless you’re looking to grow your engagement in Central Europe or North America, Mastodon is probably not where you want to be focusing a lot of your marketing efforts - at least for now.

So when it comes to marketing, Mastodon shouldn’t be considered a direct alternative to Twitter - we’ll leave that to Threads, which Musk seems to think is a little too similar. Where Twitter is all about building up your reach, Mastodon is all about relevance - you’re engaging a smaller group of people in more meaningful conversations.

So, is Mastodon the future of social media marketing?

Ultimately, it’s worth remembering that Mastodon was not built for corporate marketing - in fact, it was built as a counter-balance, to organically grow communities beyond the constraints of ‘big tech’. Whereas Twitter and Threads are all about reach, Mastodon is all about engagement.

So, if your marketing objective is to significantly increase your following, Mastodon is probably not where you want to be focusing your time and energy. However, if you’re willing to play the long game - and provide your community with high-value content, Mastodon can be a great place to build a loyal following.

New competitor platforms, which position themselves as alternatives to Twitter, are soon to rise from the ashes of Musk’s Twitter legacy. These include Bluesky, Jack Dorsey’s latest brainchild, Hyve, and - of course - Threads. It’s still early days for the rival from Meta, but the early sign-up figures indicate that, when it comes to growing the volume of your digital audience, Threads is the future of text-based social media. 

However, if you want to build community engagement, cultivate thought leadership, and promote organic social growth for your company - and want to move away from Twitter - Mastodon could be a beneficial side-step.

Guest Author

Rachel Spratley

copywriter JWI Global


Rachel Spratley is a copywriter for JWI Global. During her career, she has worked with a range of brands - from the pioneers of barefoot luxury travel to the next big names in fintech - to hone their tone of voice, develop standout creative campaigns and to tell brand stories that inform and inspire.

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