At the heart of Mastodon, the increasingly popular open-source social network, lies a deeply rooted sense of community. The platform’s emphasis on quality conversation, content safety, and user privacy distinguishes it as a growing social network grounded in the principles of Web3. Unlike its centralized counterparts (think X, Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook), Mastodon rejects the traditional advertising model, eliminating the distractions and intolerances that sponsored content and algorithms can induce. In Mastodon’s commercial-free realm, account holders don’t have to “cut through the clutter.” Instead, users get exactly what they came for — to connect with others who share their passions, perspectives, and professions in a promotion-free domain.

In this decentralized corner of the social web, the spirit of interaction conceived during the early days of the internet is steadfast. Unlike traditional mediums, Mastodon offers a glimpse into a more community-focused and authentic future. The platform is proof of the enduring appeal of genuine connection — a value that marketers can appreciate and leverage.

Before we dive into specific marketing tactics, let’s first review how Mastodon works. The platform’s server structure is built around thousands of Mastodon Instances or independent servers, each with its own niche, community, culture, and code of conduct. This server-based matrix is a unique landscape for brands to navigate, particularly in the absence of promotional tools. However, by engaging with specific Mastodon Instances, brands can maximize organic reach and engagement by connecting with audiences that align with their mission, purpose, and offerings. 

Breaking down the demographics: who’s on Mastodon?

Before crafting an effective content distribution, community engagement, or awareness strategy, brands must first consider the demographics and psychographics that define a platform’s audience.

Since Elon Musk’s 2022 purchase of X (formerly known as Twitter), Mastodon has gained over five million users and has amassed a roster of nearly ten thousand Mastodon Instances. As of January 2024, Mastodon had over 8 million users, all of whom are members of at least one Mastodon server. While news is the most sought-after topic, there are thousands of category-specific servers, each with its own community and focus. From technology and gaming to academia, music, sports, and journalism, Mastodon has a server for just about everyone.

Most Mastodon users are men — only 28 per cent of all users are female. The majority are between 18 and 34 years old, with the highest concentration falling into the 25 to 34-year-old bracket. Unsurprisingly, given the platform’s blockchain-based infrastructure, users tend to work in science, technology, engineering or math, and possess knowledge of open-source software. Naturally, they’re early adopters of new technologies with a keen interest in the fediverse and the decentralization Web3 affords. As a result, established brands and startups alike can tap into this young, tech-hungry audience.

Content distribution on Mastodon

Content is king on any social platform, and Mastodon is no exception. Medium, Mozilla, and the private Web3 browser Vivaldi are some examples of businesses with an official Mastodon presence. A micro-blogging platform at its core, Mastodon is a natural fit for online publishers interested in finding new ways to grow followers and subscribers. Last year, Medium launched its own Mastodon Instance, While Medium’s bread and butter has been medium and long-form article writing, its decision to embrace Mastodon’s short-form capabilities (no more than 500 characters per post, or “toot”) reflects Medium’s commitment to its readership as much as it does the perspective that ideas, no matter their brevity, are meant to be shared and respectfully discussed.

First, brands must identify relevant communities within the Mastodon ecosystem. Such research requires an understanding of the nuances and interests of different instances. Just like traditional forms of social media, content creation becomes a tailored process, with posts and replies designed to resonate specifically with that community. Unlike traditional social media's extensive suite of advertising tools, Mastodon calls for a more conversational approach, where brands are members of the community, not just advertisers. This strategy naturally weeds out generic content in favor of material that adds value, cultivates discussions, and builds trust among users. In essence, marketing on Mastodon is not about buying space or attention, but about earning it through active, authentic participation.

Despite its lack of promotional tools, content distribution on Mastodon is not a purely manual process. Last year, the social media management platform Buffer announced that its users could now connect and publish directly to multiple Mastodon Instances. By allowing brands to have a consistent presence and make timely connections, the integration is proof of Mastodon’s mainstream content distribution potential and its growing position in the social media landscape.

Cultivating community and conversation on Mastodon

When Mastodon released its latest app update for Android in November, it simultaneously introduced a new feature intended to improve conversations and deter negativity. A 2022 OpenWeb survey found that 50 per cent of Americans do not think that social media platforms do enough to combat toxicity, trolls, and the spread of false information. Mastodon’s effort to improve quality conversations last year emphasized the importance of respect, courtesy, and awareness when making a first impression. The feature, which alerts users before they reply to an old post or a post from someone they don’t follow, is an effort to focus members on active discussions and to avoid uncomfortable interactions with people with whom they have yet to engage. Brands can also leverage Mastodon’s native features like content warnings and polls. In the fediverse, etiquette matters. Following unique server protocols and generally channeling polite behavior is a must. Content warnings are a healthy way for brands to prevent content from landing on the timelines of those who have already expressed a disinterest in that topic.

Adjusting the visibility of a post is another important tool for brands. Who can see your post (the public, your followers) can easily be adjusted by clicking on the world button in the post module. Boosts — Mastodon’s equivalent of retweets — is another way to generate incremental interest and increase the chances that content will be seen and engaged with.

One Mastodon Instance with a sizeable and active community is, a server for people interested in cyber and information security. Of the Instance’s nearly 30,000 users, 16,000 are active. Cybersecurity companies can tap into the server’s ongoing IT security discussions and organically highlight new products, tools, or system upgrades by conversing directly with Instance members. Unlike traditional social media networks, Mastodon's ad-free and conversation-oriented ecosystem gives brands a unique chance to tap into and create niche communities that revolve around a specific topic and genuinely resonate with its users.

Brand engagement on Mastodon: establishing genuine connections

How brands measure engagement on Mastodon is very much unlike traditional social media. While Mastodon does not offer an insights or metrics dashboard, companies like MastoMetrics offer baseline analytics for Mastodon accounts. To get started, users connect their Mastodon account to MastoMetrics, and, once complete, can monitor daily changes in follower count as well as individual post performance.

To go one step further, brands can look beyond traditional metrics to measure engagement. They can assess the volume of meaningful conversations, the number of responses or boosts a post generates, and the general sentiment of user replies. These qualitative indicators often provide a more accurate picture of reach and resonance and give brands a data-driven lens through which to view their Mastodon efforts.

In October 2022, Mastodon had less than 400,000 users. Within one month of Musk’s acquisition, the platform’s user base increased to approximately 2.5 million. It has since leveled out at roughly over one million monthly active users (MAUs). While this pales in comparison to X’s 556 million MAUs, Mastodon continues to grow and provide technology brands, news organizations, and influencers the opportunity to organically expand their reach.

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