The Role of Mastodon and Threads in the Evolving Social Media Landscape

Mastodon and Threads have joined the list of social media players, offering their own unique platform and approach to social media

The Role of Mastodon and Threads in the Evolving Social Media Landscape
Katie Metz // Adriana Lacy Consulting
By: Jamie Essick

Social media has become an integral part of our day-to-day interactions. It has affected how we share information, how we speak, and how closely we see ourselves in others across the world. With more platforms coming out catering to different interests and demographics, there is something for everyone. Recently, Mastodon and Threads have joined the list of social media players, offering their own unique platform and approach to social media. Let's delve into the evolving social media landscape and examine the role of these two platforms. 

The rise of Mastodon

Mastodon got its start in 2016 when Eugen Rochko became disillusioned with X, formerly known as Twitter. In a bid to democratize social media, he created an open-source and decentralized platform.

What does that mean exactly?

It means that there isn't one “single commercial company” responsible for deciding what people are and aren’t allowed to say. Instead, Mastodon is made up of multiple independent servers known as “instances,” each with its own set of regulations and moderations. You can access other servers regardless of which one you are on, and can friend request or interact with those in other servers.

Though it started in 2016, Mastodon didn’t become truly popular until 2022 when Elon Musk purchased Twitter, fuelling a boom in which millions of users questioned what would happen to their freedom of speech on a platform where hate speech and false claims were suddenly amplified, all at the behest of its new owner. Mastodon, alternatively, encourages users to solve it themselves by setting their own moderation and rules. It also does this while also having a social media platform that seems familiar and easy to use.  

Instagram Threads release

There's also Instagram Threads. The text-focused app launched mid-last year positioned itself as an alternative to X. On Threads, users have up to 500 characters (plus videos, photos, and links) to say exactly what is on their mind. Since it is an offshoot of Instagram, you also can link your threads directly to your existing account and share your threads on your story. Your verification on Instagram also carries over to this new app. 

Threads was more well-received than Mastodon, with over 10 million signups within the first few hours of its launch. Looking at both platforms half a year later, Mastodon is the clear winner with retention. However, both have their perks and disadvantages when it comes to social networking and the future of digital communication. 

So what's the difference?

Social media is an almost necessary part of our lives now, and not just for the individual person. A business that doesn't utilize any social media account will not be as successful as those that learn how to leverage this new form of connection. Of course, depending on your business, you don’t need to have every social media platform under the sun. Learning the differences in each platform and knowing what you need as a company will allow you to put your energy into the right ones. 

The biggest difference is who is in control of these platforms. Mastodon puts user privacy and experience at the top of its list. Since it is decentralized, there is no one person pulling the strings, in the way that there is with Twitter or Meta. Your experience is created by you. Compared to Threads, however, Mastodon has a smaller community. Threads has the benefit of being promoted and created by a major player in the social media game. That being said, both of them have a dedicated following.

Threads does have a few downsides. One is that you need an Instagram account to access the app. No problem, you might say, but the bigger downside is that deleting your Threads account will also delete your Instagram account. Keeping all this in mind, which one do you put your effort into being on? As we said earlier, that depends on what you want out of your company, but let’s take a look at some key things below:

  1. User base

Threads has more users than Mastodon, but Mastodon has a more committed following. Many of those signups that we saw for Threads within its first few hours and days have largely turned into abandoned accounts. 

  1. Interface

When it comes to design, Threads wins on this. Mastodon is more customizable, but comes with a big learning curve.

  1. Security

Mastodon is the winner here, keeping your data safe is one of the core values of this platform. Threads, being owned by Meta, has the same practices as Facebook and Instagram. To most, that isn’t a huge concern. But if it matters to you then you know what to pick!

  1. What it's good for

Since both are text-based platforms hashtagging, and “retweeting” in their own way, they're both great for sharing news and behind-the-scenes style updates about your business. These are places to really connect with your audience instead of focusing on making aesthetically-pleasing content.

Their role

Ultimately, these two platforms became popular during the mass exodus of X, presenting themselves as both an evolution of what people want more of: a unifying chat that doesn't have to adhere to strict algorithms.

These platforms also both offer a place for niche content, leaving more room for authenticity. Mastodon and Threads also offer your business a chance to network. With their emphasis on bringing like-minded people together, you may also use them to find similar businesses or companies that go with yours in some way. You might even be able to connect with content creators who could sponsor your product on bigger accounts such as Facebook or Instagram. Overall, we are seeing a shift in how users interact with one another online. While we can’t give blanket advice for every company, it is best to stay with the times and utilize one or both of these platforms. 

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