Mastodon For Dummies
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Even though thousands of people join Mastodon every day, the number-one concern of new users is that they can't make the shift over from Twitter entirely because many of the people they follow on Twitter haven't set up a Mastodon account yet. Here, you discover some of the best ways to start meeting and engaging with new people on Mastodon.

Another concern of new Mastodon users is that it's different from using other social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. At first, these differences may seem difficult to adapt to. But with the tips covered here, using Mastodon will soon become second nature.

10 tips for building a following

Many people use social media as a way to reach other people with their writing, ideas, art, or products. Having more social media followers means that you have a larger potential audience.

When you join Mastodon, you’ll have exactly the same number of followers as everyone else did when they first joined: zero! So, how do you get started with increasing that number?

The easiest way to gain a large number of followers on Mastodon is to have a large number of followers off Mastodon. This is how people like George Takei, of Star Trek fame, have hundreds of thousands of followers in a matter of a week after signing up for Mastodon.

Assuming that you’re not a well-known TV/movie actor, here are our best tips for becoming more popular on Mastodon:

Import friend lists

With thousands of people joining Mastodon every day, you may already know some people who are on Mastodon. Find out who they are and follow them. If they follow you on Twitter, they’ll likely follow you on Mastodon too.

Invite friends

Invite people who are interested in what you do when you’re not on Mastodon. Once you’ve signed up, encourage your partner, kids, and friends to sign up. Offer to help them get acquainted with how things work, and suggest that you might even follow them back!

Show appreciation

People share interesting, wise, beautiful, and funny things on Mastodon all the time. Rather than chuckling to yourself as you scroll by, take a moment to let them know that you appreciate what they posted. Ways to show your appreciation include marking their post as a favorite, boosting the post, sending them a direct message, or commenting.

Respect the rules

The rules of your server, and of the greater Mastodon community, keep it a lively and welcoming place. Know the rules of your server and respect them and you’ll find that people are eager to engage with content you post and to follow you.

Be helpful

Answering questions from new Mastodon users or posting about new things you’ve learned about using Mastodon is always appreciated. Or perhaps you have insights or technical help you can give someone who asks a question about baking, dog training, or automotive repair.

You may be able to find people in need of your advice by searching for a hashtag related to one of your areas of expertise. Or, you may not need to wait for the question to be asked — plenty of people never even think to ask about the correct way to open a pomegranate, and you might be just the person to tell them!

Be yourself

As with any situation where you’re trying to make new friends, the best advice is always to just be yourself. (I’m sure we can all think of exceptions to the rule.) Look for people with similar interests and follow them, rather than trying to imitate people who have large followings in the hopes that you’ll be able to reproduce what they’ve done.

Avoid marketing speak

Marketing speak is a special language created by corporations to say things that sound important without really saying anything. Comprised of jargon, superlatives, clichés, and excessive words, marketing speak is often more likely to have the opposite of the super-impressive results that you imagined.

Don’t say: I have extensive experience in evolving next-generation paradigm shifts for peer-to-peer synergy.

Do say: I like to meet people.

Use hashtags liberally

Because Mastodon doesn’t have keyword search, the best way to find posts related to specific topics is by using hashtags. When you enter a hashtag in a post, Mastodon will tell you how frequently that hashtag is used. If you’re trying to decide between two hashtags that mean the same thing, choose the more commonly used one or use both to give people a better chance of finding your post.

Join into popular hashtags

Mastodon gives you several ways to find out which hashtags are trending, including on the Explore page and in the Trending Now widget. Do you see a hashtag related to something you’re interested in? Add to the discussion! Just don’t forget to use the hashtag and to spell it correctly.

Don’t worry about it, and have fun

Using Mastodon isn’t just about building an audience. In fact, many people (perhaps, most people) don’t give any thought to how many followers they or other people have. It’s not a popularity contest. What makes Mastodon interesting and fun are the conversations you’ll have with other people.

Thinking in Mastodon

New users on Mastodon are often disappointed by the seemingly slow pace of their new social media feed. Without the aid of an algorithm designed to keep you engaged, you may find that refreshing your home feed on Mastodon produces only one or two new posts.

Every time you used to pull down to refresh your Twitter feed, however, you’d get 25 to 50 new posts to skim.

You might also find that the same people keep coming up in your feed, and you might not be particularly interested by what they’re saying. This, too, is a result of the algorithm-free nature of Mastodon.

The good news is that the speed of your home feed and what shows up there is up to you. To get the most out of Mastodon and to start really enjoying it, you need to shift the way you think about social media. This change isn’t at all bad, though. In fact, it’s downright empowering.

Follow freely

Following someone on other social media sites is somewhat like marriage — you become forever associated with that person thanks to the service’s algorithms.

Your Mastodon home feed isn’t tuned to respond to your previous follows, posts, favorites, or boosts. It simply shows you the things that people you follow post. As a result, if you see a post you really like, you might follow its author so you can see what else they have to say — it’s as simple as that.

Unfollow joyfully

If following someone should be done freely, unfollowing someone should be done even more freely. Most people won’t be upset or even notice if you stop following them on Mastodon. If you follow someone only to find out that they’re clogging up your feed with posts you’re not interested in, unfollow them right away!

Use mute

Mute is a powerful feature of Mastodon that you can use when you want to see what it’s like to unfollow someone — a trial separation, if you will. When you click the mute icon (three dots), you’ll have a choice of how long (from 5 minutes to indefinitely) you want to mute posts from the post’s author. Muting is a great way to see if your home feed feels more homey without that person around.

You’re the curator

Think of your home feed as an ever-evolving art gallery. By following, unfollowing, and muting other users’ posts, you can tune your feed and make it fit your changing moods and interests. In fact, part of the fun of using Mastodon is that instead of an algorithm constantly guessing what you might want to see, the person who knows most about what you want to see — namely, you — is in charge.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Chris Minnick is an experienced tech educator and writer. He is the author of JavaScript All-in-One For Dummies.

Michael McCallister has over twenty years’ experience as a technical writer. He is passionate about simplifying complex tech topics for novices.

Chris Minnick is an experienced tech educator and writer. He is the author of JavaScript All-in-One For Dummies.

Michael McCallister has over twenty years’ experience as a technical writer. He is passionate about simplifying complex tech topics for novices.

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