Your organization should run its own Mastodon server
07 November 2022
Whether you are a large company, a political party, an international news agency, an NGO or a government institution, you should seriously consider running your own Mastodon server, or anything else that suits your business on the Fediverse.
Mastodon is in the news every time Twitter changes something big enough to upset its users. Recently, the takeover by Elon Musk has got millions wondering if the social media platform so cherished by journalists is still worth their attention. Hundreds of thousands of them have decided to test a software called Mastodon, a federated open source alternative to Twitter.
But isn’t this all too familiar? We spend so much effort building communities on these large social networks, and by that we make ourselves very dependent on their operating model. Facebook changes the way they serve fan pages to their users and it’s hundreds of news agencies scratching their heads on how they’re going to get their latest articles in front of their readers. Struggling to get your official account stand out in the middle of all the copycats, you can always pay for some certifying blue check symbol. What about having your own messages censored or displayed next to an advert for something you are actually trying to distance yourself from?
You’ve already been told that it’s better to own your channels of communication and that’s why you are probably already running your own newsletter. But what about social media? Can you run your own social network? How do you connect to millions of people without using Facebook or Twitter?
This is where Mastodon and the Fediverse bring a completely new way to think about social media. The Fediverse is a network of thousands of servers running some social media software, like Mastodon, a microblogging tool often compared to Twitter. And all are interconnected with each other. So, instead of having one centralized platform, we have a network of social networks. And just as with email, you can send a message to anyone in your organization, and at the same time have a conversation with anyone outside of your organization. All this is transparent and your correspondent’s email address lets you know that you are actually talking to someone as part of a particular organization.
You see immediately one of the benefits. By using your own domain name, your brand, you are creating a recognizable social presence in the Fediverse, without the need to associate it with facebook.com, twitter.com or instagram.com. No need to worry about someone else squatting your name either. Your domain name is what will get people to trust that the Mastodon accounts under it are legitimate and official.
And once you run your own corner of a social network, you can decide who you invite there, what are your rules of engagement and code of conduct. At Thoughtworks, we’ve allowed all our employees to open an account on our Mastodon server as this is aligned with our culture and our practice of being quite vocal and transparent about what we are passionate about. We encourage our employees to publish blog posts, articles and books on different topics. It was a natural continuation to allow them to publish short messages on the Fediverse. But you could also very well reserve this for a small group of official accounts, or create accounts associated with campaigns, events, particular products or departments. You can also invite some high profile clients or partners to have an account on your Mastodon server. It’s really up to you how you want to use your own social space.
And since Mastodon offers this possibility, you can always transfer the followers from one account to another. You are not stuck in one place, in one network, with one account. You can regroup or move your account to a different place. So you’ll never lose the community you’ve started building.
This could be especially useful if the members of your organization need to have a social media presence to do their work. Offering them a safe space to connect and build an audience can have mutual benefits. They will be representing your organization on the Fediverse but also benefit from the organization’s recognition and create a more trusted voice. This can be especially interesting for news organizations which generally need their journalists to be quickly identified on social networks and allow them to connect with their audience.
For organizations looking at amplifying their message through their members' voice, or wanting to be more transparent and open to the exterior, offering a Mastodon account to your employees or volunteers is certainly a great way to achieve this.
People wanting to understand your company culture would have an authentic place to look at. See how your employees interact and present themselves. What do they talk about? Just as when people go to conferences to present a research or share something publicly about their work, thanks to social media, these interactions happen in an even more informal way, in ways that people feel comfortable reaching out to strangers. For us at Thoughtworks, Mastodon has already been a tool we’ve successfully used to attract talents, for example.
And if microblogging is not your jam, there are plenty of other federated software to serve your needs that will also interconnect with Mastodon. Peertube, is an open source alternative to Youtube. The Blender Foundation decided to use Peertube to publish videos on the Fediverse after repeatedly running into troubles with Youtube and getting their account temporarily blocked. For the more visual crowd, Pixelfed is a photo sharing application very similar to Instagram that is also part of the Fediverse.
All these federated applications are open source and run on open standard protocols, so if some software is not really covering your needs, there is always a way to adapt them. At Thoughtworks, we engaged with the Mastodon developer community back in 2017, because we needed to make sure our employees could use our single sign-on provider to connect to their account on our instance.
The Fediverse is currently one of the most promising alternatives to the centralized social media monopolies like Facebook or Twitter. With the uncertainties currently faced by these mega platforms, it could be a relatively small but, in the long term, profitable investment to start exploring setting up a presence in these emerging social media spaces. The software is available and working. There are new avenues to explore when an organization offers a social media space to its members. And millions of people are currently wondering where to go.
Find us at toot.thoughtworks.com
07 November 2022: