Migrating From Twitter to Mastodon

Mastodon Website

I started moving away from Twitter early last year, first using Micro.blog and then eventually settling in to the Fediverse with my own, self-hosted instance of Mastodon. Micro.blog is an excellent service and I love a lot of what they’re doing for the open web, but the mobile apps always left something to be desired.

Coming from Twitter, I was incredibly spoiled by Tweetbot, which is one of the most polished apps I’ve ever used. Mastodon’s apps aren’t quite as good, but there are a lot of options that are in active development — it feels like the early days of Twitter in that regard. It’s exciting.

I left Twitter because it felt like everyone had the same opinion about everything and it had evolved into a place where people just go to complain and argue. I wanted something new and I wanted something that wasn’t controlled by a single, centralized entity — something I could truly own.

But there are plenty of other reasons to leave Twitter — some that are trendy and some that aren’t. Whatever your reasons for looking elsewhere, we’ll be happy to have you on the Fediverse.

For those that aren’t as familiar with Mastodon and the Fediverse, here is how I described them in my piece on the topic late last year — using the protocol name “ActivityPub” instead of the colloquialism “Fediverse”:

Mastodon is open source, distributed social networking software. It’s most similar to Twitter in terms of core functionality, but what sets it apart is the ability to setup your own instance or join one that fits your interests. Mastodon takes advantage of ActivityPub, allowing users on the service to follow others from separate instances.

And because ActivityPub isn’t Mastodon-specific, you can follow users from instances that aren’t even built on Mastodon. It’s compatible with Pixelfed, PeerTube, Pleroma, and more — as long as it uses ActivityPub, you can follow it through Mastodon, at least in my experience.

Mastodon is like taking Twitter’s short-form, approachable publishing mechanism and combining it with email’s distributed, protocol-based system. And while that’s cool for nerdy folks like you and me, I understand that it can sound a bit intimidating. Honestly, you can also just sign up for an account and start using it without ever knowing about those underlying technologies.

If you’re migrating from Twitter, though, you might benefit from some of what I’ve learned along the way. Here’s my recommendations for migrating and how you can get the most out of it:

  • Find an instance and create an account. If you know someone that already uses Mastodon, that might be a good place to start when considering what instance to join. But you can also use a service like instances.social to find a good fit. Or, if you want a bit more control and are so inclined, you can run your own instance. I run mine through Cloudron on Linode, but there is also Masto.host — both of which simplify the process.
  • Upload a profile picture, fill out your bio, and add links/field information. This is mostly self-explanatory, but if you want others to follow you back, it’s good practice to have a completed profile. It’s worth noting, Mastodon doesn’t have “link” or “URL” fields for your profile, instead you have fields that can contain any arbitrary data. They are often used for links, but can also be used for your location, email address, or whatever your heart desires. If you do add a URL, though, you can add a link back to your Mastodon profile from that URL with rel="me" and that will “verify” the link with a checkmark.
  • Publish an #introduction post and, optionally, pin it to your profile. It’s common practice to publish a post with a bit of an extended bio using this hashtag. It often gets boosted by others (like a retweet) and many Mastodon users will follow that hashtag to find new users to follow. It’s a great way to increase your visibility in the Fediverse. Pinning this post is optional, but can help with visibility too. When interacting with users from outside of your instance, Mastodon doesn’t pull in their entire post history, but it will pull in any posts pinned to their profile.
  • Feature a hashtag or two on your profile. If you have topics that you’ll likely be posting about frequently, featuring their related hashtags on your profile will help others find out what you discuss. I have #music, #screenshotsunday, and #til featured on my account, but you can also go with some Fediverse favorites like #caturday or #followfriday.
  • Install a mobile app. I’m less familiar with the options on Android — honestly, on that platform I just use the web app, but you could also go with the official app if you wanted something that wasn’t web-based. On iOS, I use Mastoot. It’s excellent. But you could also consider Metatext or the official app.
  • Find people to follow. You can check your instance’s profile directory page, local timeline, federated timeline, the For You section of Explore, the featured hashtags, or check the following list of others. I would recommend doing this regularly as there are new people joining all the time.
  • If you have a blog, setup an auto-poster. If you’re using WordPress, you can implement ActivityPub on your site with a plugin or you can automatically post to a Mastodon account each time you publish with a different plugin. I’ve setup the latter and you can see the results on @initialcharge@libertynode.net. There are still options if you don’t use WordPress, though — this guide shows how to post to Mastodon using IFTTT, which can be triggered by almost anything.

The above are recommendations that can apply to just about anyone joining Mastodon, while the ones below are more specific for those that are moving from Twitter to Mastodon:

  • Setup cross-posting to Twitter. You likely still have some folks on Twitter that you’d like to share your posts with. For that, you can use a cross-posting service. I use the Mastodon Twitter Crossposter, but Moa Party is also quite popular.
  • Follow Twitter accounts through BirdSiteLive. You will likely have some Twitter users that you’d like to continue following. This is where BirdSiteLive comes in. It’s a bridge service that allows you to follow Twitter users through ActivityPub. When I first joined the Fediverse, this was essential for me — I probably followed around 20-30 people with it. Since then, I’ve slowly whittled it down to just a single user (who I really should just convince to join). You can find an instance to use on FediDB.
  • Stop checking your Twitter timeline. Since you’re already following the most important accounts to you through BirdSiteLive and utilizing automated cross-posting, stick your Twitter app deep within a folder on your phone and rely exclusively on notifications. There’s no need to check in regularly unless you see a mention/reply that you want to interact with. Optionally, consider configuring these notifications to show up in your Scheduled Summary, which will further limit your exposure to the service and minimize the chances of you checking in throughout the day.

I’ve been having a blast on the service over the course of the past 15 months or so. And in that short time, I’ve nearly matched my peak following on Twitter — a service I joined in January 2007. At my current rate, I should surpass it by the end of the year. If you’d like to help me reach that, you can follow me @mike@libertynode.net. It shouldn’t matter to me, but in a way, it’s my way of proving that Mastodon is a viable social network.

That should be self-evident — it’s over six years old and has significantly more users than Twitter did back when I first joined in 2007 — but the naysayers are vocal nevertheless. And it’s perfectly fine if they’d prefer to stay on Twitter, we’ll be over in the Fediverse having more fun.