A Writers’ Guide to Mastodon (with Dark Side tricks)

Previously, I recommended authors shift from Twitter to Mastodon. In this post, I am going to give some hints and tips for how to get the most out of Mastodon as a writer.

First, some notes

Here is a poll of what Mastodon users love most about Mastodon. Here is our Author Platforms guide to Mastodon. Now onto a few basics.

There is no algorithm but you

Now that you are free from Twitter, you no longer have to keep posting to be seen. When you post, everyone who is using the app and wants to hear from you will. The reverse is true too. If you are irritating and repetitive, people can simply switch off and never see you again.

Your choice of server does and does not matter

Anywhere you join will allow your posts to be seen across the network (more or less) which is why the server (instance) does not matter. The first people you have contact with are on your chosen server so it kind of does matter too.

You can follow as many people as you want

As there is no algorithm, you can follow as many people as you like. That said, I suggest you only follow people if you want to see what they post. You are the algorithm, remember.

Mastodon basics

child playing wooden blocks
Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels.com

While Twitter was quite a shouty-aggressive place, Mastodon is a more tranquil and friendly ecosystem. In Mastodon Land, it pays to be polite and friendly. Kindness and authenticity are the best attributes to exhibit.

When you post pictures, the community loves it when you write some alt text (there’s a little link for that). There are a lot of people using screen readers here which means your alt text is a way to include them. Mastodon thrives on friendly inclusivity.

You tag posts just like Twitter with a hashtag. – it helps folks work out the words if you .

On Twitter, if you spam tags, you get more hits or not depending on the algorithm. On Mastodon, you are the algorithm so if you spam tags you get more silent blocks. Collect enough blocks and you might win a one-way trip off the server. You can just join another but you will have burned some bridges.

The Writers’ Mastodon Masterplan

Some Mastodon instances you might like

First things first – you need somewhere to call home. That means picking an instance to set up on (assuming you don’t plan to go power user and run your own).

The Perfect Mastodon Profile Setup

When you first create your account, take the time to fill out an interesting profile.

Your profile is like a business card that answers the question, “why should I follow you?” Use your text to give an overall impression of who you are and what you are into.

Some people like to add their favourite hashtags. That is up to you.

Mastodon profiles also give you a set of question-and-answer boxes. This is where your book link, website, mailing list or similar thing goes. Whatever you want to promote with this account goes in there.

If you can also link back with a rel=me link, you can get a green tick. (Yes, verification is free and automatic).

The picture next to or above this text (depending on screen size) is what my profile looks like right now. In my case, I listed my personal blogs.

Take the time to get your right.

Before you follow anyone

You might be thinking that now is the time to follow a few million people for the followbacks. Not only does that not work, you are not ready.

You should probably post a few things as an example of content you might post later. Photographs, book covers, your best blog post(s), and an introduction.

Your post is a post introducing yourself to the community. Here is the Author Buzz UK introduction post. (Yes, Author Buzz UK is a Mastodon profile too). Make sure you tag your introduction with the introduction hashtag. Many people read the feed for the introduction hashtag.

You might want to pin your introduction. That way it is the first post people see when they come to view your profile. And they will. Mastodon people are friendly and open to finding interesting new people to talk to.

First, master friendship

The most important thing you will do on Mastodon is build friendships. If not full friendships, then at least friendly relationships.

If you find this hard, seek out allies who will support you. Being friendly just means being kind and supportive. You’ve got this. I believe in you.

If you refuse to be friendly then Mastodon is not for you.

One nice way to get warmed up with being friendly is to just hit the favourite button. Usually, it is a star but it might be something else where you are camped. This lets people know that you liked what you saw.

Move on to boosts and comments when you are ready.

Who to follow on Mastodon

group of person
Photo by Lino Khim Medrina on Pexels.com

A bit later I will share a few tricks that will speed up your immersion into the ecosystem. For now, just focus on finding interesting people. For that, I recommend the local feed for your server. That will show you things people are posting now.

You might also want to follow a hashtag or two. is a fun one during the Super Bowl.

Other writer tags include #AmWriting #Writers #Authors – there are genre-specific hashtags that you will discover as you browse.

As you find people to follow, don’t worry about second-degree reach (the people you can reach through the people who follow you). Your only concern is this: Find Interesting People To Talk To.

Each user is their own algorithm. That means the only people that other people will opt-in to hearing from are friendly and interesting people.

Settle in with your new account and make some friends. You don’t have to post every day. There is no algorithm to please. Post when you want and those who follow you will see it.

What should authors and writers post on Mastodon?

There is no singular right way to post to Mastodon. There are a few wrong ways though. Here are a few tips to guide you towards a successful and interesting Mastodon account.

Say no to Book Spam

Try not to overdo the self-promotion. Sixteen daily posts saying “buy my book” will earn you far more blocks than follows. If you feel you must regularly post about your book, try to stick to the 80:20 rule where only 20% (1 in 5) posts are about your book. Even that may be too repetitive for some followers. What I am saying is build relationships not leads.

Conversation starters

Try some topical open-ended questions. Perhaps you will get a conversation going and engage in authentic human interactions. You know, the thing that’s been missing from Twitter.

Share blog posts

If you see yourself as a published author one day, I strongly recommend a blog. When your blog posts go live, share a link with enough explanatory text to answer the question, “Why should I want to click this link?”

Ideally, you want to stick to the 80:20 rule with posts vs other content. That should not be too much of a problem as there are only so many blog posts that you can write in a day. Some accounts only share links. What works for you entirely depends on what kind of person you want as a follower.

If you have been blogging for a while, you might consider sharing the odd evergreen (still relevant) post from your archives.

Boost interesting content

You do not need to post new stuff all the time. You should also look for interesting content that your followers would like that has been shared by others. Give that content a boost (share it with your followers). Not only are boosts a great way to show appreciation but they help your followers find good content and interesting people’s content to find new people.

Boost liberally to curate a stream of content your followers will love.

Reply to stuff

Mastodon is social media. Social. So be social. Reply to stuff. Have interesting conversations. Learn stuff. Talk about stuff.


Share the occasional quote from your writing

Depending on your confidence and genre, followers might enjoy the occasional quote from your work. You have not got a lot of room so be selective about what you share and when.

What else?

  • Nature photography – moss is weirdly popular #Mostodon
  • Tour dates
  • Your current cup of tea
  • News related to your writing themes
  • Opinions about your theme or genre
  • News in your chosen genre
  • Blog posts and videos about your genre and/or themes
  • News about you – someone has to share it

I’m sure you can think of many more ideas. Share them in the comments, by replying, or via WebMention.

Advanced Mastodon Secret Tips for Authors and Writers

Now dear reader we step from the mortal realms to the dark and eldritch world of advanced voodoo secrets of Mastodon. Secrets man was not meant to know. But also secrets that will not help you if you have not mastered friendship already. Go back and do that bit first.

Be warned for here you can lose the path and be lost forever in the waters filled with sharks. The tips here should be used sparingly and with great care. This is not how Mastodon is meant to be used. Some of these ideas may even damage your presence on the platform.

Dark Mastodon Magic: Become discoverable on more servers

It is rare for there to be only one possible server (instance) to call home inside the Mastodon ecosystem. Let’s fix that. What you are going to do now is go visit the ones you did not choose.

Side Note: This does nothing unless people already enjoy and engage with what you share and boost. If you have been blocked by half the server, this will only earn you more blocks. TL;DR: If you are spammy, this will fail.

In the most recent picture is a screenshot of what creativewriting.social looks like when logged out. Like most Mastodon instances, there is a /directory folder. The directory shows users on the instance.

Take your time and browse this directory. Try to identify users you feel that you would enjoy following. Pop them open in a new tab if need be and read their shares and toots.

You are looking for the three following attributes:

  1. They share stuff you would be pleased to see on your home screen.
  2. The account is active.
  3. In your opinion, they look like someone who might like what you share and post too.

If they are a good fit, note their information. If you click the picture, it will expand and you can see where I have highlighted the address.

Add the server address and you will get @MuseOfLastResort@creativewriting.social which is the full user name. Write that down somewhere, like in a text file.

When you have five or more really good ones, go back to your Mastodon server and put those account names into search. You can now follow those people if you want. That is the point, what else did you think we were going to do?

Now, if you share things that even one of those interesting people would like to see, and your account is active, and you get along, then (and only then) is there a good chance they will follow you back.

What you have done is made a new friend and got your shares and posts into the server’s Federated Feed. It is not worth much but if you are interesting, there is a chance someone on the server might discover you and become a follower. There is also a tiny chance (the bigger the nicer and more interesting you are) that the person’s friends might follow you too. Follow them back and make new friends.

Beginner-level Toot Necromancy: Self-Boosting

Bookmark a few of your best toots. Ones that went over well. Keep that list somewhere safe.

It might be worth noting when you shared the post. This is so (much later) you can boost your post in a different time period of the day. Boosting it will put it in front of all your followers.

You get to do this only once. Use it wisely.

Self-boost too soon and you will seem spammy and desperate. Save it for when there are new followers and the followers who saw it before have forgotten.

If the post was good – interesting and/or engaging – it will likely see some further engagement.

Advanced Toot Necromancy: Edit for notice

If you thought self-boosting was a bit slimy, you’ll hate this one.

What you do is you go back to your long-dead toot and you make an edit. Any edit.

The post will appear in the notifications of previously engaged users. You will see something like, “@Bob@Example Edited a post”.

If the post is truly worthy and some people have yet to share it. They might share it this time (or click the link or whatever).

Use this method very sparingly. Like, once a year or something. I’ve blocked people who do this a lot.

Even darker magic

There are darker and shadier tricks but I am not going to share them. That is because there is no white-hat good-guy way to use them. We have gone as close to the dark side as I am happy to go.

The dark magic I have shared depends on you posting and boosting interesting and engaging content. If you cannot be interesting or at least worth some attention, they will fail in time because Mastodon users can choose to ignore boring people. You will eventually be muted by all involved. That’s why Mastodon spam is pointless.

The spammier you are the faster you get blocked and muted. If you want actual interactions you got to be a social human.

The three powers that you need:

  1. Be a kind and supportive person
  2. Remain genuine and have real interactions
  3. Share conversation starters and other interesting stuff

If you apply those three powers sufficiently, all of these dark techniques become completely pointless. Why did I share them then? To show you that the “tricks” are just weird and slightly manipulative ways of finding genuine interactions. All “tricks” are no more useful than the white hat stuff (being friendly and having conversations).

Reply, mention, or comment – let me know your thoughts.

Be kind, be uplifting, and have interesting conversations.

About Matthew Brown

Matthew is a writer and geek from Kent (UK). He is the founder and current chair of Thanet Creative as well as head geek for Author Buzz. His ambitions include appearing in some future incarnation of TableTop with Wil Wheaton and seeing a film or TV series based on something he wrote. Matt is also responsible for fixing stuff here when it breaks.

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