First steps into the Mastodon social universe?
At some point, I knew I had to write my version of the “new to mastodon” user guide. Plenty of good ones cover the basics well, so start by bookmarking this page to get back to it later and then explore.
Picking a server (you can switch later effortlessly)
The “official guide to Mastodon” suggests that you should “somewhat carefully” pick up a Mastodon server to join from the “joinmastodon.org” list. That's fine as long as you find one that looks like a good fit for you.
Pay special attention to the instance allowed languages (i.e., some are “English” only, while others may cater to some specific language).
Some servers are themed around a particular interest (i.e., ones that only allow a specific topic or are filled with people that want to focus on it). There are “generic” instances where every issue is allowed.
Every server has a particular set of rules. The owner or moderators enforce these rules. Please read them carefully because it is easy to be expelled from a Mastodon instance. Some restrictions may be obnoxious and, for example, forbid users to use certain words or letters or promote or even talk about a particular topic.
There are many pros and cons to joining a big server. I want a server that is as fast as possible. On the other hand, I am not interested in “local” and “federated” timelines; I look forward to seeing the people I follow and their interactions with others. So for me, it's a personal server I self-host at mrnet.pt for friends and family.
You can have your own server, entirely administered by professionals, even if you don't know a thing about servers. For example, check out masto.host. NOTE: I have no relation with the company and never hired them, but their track record of hosting Mastodon servers is outstanding.
If you feel like looking at random strangers and don't mind being in crowds with a server that sometimes is not exactly the fastest, mastodon.social is probably your best bet!
If you want, you can switch to a different server later. So, don't worry too much. Just don't get expelled; that will complicate migration to a new server, assuming you want the people you follow and those that follow you to move along with your account.
Congrats on having created a Mastodon account!
Make a nice profile for your new account!
No one likes interacting with a faceless profile. Let people know who you are and what topics (hashtags) you are interested in. You will be surprised by how many people will want to follow you and interact with the content you post.
Now, follow people!
You need to follow at least 100 people; otherwise, your Mastodon feed will look deserted, and you will feel like you hear crickets. Since in Mastodon, there is no algorithm attempting to guess which posts you probably like to see; you need to populate your feed by following people. Some suggestions:
Look on the web for “Mastodon accounts worth following” (use Google or whatever search engine you like). The search engine will give you some suggestions.
From time to time, visit followgraph.vercel.app to find who the people you follow are following. It gives you some excellent suggestions of people you will likely find interesting.
Visiting other mastodon instances and looking at their “local” and “federated” timelines will probably help find exciting people.
If you are on iOS (or an Apple Silicon Mac) “ice cubes“ has an amazing super-power: you can follow “local” timelines from multiple instances, making small instances feels exactly like big ones. It's the App killer feature! Download and install it, even if you primarily use some other App (it is free and open-source).
Install Streetpass for Mastodon in your browser. This plugin will check for author links in articles you read on the web and suggest you follow the authors.
interact with people. Favorite (it tells the author you liked it and has no effect other than that) the post their best posts, and share (boost) the ones you find helpful or entertaining to your followers.
If you have a feed that feels too quiet, follow some wrong people. Over time you will make a better selection, but do build a network.
Give people stuff to read!
Set the language correctly in every post. You can set a default language on your Mastodon. Set it correctly when you switch to another language occasionally. Some instances have automatic translations, but for them to actually work, it is important that you inform them of what language you are using for each post.
Use hashtags in your posts! They do wonders for the discoverability of your content! Some people follow certain hashtags, not necessarily the authors that write on those topics, so give them something to work with.
If you are on iOS, you will be spoiled with fantastic paid Apps from top-rated authors; look at app store reviews, and you will find one good fit. The best free option is, by far, “ice cubes”.
On Android, I have no idea what your options are. Sorry. I am sure there are some. I heard about “Tusky for Mastodon” being good but never used it.
I use the instance site with the “Roam with Mastodon” browser plugin. This plugin gives you the equivalent of quoted retweets on Mastodon.
I heard wonders about “Elk” but never tried it.
Sometimes I use “ice cubes” (the iOS App) on my Apple Silicon Mac... but I am still waiting for a decent native Mac App that beats the web interface...
Are you have a blog or a website?
If you want banners to link to your mastodon account or timeline, look at fo.llow.social.