How to Find Your People on Mastodon
Okay, so you've migrated from Twitter to Mastodon, and have managed to salvage as many of the followers you had on the birdsite. That's a great start!
The trouble is, Twitter had a sophisticated algorithm that would automatically feed you content that went above and beyond your followers. In fact, I bet you can think of that one person you didn't follow, but regularly interacted with them simply because they continually ended up in your feed because of Twitter's algorithm.
Well, by design, Mastodon doesn't do that. Instead, Mastodon provides a handful of tools (some of which also existed on Twitter!) that you can use to help curate a list of people you want to follow. The goal of this post is to talk through some of the methods I've been using and how I use them.
Monitor Hashtags That You're Interested In
The first, and probably the most obvious choice is to search for different hashtags that you are interested in. The Mastodon web client, when used in advanced mode, actually allows you to create a feed of toots that contain any hashtag you specifiy. This is a really good way to find people who are talking about things you're interested in.
For example, I talk a lot about WordPress, so I monitor the #WordPress hashtag. As a result, I've found several of my WordPress colleagues who moved over from Twitter to Mastodon in the past few weeks. I've also found a lot of people I had never met before.
Subscribe to Other Instance Feeds
At the time of this writing, my Mastodon account resides on the Fosstodon.org instance. I picked this instance because it had a decent-sized population for content to federate, and also because it was about a topic I care deeply about - Free, open source software.
But this is just one interest of mine. I'm also really into travel, camping, full-time RVing, vintage cast iron, mountains, homesteading, video games, and craft beer. Needless to say, many of these interests, and the people who revolve around these interests, probably aren't going to be found on Fosstodon. Like other federated apps, Mastodon will show content across instances if the conditions are right, but ultimately there's a lot of people out there who are talking about things I'd be very interested in that I may never cross paths with if I stay specifically in the Fosstodon instance.
This is simply the nature of how Mastodon works, and we can't really change it. But it certainly can't stop you from finding people on other instances anyway!
Some apps, like FediLab on Android, and Mast on iOS make it possible to fetch, and interact with the public feed on a different server. Now, this is just their public feed, not their federated feed, so it's still al ittle different than actually being on that instance yourself, but for the case of finding people who are most-likely talking about things you care about, it's a pretty darn good solution.
Okay stay with me here. I know this is seems stupidly obvious, but there's some nuance to how Mastodon works that can impact your motivation to follow someone. that I think is different from other social platforms, particularly if you're following people across instances.
If you're goal is to find and meet people you'd like to be around, then I think that it makes a lot of sense to follow a lot of people that talk about things that interest you. When you follow people, it adds them to your home feed, naturally, but it will also add that person's content to your server's instance, including their reposts. This means that your hashtagged searches and other things will work better, becauase the index will index more content relevant to your interests to the instance.
Now, the real bummer about following a lot of people is that your home feed will rapidly get out of hand. To get around this, I like to organize the people I follow into lists. I'll group people based on interest of mine they talk about, and also have smaller lists that contain people I want to make sure I don't miss.
This allows me to choose what kind of content I want to look at, when I want to. My default "feed" basically ends up being a small private list of people that I actually want to keep tabs on, and the other broader lists give me a chance to connect with people in different circles I'm interested in being a part of.
So yeah, that's how I do this right now. Curiously enough, this approach reminds me a lot of how Google+ worked (yet another awesome product in Google's graveyard). Instead of "circles", I have "lists" that work like circles, but other than that it's basically the same. That being said, you can 100% do all of these things on Twitter as well, and the approaches here are based on what I did there too, before I killed off my account for good.