When Meta announced the launch of Threads in early July, the tech company unveiled its plans for the fediverse, sparking conversations about the future of decentralized social media.

The innovation is already gaining traction, but decentralized social media could change Web3 as we know it. But first, let’s define the concept of decentralized social media and break down the most popular platforms. And we’ll outline how decentralized social media could impact marketers.

What is decentralized social media?

Decentralized social media platforms are networks that operate on various independent servers and/or a blockchain. Decentralized social media isn’t controlled by a single entity or confined to a centralized server like the legacy networks we use today. If you were to join a decentralized social media platform, you could send messages and engage with users across networks.

The fediverse, a portmanteau of “federation” and “universe,” is made up of decentralized social networks. It’s similar to the metaverse, but here’s the distinction: Instead of interconnected worlds fueled by augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), the fediverse consists of interoperable social networks. In layman’s terms, the fediverse enables different social networks to communicate with each other because there are multiple servers.

Since there isn’t a centralized server and blockchain technology allows data to be stored anywhere, it fosters stronger user autonomy and community, which has caught the eyes of many users. Many fediverse networks are guided by decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOS), which make decisions on the development of the platform.

Along with user control and community, there are other factors that attract users to flock to decentralized social media in lieu of traditional platforms. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Censorship resistance
  • Ownership of personal data
  • Increased privacy and/or anonymity
  • Economic independence and new forms of monetization (e.g Bitcoin, DAOS)
  • User content ownership
  • User rewards and incentives
  • Transparency and auditability

6 decentralized social media platforms to know

Changes across traditional networks over the past few years have catalyzed the interest in decentralized social media platforms. As we emerge along the timeline for Web3, more people are learning about and joining the fediverse. But before marketers join in, you’ll need to understand the current landscape. Below is a quick overview of some of the most popular decentralized social media networks:

Mastodon

Founded in 2016, Mastodon is the largest open-source, microblogging platform in the world with over three million users. Like other social platforms, Mastodon users can share text-based content, GIFs, images and videos. The feed is in chronological order and users have full authority on what appears in their timeline. Users can join servers that are centered on set topics or interests.

Mastodon's landing page. The headline of the page reads: Social networking that's not for sale.

Threads

Okay, technically Threads isn’t decentralized, but Meta plans to use ActivityPub, a decentralized protocol (it’s the same protocol Mastodon uses as well).

Threads is currently a text-based app linked to Instagram, but according to Meta’s website, the platform will enable users to communicate with other fediverse platforms. This means Threads users could follow, share content and interact with others on different platforms.

A Sprout Social post on Threads asking followers to share their social and marketing wins of the week.

Steemit

Steemit launched in 2014, making it one of the oldest decentralized social media networks. Steemit is a blogging platform that uses its own blockchain and has a reward system using a native token currency, STEEM.

Users can earn STEEM by creating content and completing engagement tasks, such as upvoting posts. The platform also allows users to follow others and create niche communities.

The landing page for Steemit, a decentralized social network. In the screenshot of the page, you can see multiple posts from steemitblog.

Lens Protocol

Founded in 2022, Lens Protocol is a blockchain-based open source social graph dedicated to empowering content creators and creatives. Users have complete ownership over their profile, content, following and data. Lens Protocol is Ethereum-based.

Lens can be integrated with other Web3 applications and provides new monetization opportunities. For example, Lens handles are minted as NFTs that users can add to their crypto wallet. The platform currently has over 100,000 beta users, but interested Web3 aficionados can sign up for their waitlist.

Lens Protocol's website and waitlist button.

Hive Social

Founded in 2019, Hive Social is another newer decentralized social media platform quickly gaining steam. In November 2022, the platform hit 1.5 million users. With polls, image posts, text and profile music, some would describe Hive Social as a conglomeration of X (formerly known as Twitter), Instagram, Tumblr and Myspace, but with several twists. The platform offers a chronological feed and customizable profile features including color themes and text edit functionality. Users can also add their pronouns and zodiac signs.

Hive is only available on mobile and there aren’t any ads, but the platform does use a native cryptocurrency to reward users to create and engage with connect, enabling users to monetize their creative contributions while also nurturing community.

Hive's website landing page. The headline reads: Socialize on Hive Social.

Minds

Minds is another open-source network that aims to give users control of their experience on social media. The Ethereum-based platform prioritizes user privacy and data control, allowing participants to craft custom algorithms. To encourage content creation and engagement, Minds rewards users with cryptocurrency.

The website for Minds, a decentralized social media platform. The screenshot includes posts from users, and a pop-up box that reads: The community-owned social network.

This list is truly just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to decentralized social media platforms, as Web3 networks are ever growing.

How decentralized social media could impact marketers

As you can see, many decentralized social media platforms are centered around giving user autonomy. This shift away from traditional systems will affect how brands approach marketing and social media as a whole. Let’s explore the potential impacts on marketers.

New forms of monetization will become the norm

More brands will embrace the new avenues for monetization created by decentralized social media. Digital currency will become necessary to ensure business resilience and maintain customer loyalty. Brands may even need to implement new cryptocurrency initiatives to help facilitate engagement.

Emphasis on organic, community-first social strategies

New advertising formats—or a lack of traditional ads entirely—will influence marketers’ approach to paid and organic strategies. Depending on how things play out, marketers could see an explosion of organic reach tactics because they might have a better return on investment than traditional paid ads.

In our LinkedIn poll below, we asked how decentralized social media will impact marketers and social teams the most. The top answer was community-first strategy, which reflects the essence of decentralized social media.

One commenter said marketers will need an audience-centric approach, but since this is less scalable, decentralized community management will require more boots on the ground to extend reach and achieve the same results traditional social would:

We may also see an increase in community-first strategies that focus on one platform. Instead of having to create and manage multiple accounts across several networks, decentralized social media opens the door for marketers to center on one platform of their choice. We’ll see a focus on making high-quality content that is malleable and resonates throughout the decentralized social media platforms.

More extensive crisis communication plans

Censorship resistance is one of the major appeals of the fediverse, but it also creates a slippery slope for misinformation and disinformation. Marketers will need to implement proactive frameworks for preventing misinformation/disinformation, along with extensive crisis communication plans to safeguard their brands.

The future of decentralized social media

Although decentralized social media is very different from traditional platforms, one thing remains the same: a desire for connection. Just like the other waves of innovation, marketers will adapt and nurture relationships to amplify their brand. Read more predictions about the future of social media to help inform how you should be shaping your community.