First steps after installing a Mastodon server

After installing a Mastodon server, it might feel overwhelming to understand all the options you have at your disposal.

The goal for this guide is to present you with the minimum amount of steps and information to get you started.

Be advised that this is not a comprehensive guide and for your particular use case it might not be the best guide. You can find a lot more information on the Mastodon documentation.

Join Mastodon Official Sticker
Creative person thinking and dreaming at work vector image

First place to visit

Click the Preferences link on the sidebar.

On the Preferences page you will notice a large array of options in the sidebar menu (on mobile you need to click ≡).

Visit Administration->Site Settings.

Registration Mode

By default, the option 'Anyone can sign up' is active and that means that the server is open to public registration.

You can change it to 'Approval required for sign up' where you get a notification when someone signs up and you have to approve them before they can start using your server.

Or 'Nobody can sign up' where nobody will be able to sign up unless you sent them an invite that you can generate in Moderation->Invites.

Short server description

Add a short description to your server. This will be useful to know what your server is about.

To get started there is no need to make something elaborate, something like 'Mastodon server just for ____ (insert name or username)' or 'Mastodon server for people that are interested in ____ (insert topic)' will be enough when you are first getting started.

Contact Username

Just insert your username here or the username of the account you want people to contact.

This can be both local users or remote users that need someone to talk about anything related with your server.

Notice: the username is the one you picked when you signed up. (no @ symbols)

Business Email

This should be the email address to publicly display when someone needs to contact the server administrator.

Server description

If you are going to allow public registration or registration from others you don't know personally, you should use this field to describe your intentions for the server, who is welcome and what rules you want people to follow.

If it's just you or you and a couple of friends feel free to leave it blank until you decide if you are going to allow others to join.

These are the most important settings to get you started

Obviously the other options are important, too, and you should look into them later

Happy person peeking and looking from behind round vector image

Nobody likes to follow empty profiles

Before you move forward and start following other users or inviting people to your Mastodon server, take a couple of minutes to fill in your profile information.

If you don't do it you are much less likely to get other users to follow you back and/or join your server.

Just uploading an avatar, a one line bio and a first post will make a big difference.

Your Profile

You will find a link to 'edit profile' on multiple location but if you can't find it, click the Preferences link and then go to: Profile->Appearance

Avatar

Upload a picture of you or an avatar that you like.

Display name

You can add your name or a nickname. But you may also leave it blank, and your username will be presented.

Bio

A single line bio description will be enough.

Just adding something like 'I work/study ___ and I'm interested in ___' is much better than an empty bio.

Tip: the bio accepts URLs, so you can also add your website URL or another page you would like to point people to.

Animalistic student character student waving vector image

Your first post

It would probably be a good idea to make your first posts now before starting to follow other users. Again, a profile with more content will help users you follow or that come across your profile decide if they want to follow you.

The obvious 'First post' or 'Hello world' are candidates and it's your profile, you can post whatever you like.

Still, it's common on the Fediverse to make an introduction post. An introduction post is a post where you let people know more about you and where you include the #introduction hashtag.

No need to overthink it. You can always do another #introduction post later with more or different information.

What to write in your #introduction post

Here is a list that might trigger some ideas on what to write.
  • Your name/nickname
  • Your country/location
  • Your age/gender
  • Languages you speak
  • What you do for work
  • What you do for fun
  • What you like to do
  • What you don't like
  • Your interests
  • Goals you have
  • What you stand for
  • Things you love
  • Favourite movies
  • Favourite music
  • Favourite books
  • Favourite hobbies
Human hand holding smartphone with list of people vector image

Who to follow

Due to the decentralised nature of Mastodon, when you first start a new Mastodon server there is no remote federation happening and no remote content will be available.

For your server to start receiving federated remote content you (or other users in your server) need to follow external users. A federation link is created when a user follows another. These links are user to server and not server to server.

Example, if you follow @mastohost in mastodon.social your server will only receive federation updates about @mastohost user and not about other users on mastodon.social.

Notice that when you follow someone new your server will not fetch old content from that user and it will only start receiving updates from content posted after the follow happened.

Below you will find a list of tips and ideas on how to find people to follow.

Do you have a Mastodon account on another server?

You can move the account by following the move account instructions on Mastodon documentation or you can export your list of follows and import it on your new account Account->Import and Export.

Check other users follow lists

If you know someone on Mastodon a good idea is to have a look at the following/followers lists of that person. For example you can look at Masto.host Mastodon account following or followers. Then when you find someone you like you can follow them and then look at that user following/followers.

View other servers /public and /explore pages

You can also go to another Mastodon server public page (example: https://fosstodon.org/public) or explore page (example: https://mastodon.online/explore) and find more people that way. You can find a list of Mastodon servers and other servers with compatible software on instances.social.

Look for users by category on Trunk

Another option is to go to Trunk. Trunk is a directory of people on the Fediverse, where users can submit their profile on topics that they post about.

Have a look at the categories that might interest you and look at the profiles listed to decide who you would like to follow.

If you are just getting started and without much content on your profile it's probably not the best time to submit your profile on Trunk as the Trunk admins will have little information to know if they should approve your submission.

Batch follow users from categories on Trunk

If you don't want to manually go through Trunk categories you can go to hugo.gameiro.pt/trunk-to-csv and pick the categories from which you would like to follow everyone.

That will generate a csv file that you can import to Mastodon to automatically follow all the users from the categories you choose. On Mastodon you can upload the generated csv on 'Account->Import and Export->Import'.

The FediFollows Mastodon Account

FediFollows is a Mastodon account that regularly shares recommendations of people to follow. You can find it at https://mastodon.online/@FediFollows.

They also have a thread with a curated list of follow recommendations per category at https://mastodon.online/@FediFollows/107547349637668904.

Masto.host logo
I hope this helps getting you started

The goal with this guide is to try and not overwhelm you with information. In particular if you are brand new to Mastodon there can be a lot to take in.

Still, with the provided steps you will probably have enough for your first days running your own Mastodon server.

To be clear, Masto.host is not affiliated with Mastodon. It's simply an hosting service that offers a fully managed Mastodon hosting solution.

For information on Mastodon please visit: