Failure is the greatest teacher there is. Other people's failures, when sufficiently well documented, are even better, because you get the education without personally paying the price. So, what can we learn about managing social media from Raspberry Pi's self-immolation on Mastodon?
For the vast majority of the world who hasn't been following, Raspberry Pi launched a Mastodon server under their own brand on the distributed social media service Mastodon, and managed to get that server "defederated" (isolated from most Mastodon users) in less than 24 hours, which is some kind of record for the platform. Aurynn Shaw has a great writeup of the actual details of the incident if you're curious.
This article is about "how do we not repeat Pi's failure with our own official project accounts on social media?" Pi failed in multiple ways here, so it makes for a terrific object lesson in how you should run your social media presence differently. Let's go over the lessons:
1. Your social media needs to be managed by a team with a playbook and a code of conduct
2. Be aware of controversial topics in the social media environment and never wade into them without planning
3. If a post draws a lot of angry responses, it's time for a comms team meeting before any replies go out
4. Educate yourself on the different mechanics of how each social media platform works
Much of Raspberry Pi’s social media response here was drawn completely from how they behaved on Twitter, where blocking and telling people to unfollow works, due to Twitter’s lack of moderation. -- Aurynn Shaw
Prior to joining Mastodon, the same people at Raspberry Pi weathered a similar firestorm on Twitter. However, as a brand account on Twitter they were able to hide a lot of the critical replies to controversial posts, and there was no way for people who were still angry with them to escalate. Pi clearly believed that the same approach would work on Mastodon, and hadn't checked that Mastodon's moderation system works differently.
Each social medium has its own technical mechanics, conventions, rules, and taboos. It's critically important that before your project officially adds another social medium to your list of outlets, that you research and understand it. This will mean that your project will have no presence on some social media, and on others will be only holding the project name and not posting, and that's OK.
This is why I am not recommending that every project get a Mastodon account next week; you need someone in your project who understands Mastodon and can develop your playbook for how to post and interact there.
Your project's social media presence is an important part of the project and needs to be taken as seriously as you take your unit tests. It needs to be deliberative, run by a team, and based on goals for the project. Social media can be a great way to make new users and contributors aware of your project, but it can also be a way to ruin your project's reputation in ways that are expensive to undo. Learn from Raspberry Pi's example and don't repeat their mistakes, on Mastodon or on any other medium.