These days, it's simple for marketing teams to hit all the big social media platforms with targeted marketing content — but could your team be missing out on some of the smaller, decentralized social media platforms? These unique platforms may offer access to new audiences and help businesses target niche markets.
Here's what you need to know about decentralized social media platforms, how to use them in marketing, and which ones to try out.
What Is a Decentralized Social Media Platform?
A decentralized social media platform is a platform that a single company, such as social media companies like Instagram or Facebook, does not run. Instead, these platforms may be open-source software or use blockchain to build and record the platform.
Understanding blockchains is essential to understanding most decentralized platforms. Blockchains are digital record logs. Each block on the chain contains unique information. It also contains the marker of the chain that preceded it, meaning changing any of the information would immediately raise red flags as the chain would be clearly altered. These records are not stored on a single server but rather hosted on individual computers worldwide that earn the right to participate in the blockchain. Since they all have a copy of this evolving record, it would be nearly impossible for any entity to gain access to enough record holders to alter the blockchain.
Blockchain technology is often discussed in reference to cryptocurrency, where a certain value is assigned to each immutable block. Similarly, data such as pictures or text can be stored in a block. Due to the nature of the chain record keeping, it is clear who created this data and who it belongs to. The decentralized nature of these records means it is difficult for any one company or entity to police the content on the chain or delete it while acting alone.
The potential to clearly own a digital version of a creative work on a decentralized, non-corporate social media site is attractive to many creatives and free-speech activists. But it may also open doors for content marketers to operate an omnichannel marketing strategy in particular niches.
Centralized vs. Decentralized Social Platforms
Centralized social media platforms are familiar to most businesses. These sites are hosted on centralized servers owned by one company rather than independent servers. They follow standards and guidelines set by the company and are subject to the company's decisions to remove or promote via algorithm content as they see fit.
Posting an ad to Facebook or content on TikTok is second nature for many content marketers. These large sites have simple-to-use tools that integrate marketing materials, capture and deliver analytics, and encourage engagement with audiences, often at cost to the brand in search of marketing. They offer valuable advertising options, including built-in ads.
Decentralized social networks are often written on blockchain, meaning they are hosted across a wide range of computers around the world. No single entity owns or polices these sites. Users may earn cryptocurrency or other rewards while engaging with these sites, which they may give to content creators who earn simply based on intended engagement from their audience.
Marketers who want to work on decentralized social platforms may find no options to place ads. While they can create content that can earn like other creators on the site through cryptocurrency payments from readers, It's unlikely they will find traditional marketing tools built into these platforms.
Benefits of Decentralized Social Media for Businesses
Despite the lack of integrated marketing tools, decentralized social media does have several benefits for businesses:
- Put the power of communication in the hands of users and developers. These types of platforms are attractive to those interested in censorship resistance or possibly those looking to circumvent oppressive digital laws.
- No central server means that records of the platform are kept across multiple computers globally, which makes them resilient to attacks or shutdown attempts.
- These platforms may face less influence from advertisers, which theoretically democratizes the attention creators can get within them. Users curate and reward creators directly for the best or most relevant content.
- Creators are able to own and create a permanent record of their content thanks to blockchain technology, which stores the content as a single, immutable creation onchain indefinitely.
Challenges of Decentralized Social Media for Businesses
While the lack of a central authority is the main selling point for many using decentralized social media platforms, this also means that moderation on these sites may be limited. Some alternative social media sites have been historically associated with politically incorrect content or even content related to criminal activity, such as inciting violence. Choosing which sites fit your brand's mission is essential to avoid potentially negative associations.
Content marketing teams must also consider the technological needs for using decentralized social media platforms and how much bandwidth they can give to enhancing technical skills. You may not need a highly technical background to use all decentralized social media platforms, but some businesses may find marketing on them unfamiliar and challenging. Investing this extra time for a potentially slim new audience may be less attractive for some businesses.
Pros and Cons of the Top 18 Decentralized Social Media Platforms
Like any marketing decision, content marketing on decentralized social media apps comes with pros and cons. Check out the 18 top decentralized social media platforms to see which kind of online community may work best to share content.
When looking to reach a large audience on a decentralized social media platform, you cannot afford to sleep on Odysee. With over 5 million users in 2023, Odyssee is one of the most popular decentralized alternatives to traditional platforms.
For creators of all types of media, blockchain-based social networks like Odysee offer a wide variety of hosting options for pictures, blogs and articles, audio, PDFs, videos, and more. Though Odysee hosts its content on the LBRY network, it claims use to be plug-and-play for users without blockchain social media knowledge.
Users turn to Odysee for an alternative to social media run by larger corporations. It makes space for users who create independently. These creators can use tools on Odysee to import or mirror content they have created elsewhere already, like YouTube.
Users on Odysee can tip each other for content creation, making this a favorable option for creators or marketers looking for simple monetization without involving ads. Content is subject to community guidelines that restrict content that discriminates, promotes violence, or features harm to people or animals, among other topics. For marketers and content creators looking for a decentralized platform with some basic moderation, Odysee may offer that feature.
Running on the Steem blockchain and utilizing STEEM cryptocurrency, Steemit is a platform looking to create a social economy where users can be given rewards for their content directly by other users. The over 3.5 million users of this social media platform can earn benefits and rewards for creating content and interacting with others' content on the website.
Steemit is free to use. Users can post, comment, or vote on Steemit content without paying anything. This may be more attractive than similar platforms that charge for actions. If users want to purchase cryptocurrency to use on the site, they may do so through many common markets and exchanges, including Binance and Bittrex. Users may earn new Steem tokens for interacting with the content on the site.
While Steemit does have an etiquette guide, there are no official site content rules, which may be undesirable for some brands interested in content marketing. Users do receive reputation scores that rank how valuable they are to the community, which may help marketers gain authority in this space.
Gab is a decentralized social media platform created for users interested in faith-based and free-speech content. In a Pew Research study, 1% of Americans interviewed regularly got their news from Gab, signaling a potentially wide audience.
Users can participate directly on the Gab site or use its open-source code to create their own Gab Social server and communicate with others. Gab is based on Mastodon and does require some technical knowledge for users leaving the main site.
Content marketers interested in reaching Gab's audience should be aware of its historical association with extremism. This association has led to some technical issues with Gab as technology companies it requires to function distance themselves from Gab and its mission. If you're looking for a steady channel to distribute your content, you should evaluate the stability of Gab before investing in creation efforts.
One of the best-known decentralized social media platforms, Mastodon is an open-source, decentralized social media platform for microblogging. Free to use, Mastodon is a non-profit founded in Germany. With 1.7 million active users and over 10,000 servers, Mastodon allows users to communicate with each other regardless of server location.
Mastodon social media has seen recent growth as changes at Twitter — now X — inspired some users to leave. Over 70,000 users signed up for Mastodon in the immediate aftermath of these changes. With a similar layout and visuals, this familiar setting makes microblogging on a decentralized social media platform feel accessible.
While Mastodon may not have as many users as other Twitter alternatives, it does have a positive reputation across the media and a stable, well-known developer team. You may find reaching audiences on Mastodon worthwhile, especially considering the growth it has seen in response to changes in centralized platforms.
Designed for writing and creative work, Mirror is a publishing platform utilizing Ethereum and Arweave to publish and store content. Each post on Mirror is mintable, meaning audiences can collect these posts and increase your engagement. Mintable entries cost money to collect.
Creators can earn non-fungible tokens from their posts, which is an attractive option for those looking to monetize their content. They can also import posts from other blogging platforms, making Mirror a simple way to pursue omnichannel distribution.
Perhaps most interesting to content creators and the businesses behind some of them is Mirror's built-in editor. This editor allows creators to diversify their post features, including embedding things such as non-fungible tokens directly in their posts.
Made for streaming, DLive hosts live video streams in multiple categories. Designed as an alternative to larger streaming sites, DLive allows creators to own their content with blockchain social networks. Creators and viewers may both earn rewards in the form of points or cryptocurrency for engaging with the platform or getting donations from viewers.
DLive does moderate content to the extent that it does not allow violent content, cyberbullying content, hate speech, and other inappropriate content in hosted livestreams. This may be an important feature for brands not wishing to be associated with inappropriate digital video content.
As a streaming-centric platform, DLive makes the most sense for content marketers already working with video content and looking to engage their audience with live content. It may not be a great choice for brands who primarily communicate in blog or image-based posts.
Bluesky is a microblogging application that helps users decide how they want to see social media through customizable feeds. This app grows out of an underlying protocol known as the AT Protocol, which the Bluesky company hopes will integrate with a variety of different services across the internet. This protocol allows users to connect with each other as long as they are on a social media site or service using the protocol. If users change hosts, they can take the profile, followers, and branded name with them.
Importantly, users can have a high level of control over their feed algorithms, so scrolling becomes hyper-personalized. Content marketers looking to appeal to a specific niche may be able to reach users through this personalization by learning how to appeal to these algorithmic settings.
A stand-out feature in the world of decentralized social media platforms, Bluesky does not use a blockchain or cryptocurrency. While this may limit some of the functions users of decentralized platforms seek, it may also attract those interested in the alternative to centralized social media but who are uncomfortable in the cryptocurrency world.
With a goal of open digital interaction online and fair compensation for content creators, Minds opened in 2011. This open-source social media platform is the result of crowdfunding. Minds puts emphasis on working for its users. Minds intends to create a platform where there is no demonetization, no censorship, and no algorithm manipulation.
With options to post text, images, and videos, users engage in microblogging. Minds has over 6 million users, many of whom are seeking out a censorship-free space online. Brands looking to appeal to a large number of users interested in free speech-related topics may find an audience here.
Using Minds can pay. Users receive digital currency for actions on the site, which they can use to buy ad space or exchange with other users. Creators can accept cash or crypto payments to get the most out of their audience support.
Minds also provides an alternative to other social media sites for users and brands seeking a high level of security and privacy. Minds does not sell user data. All messages are end-to-end encrypted.
A YouTube alternative, DTube's layout will be familiar to many users. DTube is built on the Avalon Blockchain, meaning uploaded content is stored onchain rather than on a single server. There are no costs to upload, comment, or manage a transaction on DTube, making DTube attractive to those looking for a completely free decentralized video streaming site.
Users can generate rewards, called DTC tokens, for a variety of actions on the site, including posting, voting, or promoting videos. Token earning inspires users to curate and tag content. Promotion helps to bring the best content to the forefront without an algorithm making the decision.
Brands looking for an option to distribute video content without upfront costs may want to market on DTube. Though the 2.1 million monthly visits may signal a relatively small audience, the familiar layout and free posting may make it the right fit for some content marketing.
Targeting bloggers, Hive.blog makes it possible for writers to get rewarded directly for their work. Built on the Hive blockchain and using HIVE cryptocurrency, Hive.blog rewards its creators by minting new HIVE tokens daily. Users vote on which content deserves the tokens, making publishing on Hive Blog more meritocratic than other platforms.
Hive.blog is free for users, whether they are contributing posts or voting and curating content. But while this free platform may be attractive to creators and content marketers who may also utilize the platform, a limited audience may make this a less desirable venue for your marketing plans. Though the Hive blockchain has just under 250,000 registered users, only a little over 50,000 users are actually actively contributing and interacting with posts. Larger venues are available with similar offerings for marketing on decentralized platforms.
Another site running on the Hive blockchain, PeakD offers a decentralized social media platform meant for connection and true ownership of content. Users can feel confident about the permanence of the media they create as it is stored on the blockchain and owned by the creator.
Contributors can post content as well as create communities surrounding specific topics. This feature makes PeakD engaging for those who want to host a social website on a decentralized platform. All data is stored on the decentralized blockchain record, meaning users can stay connected without interference from an over-arching site authority.
PeakD founders set out to create a more intuitive interface for a decentralized social media platform. You may find this to be true as you navigate this thoughtfully designed platform. But since PeakD is hosted on the same blockchain as Hive.blog, it faces similar struggles with gaining a wide audience with likely only 50,000 engaged Hive users.
Hey — once known as Lenster — is a platform that runs on the Lens Protocol. Users can upload content such as posts and images and carry on threaded conversations about it. The Lens Protocol is designed to be a portable online profile/identity that could eventually be used across multiple social media sites. This means your data, content, friends, and other identity features could move with you when you sign up for a new site.
Hey is the manifestation of this idea. Users own the site and their personal contributions, which are stored onchain. Like other decentralized social media sites, Hey offers the option to keep ownership of your data and content.
If you are interested in the future of the Lens Protocol, you may see getting on Hey as a way to join this social graph — similar to a social network — early. However, with only about 100,000 users on the Lens graph currently, Hey may not offer a worthwhile audience.
13. MAIN Community
Built for connecting with others, the MAIN Community features community boards for special interests, such as cryptocurrency or politics. Like other platforms with cryptocurrency-based rewards systems, users can earn tokens for participating on the site, but tokens also get rewarded to communities that are the most active as a whole.
Alongside the common options of making posts, commenting, and curating content, players can also compete against each other in a social game that results in more token rewards. This gamified approach to social media comes with a structured economic design that makes it harder to win tokens as more players join. Users who enjoy a little competition and rewards for their online "likes" and posts may find the MAIN community a unique place to socialize.
With almost 600 boards listed in MAIN's community directory, you may have many options to connect with different niches. But MAIN does not make it clear how many users it has. It also conducts its board in both English and Russian. Some brands may want to consider current geopolitical issues when engaging with MAIN Community.
A streamlined social media reading experience, Snort provides a visually simple posting interface for text, images, and more. It is built using Nostr, an open protocol designed for sharing data like text posts. It is decentralized and does not use peer 2 peer gossiping, making it possibly more stable than other types of sites. Nostr, and therefore Snort, is unique in the decentralized social media world for not using a blockchain, p2p social network, or a crypto token.
Using Snort appears to take a little more technological know-how, which may limit the available audience here. It may also require that you get more familiar with these tools before being able to market here effectively. While Snort is visually pleasing, the behind-the-scenes may be too complex for the average social media user.
Ecency is a decentralized social media platform that uses the Hive blockchain and emphasizes free speech. Users can reward each other for the content they make and read. All users can own the blockchain's content through decentralization, meaning that users remain in control of their posts and data. Those interested in finding a censorship-free social media platform may choose Ecency.
Cryptocurrency plays an important role in Ecency. Users may purchase Hive tokens such as Hive Dollars or Hive Power through external cryptocurrency exchanges. These Hive tokens work within the Ecency platform. Ecency users pay for actions on the platform with cryptocurrency, which helps to reward content producers and active contributors.
Ecency has around 600,000 unique visitors. Ecency hosts an app in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store, making it simple to access compared to other sites, which may require software installation to work with blockchain components. Marketers may connect with audiences on Ecency who are interested in free speech-related content.
Publish0X is primarily a blog publishing decentralized platform that pays out small sums of cryptocurrency for reading or publishing articles. Users can join for free and earn crypto by reading blogs on the site. Readers can "tip" writers from their earnings, meaning there is a relatively straight line to monetization for content producers on this site. Users can also earn cryptocurrency by sharing articles as an Ambassador. Users don't need to have any cryptocurrency to get started — Publish0X provides everything. As of October 2023, users earned over $800,000 in tips.
Publish0X has about 567,000 users. Recent monthly growth numbers show almost 5,000 new user registrations. This may be a small audience for marketers who wish to target a wide range of potential customers with each post. Spending time on content for Publish0X would mostly benefit companies in the cryptocurrency and NFT business who wish to see simple monetization from their work.
Peepeth is a blockchain-powered social media platform focusing on social good. Users may engage in effective altruism by purchasing a charity badge for their profile for $25. This badge enables special features like elevation in follower suggestions and bookmark features while also purchasing a mosquito net via the Against Malaria Foundation.
Peepeth is designed to limit self-promotion and instead emphasize valuable contributions. Users can only "like" a single post per day via Peepeth's tool Enso, which helps prioritize attention to important posts.
Users can count on their content's permanence thanks to Ethereum blockchain storage. This puts users in control of their posts. Posts do not cost anything, unlike other similar sites, which may charge cryptocurrency for actions. Users can earn tips in Ethereum cryptocurrency from their audiences on Peepeth.
You may wish to connect with Peepeth users when working with sustainable, socially-invested brands. Control and permanence of postings may complement long-term omnichannel marketing well.
For those who want to scroll through short, media-heavy content laid out similarly to old-fashioned Twitter exchanges, consider Twetch. Twetch is ideal for users who want to earn money for content they create. Users pay to get "onchain" and get paid in cryptocurrency for content that gets attention. Each move on Twetch costs a few cents, with Twetch and the creator dividing the profits. This helps eliminate things like bots.
With over 100,000 users, Twetch is a small but growing community. Users appreciate Twetch's basis on BitcoinSV. In the case of de-platforming, a complete history of content is recorded and accessible still. However, users must have BSV to get started, meaning audiences may be limited.
The Role of Decentralized Platforms in an Omnichannel Strategy
Social media users migrating to decentralized platforms have made it clear that they want more authentic, better-quality content and open social media in their social media experience. As marketing teams, you must figure out how to engage with this audience without blatant advertising — in fact, ads are a reason many of these users moved to decentralized platforms.
Monetization on these platforms through rewards and cryptocurrency may also impact your budget planning and marketing strategy. Alongside this, you may also include a strategy for dealing with disinformation on decentralized social media sites and preserving your brand's integrity even as the internet changes.
Decentralized applications absolutely have a place in omnichannel marketing strategy, but teams will have to advance with a plan to get the most bang for their time investment in finding the right platform and content design to capture this audience.
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