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Twitter, its successors, and how scientists can use them to promote their work

The social media universe is expanding––but which platform to use? Here we lay out some advantages, disadvantages, tips, and tricks for you by comparing Twitter, Mastodon and Bluesky Social! The different microblogging social media platforms are listed in order of total number of active users (most to least).

1. Twitter: currently rebranding to “X”

Who hasn’t heard about Twitter? 


Well-established scientific communities Twitter has been around since 2006, which means the community has had 17 years to grow. Over the years, the platform has gained significant media attention and become a key aspect of contemporary politics, which has attracted users from all over the world. The plant biology community is big, very active, and full of great content.

Relatively large userbase Twitter has 450 million active users.

Posts are easily disseminated and promoted Retweeting, quoting and replying to posts helps their visibility; additionally, posts can be shared with people who do not have an account and posts can be embedded into blog posts.

Posts are short and easily digestible A maximum of 280 characters per post. This is shorter than Bluesky or Mastodon. Ideas that take more than 280 characters to explain are shared in “threads”, which are multiple tweets nested in replies to each other, like so (unfortunately, you may need an account to see the whole example). Whole words are occasionally replaced with emojis so more can be said with as few characters as possible. Like with any other social media, adding an image or video would help increase the visibility of your post.

Posts are sorted by hashtags Fun fact: Twitter is where this social media trend originated.


Invasive Twitter now collects biometric and employment data on its users through cookies.

Clunky website and app (reminiscent of the mid 2000s and early 2010s) Since the Elon Musk takeover, the platform is notoriously more glitchy.

Easy to waste time scrolling and browsing due to sheer mass and wide variety of content The centralised algorithm constantly promotes a never-ending stream of engaging and sensationalist content that’s tailored to your interests through the data it collects about you. 

Difficult to browse or see posts without an account Another feature of the Elon Musk takeover.

Content algorithm The content algorithm is very centralised, promotes the accounts with the most followers, pushes content you never signed up to see and will always favor the most sensationalist posts that get the most extreme reactions. All of this distorts what you interact with on the platform and filters what you are able to see. It is also quite likely to drown out your posts and content in favor of an account with more followers or a post with more engagement. 

Recommended uses

  1. Sharing work with colleagues
  2. Sharing work with people outside your field
  3. Learning about open positions and conferences
  4. Networking and community building
  5. Promoting community science*
  6. Opening discussions about relevant issues 
  7. Increasing general literacy about your field with others

*Community science is a more inclusive terminology for citizen science.

2. Mastodon: decentralised with no content algorithm

Mastodon was created as a completely decentralised response to Twitter in 2016. It also has no content algorithms that bias the what you see, which gives the whole platform a very different feel from Twitter, BlueSky, or any other mainstream social media platform. 


No content algorithm Decentralisation due to the absence of a content algorithm means you aren’t competing with influencers and celebrities for content engagement. This might contribute to a higher level of engagement with posts from new, independent users than what can be seen on Twitter.

Significantly less invasive than other platforms listed Much less cookie and data collection than Instagram, Bluesky, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

You can edit posts after you make them This is not a feature available on Twitter or Bluesky. It means no one has to see your embarrassing typos forever. 

Dark layout can conserve phone battery life

Short easily digestible posts Posts can be up to 500 characters, which is more than either Bluesky Social or Twitter. As with Twitter, it is possible to add images or videos to the posts. 

Posts are sorted by hashtags This makes content you want to see easier to find. 

Posts are easily disseminated and promoted Like with Twitter and Bluesky Social, you just repost or quote a post  to increase its visibility and you can easily reply to posts. Posts can also easily be shared with people who do not have a Mastodon account and posts can be embedded with an embed code into blog posts. 

Platform can be browsed without an account This increases the number of people your post can reach as you do not need an account to read or browse content.


Less than 2 million active users (and a total of 14 million accounts) A relatively small userbase means the scientific communities are less active and smaller than on Twitter.

Unfamiliar user interface The user interface is significantly different from that of Twitter (or Bluesky).

Neo-nazis and the extremist far-right have taken advantage of the decentralisation of the platform Although the platform’s admins are trying to tackle the issue head-on, the decentralisation of the platform and total absence of a content algorithm make it more difficult to identify harmful content in order to remove it and ban users. Moreover, dangerous and bad-faith users are unlikely to be #hashtagging their posts to make them easier to find as they know that would cause them to be banned. However, due to the absence of a content algorithm, you’re less likely to have to see this kind of content without looking for it than you would be on Bluesky or Twitter. 

No content algorithm While this is a positive, it’s also a negative, as it means that you won’t see any activity that happened when you were signed off because there’s no content algorithm that recognises important posts and makes sure they show up on your feed when you sign on.

Feed-domination of the account that posts the most Another consequence of the absence of a content algorithm is that one’s home feed may be dominated by the accounts that are posting the most. To try to diversify your feed, it might be beneficial to follow several #hashtags; however, if one account uses all those #hashtags in all their posts, that too is unlikely to help.

Recommended uses 

  1. Sharing work with colleagues
  2. Sharing work with people outside your field
  3. Networking and building community
  4. Discussing relevant trends and issues
  5. Promoting community science

While the scientific communities on this platform are small, they are active and do exist, and these smaller communities could help facilitate more personal interactions and collaborative initiatives. Also, while there are not as many people actively using this platform as Twitter (or even Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn for that matter) it does have enough users to help get the word out about various community science projects and could be used in conjunction with other social media platforms to ensure a wide variety of people get the message. 

4. Bluesky Social: Slow-growing and exclusive

Bluesky Social was developed in 2021 by the original creators of Twitter as a microblogging social media platform with the same uses and applications, but with content that is more evenly distributed by the content algorithm than on Twitter.  The decentralised content algorithm and small number of users (which means there is much less content to engage with overall) lead to more engagement with posts than on Twitter but limit the maximum potential size of the audience. 


Familiar interface The layout of the platform is almost identical to Twitter.

Intimate There are very few people on the platform, there are much fewer posts overall and the chance of seeing posts outside of the feeds or accounts followed is lower. This is helpful for networking and visibility as there is less competition with celebrities or sensationalist threads on the platform.

Posts are easily disseminated and promoted within BlueSky Social As with Twittter, it’s easy to share a post by using the repost or quote post buttons to increase the  visibility of posts you may want to promote; the platform also makes it easy to reply to posts. 

Posts are short and easily digestible Posts can be a max of 300 characters. As with the other two platforms, adding an image or video is possible to help make posts stand out. 

More egalitarian content algorithm A less centralised content algorithm means that bigger players with more followers are less likely to drown out the content from accounts with smaller followings.


Content algorithm The presence of a content algorithm means that users’ data and cookies are being collected and that users are bound to see some things they never asked or signed up to see (whether they want to or not). For example, after searching “#metabolomics”, I was prompted to follow quacky health guru accounts pushing certain exercises and foods to “boost your metabolism and lose weight”. However, that could also just be due to an overall lack of content, related to the next point on this list.

Very small active userbase As of the beginning of September 2023, there are only 856,508 users on the app, meaning the scientific communities are either small or non-existent. 

Currently invite-only An invite code is needed to make an account here. These can only be obtained from some (not all) current users, and even the ones who have invite codes only have a limited number. One can enter an email address to join a waiting list. 

No content can be browsed or seen without an account This means that Links to posts cannot be shared with people who don’t have an account, posts can’t be embedded into a blogpost, and the number of potential people that a post on the platform is limited almost exclusively to the platform’s users. Two exceptions to this would be if someone takes a screenshot of the post or uses the auto-copy feature of the platform, which copies the text of a post without including the post’s author or where it was posted.

Hashtag feature not fully functional Makes it difficult to know if posts can get categorised to meet their target audience.

No direct message feature While the intimacy stemming from how few people are currently on the platform could be good for networking, you might need to turn to a platform like LinkedIn to have a proper conversation.

Recommended uses

  1. Sharing work with colleagues
  2. Sharing with people outside your field
  3. Intimate networking (Just remember there is no direct message feature.)
  4. Discussing relevant trends and issues