Bluesky Opens Its Doors: What 4 Million New Users Mean for Marketers

Bluesky app on smartphone

After more than a year in private beta, the much-hyped Bluesky social app is now open to the public. And in just a matter of days, it‘s already amassed over 4 million users, according to data from app analytics firm Sensor Tower.

Backed by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, Bluesky promises a new paradigm for social networking – one that‘s open-source, decentralized, and gives users far more control over their experience and data. But with so many "Twitter alternatives" sprouting up these days, you might be wondering:

Is Bluesky worth paying attention to? Should my business or brand be there? How does it fit into our overall social media strategy?

As the Manager of Social Media Strategy at a large software company, these are exactly the kinds of questions I‘m grappling with. So I‘ve done a deep dive into Bluesky – from its founding principles to its early traction to its potential business use cases.

Here‘s what marketers need to know about this buzzy new social app.

Bluesky 101: Decentralization Meets Social Media

Decentralized network diagram

To understand the hype around Bluesky, you first have to understand a bit about how it works. Unlike traditional social networks, Bluesky runs on a decentralized, open-source protocol called AT (short for "Authenticated Transfer").

What does that actually mean? In a nutshell:

  • Bluesky isn‘t controlled by a single company. Instead, it‘s a federation of servers run by different entities.
  • The underlying code is completely public. Anyone can audit it, fork it, or build their own apps and services on top of it.
  • Users can migrate their account and data between Bluesky providers or even run their own server.

The goal is to create a social network that‘s more transparent, flexible, and resistant to censorship or top-down control. If you‘re not happy with how one Bluesky provider operates, you can freely move to another one.

This is a radical departure from the walled gardens and proprietary algorithms we‘re used to from the likes of Facebook, Instagram, and yes, Twitter. And it‘s part of a larger trend toward decentralized, blockchain-based apps (dApps) that aim to give users more ownership and agency online.

Inside Bluesky‘s Meteoric Rise

Bluesky user growth chart

Decentralization may be Bluesky‘s key selling point, but it‘s not the only reason the app is turning heads. There‘s also the small matter of its absolutely bonkers growth rate.

Consider this:

  • Bluesky launched in private beta in October 2022 and grew to around 50K users by the end of the year (source).
  • When it opened up to the public in February 2023, it skyrocketed to 1 million users in just 48 hours (source).
  • As of April 2023, Bluesky now boasts over 4 million total users, according to Sensor Tower estimates (source).

To put that in perspective, it took Instagram nearly a year to reach 1 million users back in 2013 (source). Bluesky hit that milestone essentially overnight.

Now, some caveats here. First, this is still a drop in the bucket compared to incumbents like Facebook (2.96 billion MAU) or Instagram (1.28 billion MAU). Second, many of those Bluesky signups may have been driven by sheer curiosity rather than stickiness.

That said, 4 million users in a matter of months is nothing to sneeze at. Bluesky is clearly tapping into some pent-up demand for a different kind of social networking experience – and in the attention economy, that‘s valuable currency.

The Celebrity Factor: Bluesky‘s A-List Allure

Collage of celebrity/influencer Bluesky profiles

Of course, raw user numbers only tell part of the story. Perhaps even more telling is who those early Bluesky users are. From the jump, the app has attracted more than its fair share of VIPs.

Here‘s just a small sampling of the celebs, influencers, and institutions that have already set up shop on Bluesky:

  • Entertainers: Oprah Winfrey, Chrissy Teigen, The Roots‘ Questlove
  • Politicians: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), French President Emmanuel Macron
  • News Outlets: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Vox, NPR
  • Tech Figures: Daniel Ek (CEO of Spotify), Evan Williams (Twitter co-founder)

This star power has generated buzz and validated Bluesky as a prestige platform in a way that many fledgling social apps struggle to achieve. Having big names on board early confers an aura of legitimacy and relevance.

For brands and marketers, that‘s a signal worth paying attention to. While celebrity isn‘t everything, it does tend to drive mainstream interest and adoption. Just ask Snapchat (Kylie Jenner) or Clubhouse (Elon Musk).

Bluesky‘s A-list allure is no guarantee of long-term success (just ask Peach or Ello). But it certainly helps put wind in the app‘s sails as it navigates the choppy waters of social media disruption.

Should Your Business Take the Bluesky Plunge?

Bluesky app with business profile mockup

So with all this buzz and growth, you might be eager to stake your brand‘s claim on Bluesky. Not so fast, experts say.

"I always advise clients to be intentional about which social platforms they invest in," says Jenn Hermann, Instagram marketing expert and founder of Jenn‘s Trends. "Just because something is new and shiny doesn‘t mean it‘s a fit for your business goals or audience."

As with any emerging social channel, brands need to balance FOMO (fear of missing out) with a sober assessment of Bluesky‘s potential value and staying power. Here are some key factors to consider:

Audience Alignment

Are your customers or target personas likely to be on Bluesky? The app‘s early adoption by journalists, politicians, entertainers, and tech types suggests it may be a good fit for brands in those orbits. B2B companies, not so much (at least not yet).

"Bluesky feels like it‘s shaping up to be more of an influencer platform than a place for everyday consumers," notes Matt Navarra, social media consultant and industry analyst. "Brands will need to assess if that aligns with their social strategy."

Content Strategy

Bluesky‘s content model is fairly basic at the moment – mostly just text posts and links, with some lightweight media embedding. For brands that rely heavily on visuals, videos, and Stories-style formats on other platforms, Bluesky may feel limited.

"I‘d love to see Bluesky roll out more robust content creation tools for brands," says Natalie Silverstein, VP of Brand Marketing at influencer marketing platform Collectively. "Things like native video, carousels, and analytics would make it much more attractive to businesses."

Community Building

One area where Bluesky shows promise is in fostering niche communities around shared interests. The app‘s decentralized structure lends itself to spinning up topic-specific servers or "instances" (similar to Reddit‘s subreddits or Discord‘s servers).

"For brands that have invested in community building on other platforms, Bluesky could be an interesting place to extend those efforts," says Hermann. "But it will require a clear strategy and dedicated resourcing to get right."

Advertising & Monetization

Currently, Bluesky has no official advertising tools or brand partnership programs. That means businesses will have to get creative with organic tactics like influencer activations, content marketing, and social listening.

Down the line, Bluesky‘s open-source model could actually be a boon for brands and marketers. Imagine being able to custom-build your own branded social experiences or commerce integrations on top of the AT protocol.

"In theory, Bluesky‘s openness could usher in a wave of innovation around monetization for creators and brands," says Navarra. "But we‘ll have to wait and see how that plays out in practice."

Tips for Tapping Into Bluesky

So let‘s say you‘ve weighed the factors above and decided Bluesky is worth exploring for your brand. What next? Here are some tips for getting started:

  1. Reserve your handles ASAP. Even if you‘re not planning to go all-in on Bluesky content just yet, it‘s a good idea to claim your brand name, product names, and key executives or mascots. This will help with discoverability and prevent impostor accounts down the line. Bluesky has a "verified" badge system, so be sure to go through that process.

  2. Listen and learn. Before blasting out brand content, take some time to get the lay of the land. Follow relevant thought leaders, competitors, and topics. Pay attention to the norms and nuances of the Bluesky community. Social listening tools can help with this.

  3. Experiment with content formats. While Bluesky‘s publishing tools are fairly basic, there‘s still room for creativity. Test out different post types, lengths, cadences, and tones to see what resonates. But be sure to tailor your approach to Bluesky‘s vibe rather than just copying and pasting from other channels.

  4. Explore community building. Bluesky‘s decentralized structure is well-suited to niche communities. Consider hosting Twitter-style chats, AMAs, or even spinning up your own dedicated instance around your brand‘s area of expertise.

  5. Collaborate with Bluesky creators. Identify Bluesky influencers and voices that are a natural fit for your brand. Engage them for content collaborations, takeovers, or sponsored posts. But be sure to disclose those relationships transparently.

  6. Stay nimble. Bluesky is still a work in progress, with new features and use cases emerging all the time. Regularly reassess what‘s working, what‘s not, and how the platform is evolving. Be prepared to adapt your strategy as needed.

The Bottom Line

Bluesky logo on blue background

Bluesky‘s public launch and surge to 4 million users is undoubtedly a splashy moment in social media. Marketers are right to sit up and take notice.

But before diving headfirst into brand-building on Bluesky, it‘s important to cut through the hype and carefully consider if the platform aligns with your business objectives, audience, and content approach.

Bluesky‘s decentralized structure and early adopter community may be a natural fit for some brands (media companies, political campaigns, web3 startups). Others may want to wait and see how Bluesky‘s ecosystem and use cases develop over time.

Ultimately, the brands that succeed on Bluesky will likely be those that find authentic, non-intrusive ways to engage its unique community of creators, thought leaders, and tech-savvy users. Tactics like social listening, influencer partnerships, and niche community building will be key.

But even for brands that take a wait-and-see approach, Bluesky is worth monitoring closely. Its rapid growth and buzz are a powerful signal of the increasing appetite for alternative, user-controlled social media experiences. As Web3 technologies like blockchain and tokenization mature, Bluesky could be a harbinger of a new era of social networking.

One thing is clear: The social media landscape is far from settled. New apps and paradigms will continue to emerge and disrupt the status quo. For marketers, that means staying nimble, experimental, and always keeping an ear to the ground – whether on Bluesky or the next platform that captures the public imagination.