Is Instagram Threads Hype Or Help For Your Social Media Strategy?

On July 5, 2023, Meta introduced a new social media platform Threads. Threads is an app from Instagram where users post threads of short pieces of text, photos, videos, and links, reply, and follow other users they’re interested in. Like other social networks users have profiles, but what’s unique about Threads is that it’s quick and easy to create a new account by importing your Instagram account and profile.

Meta Introduced Instagram Threads on July 5th, 2023 as a new app for short text conversations.

Because Threads limits posts to 500 characters, photos, links, and videos under 5 minutes, I consider it a microblog. It is designed more for sharing text updates to participate in real-time public conversations comparable to Twitter (X) versus its parent photo-focused sharing app Instagram.

The Threads feed includes threads posted by people you follow and recommended content from creators you haven’t discovered yet – an AI algorithm like TikTok’s For You. After requests from early users, Threads recently introduced a new Following feed tab to see chronological posts from people you follow similar to Twitter’s (X’s) For You and Following tabs.

The First Week of Signups Were Impressive.

Brands, celebrities, and influencers found the Instagram connection especially appealing in being able to bring their Instagram followers with them. It’s less of a barrier than building everything up from scratch like other new social platforms. This could be part of the reason for the platform’s early success of reaching 100 million users in less than a week (Twitter(X) has 368 million). This surpassed ChatGPT for the fastest adoption of any online service.

Early celebrity and influencer adopters included Oprah, Shakira, Kim Kardashian, and Mr. Beast. Early brand adopters were Rare Beauty, William Sonoma, Netflix, and Gymshark. Early publishers to join included Vogue, Vice, and Rolling Stone. While advertising is sure to come, the early days on the platform are like the early days of social media where everyone was vying for followers via organic posts and reach. Brands like Anthropologie used promotions such as giving away gift cards to grow followers and engagement.

Instagram Threads features:

  • Profiles are connected to Instagram accounts and can be public or private.
  • Post limits are 500 characters with links, photos, videos under 5 minutes.
  • Users see threads and replies of people they follow in the feed.
  • Main For You feed is an AI algorithm based on creator discovery.
  • A second Following feed has been added with a chronological feed.
  • Users reply to posts or like, share, quote, or repost, but no direct messages.
  • Designed to be less negative news and politics oriented with no hashtags.

Is Threads The “Twitter Killer?”

It’s hard not to talk about Threads without mentioning Twitter or what is now called X. Many of the features of Threads are very similar to the platform formally known as Twitter with its focus on short content “threads” not unlike short content “tweets” or what may now be called “X’s.” There’s been a public feud between Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk which may be driving this battle between the two social platforms. In fact, Musk’s X Corp. has threatened to sue Meta over these similarities.

Meta is open about pitching Threads as a “friendlier” Twitter (X) that’s not a place for news and politics. Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri said, “The goal is to create a public square for communities on Instagram that never really embraced Twitter and for communities on Twitter (and other platforms) that are interested in a less angry place for conversations, but not all of Twitter.”

Will Threads Be Less Negative?

Some of the features to “tune out the noise” include hidden words to not see posts that contain them and filtering out replies to threads with certain words. You can also unfollow, block, restrict, and report profiles. Many have felt that Twitter has increasingly become a more negative place. In fact, academic studies have found negative tweets increase the probability of retweeting and viral spread.

Musk has also indicated he is taking Twitter into a freer speech direction with less content moderation. Meta is contrasting this with messages that Threads will strive to make a friendly and more positive platform with content moderation. The first indicators did seem to indicate a drop in Twitter traffic (5%) in the first days of the launch of Threads.

Early Signups Don’t Guarantee Long Term Success.

Of course, quick adoption by large numbers of users doesn’t automatically translate into high engagement or long-term use. The social media platform Google+ had high user numbers. Everyone who created a Google account (Gmail, Drive, YouTube, Blogger) was automatically signed up for Google+. But that didn’t translate into everyday use. Google+ shut down in 2019 due to low engagement.

In deciding to make Threads a part of your social media strategy be sure to check current activity levels before investing significant resources. It will take time to get a feel for how Threads will make itself unique from Twitter’s real-time dialogue and driving the news characteristics. If it does grow an audience ads will soon follow. When advertising does become available Threads ads should be integrated easily into Meta Ad Manager.

Threads vs Twitter Stats
Here’s a  comparison of Threads vs. Twitter Statistics about a month after the Threads launch.

It will take time to see if early user numbers turn into active daily and weekly users. We’re already seeing indicators that engagement and users might not last. Since the July 7th peak Threads’ daily active users are down nearly 70% to 13 million from 44. The average daily time spent on Threads is just 4 minutes. This is in contrast to Twitter (X) which has roughly 200 million daily active users who spend an average of 30 minutes on the platform daily.

Total users are down as well. Just three weeks after a record high of 100 million users, Mark Zuckerberg reports that over half of Threads users have already stopped using it. Zuckerberg and Instagram CEO Adam Moseri do say they are working on new features to hook users and entice them to come back.

The new Twitter name and logo.
The new Twitter name and logo X.
Threads logo
The new Threads logo from Instagram.

 

The sudden name change from Twitter to X may motivate more users to join Threads. Initial reactions by many X users have been negative and branding experts indicate it may be a mistake. Insiders report it’s part of Musk’s plan to create an “everything app” that will become a moneyless marketplace, public square, and video content factory all in one. It’s also unsure if the X name will stay as Meta, Microsoft, and other companies own trademarks on X.

What’s The Bottom Line on Threads?

When investing your time and money in a social media strategy try to look past the hype. Even the largest companies have limited budgets and resources. In evaluating any new social platform or current platform it comes back to basic strategic thinking. When deciding to add a social media platform or leave a current one consider these questions:

  • Who is my target audience? (current users, potential users)
  • How active are they on Threads/X? (daily active use, time spent)
  • What objectives am I measured by? (engagement, sales, leads)
  • Can I achieve those objectives on Threads/X? (more than another platform)
  • Do I have time/budget for experimentation? (not dependent on results)

What has been your experience with Threads? What do you think the future of the platform will be for social media strategy?

Social Media Not Meeting Expectations? Perform A Social Media Audit.

Social Media Audit Template

Companies have been active in social media for years. Today 97% of Fortune 500 companies are on LinkedIn, 84% are on Facebook and 86% are on Twitter. But those efforts were likely created in a piecemeal fashion. Different brand accounts were added for different reasons at different times. Objectives or options may have changed. Or you may be so focused on current social accounts you are missing out on opportunities elsewhere. How do you know you are posting the right content in the right places to drive the right consumer actions? Perform a social media audit.

Click here for an updated version of this template and post.

Social Media Audit TemplateWhat Is A Social Media Audit?

A social media audit is simply a systematic examination of social media data. It is a snapshot of all social media activity in and around a brand evaluated for strategic insights. Why? Different organizational objectives and target markets may require different social media messages and platforms. Existing brand accounts may be wrong for current business objectives and new social media platforms may be ideal, but were never considered. Perhaps brand social media was started by marketing or public relations, but now customer service requests are overwhelming the system and increased integration is needed.

First Start By Listening.

Use social media tools to gather data about brand social media channels and content. Discover what consumers are saying about the brand, product, service, and key personnel in any social platform. Listen to what is being said by and about brand competitors. You may be monitoring social media daily, but simply responding to what comes your way.

Analyze the bigger picture. Qualify and quantify social media action looking for patterns and opportunity. Listen with an outside perspective to the social talk about your brand, employees, customers and competitors. Look on both official corporate social media accounts and unofficial or personal accounts.

If you don’t have a social media monitoring software or if you are a startup or student just getting started simply go to each social media platform and search the brand name to find the conversations. Look on official brand accounts to see what the brand is doing and look at the conversation happening on those official brand accounts.

Start with the social channels you know the brand has brand pages (they are probably listed on the brand website). Then search other popular social media channels the brand does not have official accounts to find additional consumer brand content. Do the same for one main competitor to find their social channels, brand content and consumer brand conversations. This Social Media Channel Template provides a list of top social platforms by category for ideas on where to look for official brand accounts and consumer brand conversations.

An audit need not capture every mention, but should gather a complete picture. Find conversation on all social platforms. Be sure to consider social networks, blogs and forums, microblogs, media sharing platforms, geosocial, ratings and reviews, social bookmarking, social knowledge, plus podcasts. This Social Media Channel Category Guide provides a quick guide to the top social media platforms in each category by kind and key characteristics.

Next Organize Social Talk Data.

When collecting social talk data it should be organized for meaningful analysis. This can be done by following a social media audit template such as the one I created from the concept of the Five Ws that journalists use to write news stories. Gather social talk into three categories of company, consumer, and competitor (down first row) then record observations by where, what, when, and why (across columns).

Collect and Analyze Social Media Audit Data by:

  • Who—company, consumers, competitors
  • Where—social media channel (YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.) and environment (describe the look and feel)
  • What—type of content (articles, photos, videos, links, questions, etc.) and sentiment (positive, negative, neutral)
  • When—frequency of activity (number of posts, comments, views, shares, etc. per day, week, or month)
  • Why—purpose (brand awareness, promotion, drive traffic, customer complaint, praise, etc.)

The number of rows under “Who” will vary based on the number of brand and competitor social accounts and the number of social media platforms where consumer brand talk is found. Larger organizations may need to divide the “Company” category further into departments, offices, or employees. Capture what each location or executive is communicating.

If the brand has an official social media account (such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc) you place it under “Company” with its own row for insights. This is where you describe what the company is doing on those platforms. Under “Consumer” you should list all the social platforms where consumers are participating in discussion about the brand. If they are engaging on an official company social media account list it here and provide those insights in a row (such as Facebook and Pinterest). Also search the brand name and see what people are saying off the official account be sure to include that discussion as well.

If a brand has an account on a social platform and there is no consumer engagement (such as Twitter) then list it under “Company,” but don’t list it under “Consumer.” This may be a platform the brand may want to close. Search main platforms where the brand doesn’t have an account (such as Instagram). Are consumers talking about the brand? List that platform in a row under “Consumer” and describe what is being said. There may be a brand community but no official brand account and they may want to add this platform. For “Competitor” you don’t need to go as in depth to capture insights. Simply list each official brand account on a row and describe what the brand is doing and their customers are doing on those channels.

Then Determine What The Data Is Saying.

Does the data point to opportunities? Are there trouble spots? Do brand social media platforms present a consistent look, voice and unified message? Are customers complaining about similar product or service issues? Is the brand consistently posting quality content and consistently responding to customers? Are there social platforms where customers are talking about the brand, yet there isn’t an official brand presence? Is the social media channel a problem or an opportunity for a defensive or offensive social media strategy.

Determining the “Why” for each social action is important. If you can’t think of a strategic purpose then reevaluate the effort. Is maintaining a brand account on specific social media platforms worth the organization’s time? Once a purpose is determined, identify the social media metrics to measure performance. Ask questions such as, “Why does the organization have a Pinterest page and how is success being measured?” “Because everyone is there” and “to increase followers” is not enough. If you know the business purpose and metrics ask, “How has the platform performed? With roughly 10% of marketing budgets spent on social media it is more important than ever to connect social action to higher-level business objectives and justify expense.

Finally Evaluate Brand Engagement.

Are your consumer’s engaging with your brand? How are views, likes, comments and shares? Have they gone up or down over time? Advertising Hall of Famer Howard Gossage said, “Nobody reads ads. People read what interests them.” In social media reach is gained when consumers find content interesting enough to share. Quality content is important. Whether educational or entertaining it must be considered valuable. Only social media that is viewed and shared reaches an audience that can then take action to meet business objectives.

Today you can also interrupt people’s social feeds with paid social media or native advertising. Paid social media can buy reach to a targeted audience, but that does not replace the need to create interesting content. Social media advertising merely buys exposure. Content must convey value to drive consumer action, further distribution, and ultimate ROI.

Is It Time For A Social Media Audit?

If you haven’t evaluated your brand’s social media presence in a while it may be time for a social media audit. Use this template to see how consumers are experiencing your brand in social media. You may uncover some problem areas, promising opportunities, social channels you should be in and ones you should leave behind.

A social media audit can help you:

  • Realize the need for increased integration with other departments.
  • Find gaps in brand promise and product/service performance.
  • Uncover inconsistencies across brand social accounts.
  • Reveal blind spots in current social action with content, schedule and response.
  • Discover consumer ideas for product/service improvements.
  • Optimize brand content to drive engagement.
  • Find unexpected consumer generated content on other platforms.
  • Discover valuable brand or industry influencers.
  • Optimize time devoted to most effective social media platforms.
  • Learn from successful competitor social strategies.
  • Uncover a need for metrics to connect social action to business objectives.

Whether launching a new social media effort or evaluating current social activity, a social media audit can deliver valuable insights to create or optimize any social media strategy. For the latest changes in social media strategy consider Asking These Questions To Ensure You Have The Right Social Media Strategy.