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.
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.
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 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?