In early July 2023, Meta launched Threads, an ace up its sleeve to be the clear competitor to X (formerly Twitter). Numerous headlines declared it as “the platform questioning the future of Twitter“. Four months later, we’re analysing what has happened since then and what future we foresee for Meta’s platform.
The meteoric rise of Threads.
Looking at it in retrospect, it seems increasingly clear that what seemed like a calculated launch was actually a rushed move. As Mosseri himself admits, the app had numerous errors at the time of its launch. Threads definitely wanted to take advantage of a perfect breeding ground: the boiling point where Twitter communities were becoming increasingly frustrated with Elon Musk’s fluctuations, specifically due to the following changes:
- The failure of Twitter Blue and Verification. After changing the verification model to a paid model, the verified badge has lost its value. Furthermore, many institutions (including the White House itself) question whether implementing Twitter Verification is worth it (€1,100/month).
- Limiting reads per user. In an attempt to limit bot access to Twitter, Elon Musk announced temporary limits on Twitter consumption, reducing the daily posts a non-verified account can see to 400.
- Exhaustion and perceived risk of negative conversation. Despite Elon Musk’s attempts to reduce hate speech and misinformation, there are studies showing that those who used to make negative comments have not reduced the intensity or frequency of them, and have in fact actually increased them. Overall, negative sentiment has noticeably increased on the platform, directly deterring corporate brands and institutions.
The launch day was an absolute success: Threads became the fastest market adoption product in history, with 100 million users in just 5 days. This had a direct impact on X, whose traffic decreased by 5% in the first two days after the launch.
Beyond the hype, the success in the adoption of Threads is explained by its focus on the user experience: They minimize the necessary steps to register.
- New users didn’t have to fill out any forms: having an Instagram account and accessing the Threads app was enough to create their profile.
- In terms of community, you don’t start from scratch. Just as Threads profiles are fed from Instagram, so are the communities. This completely eliminates the psychological barriers to entry into the social network, as there is a community on the other side from the beginning that receives and interacts with the content.
- The early introduction of creators who led the hype. Public figures with a strong online presence like Connor Franta (4.8 million YouTube subscribers), Gary Vaynerchuk, co-founder and CEO of VaynerMedia, or Avori Henderson, with 703,000 followers on Facebook, had access to the app a week before its launch. These people shared their experiences with the new app on their social media, but they were also honest in admitting that it lacked some development.
Has X’s time come?
It is evident that Threads sought to be the perfect substitute for X that users demanded. However, while the speed of the launch was key for users to open an account, it has also been one of the reasons why they have abandoned the application after downloading it.
As Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri confessed, it is easy to attract users and convince them to create an account, but the real challenge is to get them to use it. He thus acknowledges that the application cannot (yet) replace X, as it lacks basic functionalities.
And, as in any technological adoption, it is common that after an initial peak driven by user curiosity, a period of stabilization comes. This is where the future of the product in question will be determined.
In the case of Threads, the number of active users has dropped to 10 million just one month after reaching the milestone of 100 million registered users. Furthermore, the average usage time is 3 minutes (X has an average of 25 minutes).
One of the main reasons why users stopped using Threads is that it does not allow searches or indexing of conversations, making it a substitute for the conversational part of Twitter, but not for the informative or current events tracking part. Therefore, Threads is not (yet!) the perfect substitute for X.
Everything we know about Threads’ arrival in the European Union.
The application will not be available in the EU until at least (and being optimistic), February 2024. The reason is fundamentally legislative: the company is not sure if it complies with the requirements set by EU regulations in two aspects.
- Competition: After the new Digital Markets Act, which regulates how large online platforms use their market power, the European Commission is negotiating with the major tech companies.
- Privacy: Several tech journalists have dubbed Threads a “privacy nightmare” because it imports personal data from Instagram.
There are even sources that claim that this legislative tangle could lead to Threads never being launched in the European Union. We will see where these legal debates lead and if we will be able to see it in the strategies of European brands in the not too distant future.
Will Threads change the rules of the social media game?
In short: no, or at least not yet. Our view is that it still has numerous challenges and the promise of replacing X is far from becoming a reality. However, what we can say is that the battle between Meta and X (or, in other words, between Zuckerberg and Musk) is a marathon to consolidate the maximum number of functionalities or applications.
Elon Musk changed the name of Twitter to X because he wanted to turn it into an “all-in-one” application. In fact, he has sometimes compared it to the Chinese application WeChat, which allows users to chat, but also order an Uber. We will be watching his strategy to continue increasing the functionalities offered by the X ecosystem. If successful, we would face a completely centralized consumption of social networks, which would complicate cost comparisons for advertisers and undoubtedly lead to a decrease in conversation diversity. However, X would provide a more controlled environment for brands.
Although Meta’s team faces a particularly challenging task, it is true that the introduction of Threads could pave the way for a new path in social media. Meta adds a twist this time: making Threads compatible with ActivityPub so that you can take your Threads identity to other platforms. This way, users could use Threads resources not only within the Meta environment, but beyond. If this progresses, it could completely change social networks, creating a unique social identity for different platforms.
As for brands, the introduction of Threads represents a breath of fresh air. For many of them, especially institutions, communication on X can become a potential risk to reputation as they unintentionally become involved in polarized conversations. Furthermore, the activity we have recently observed in the use of brands in the United States evokes the Twitter of 2012, when Community Managers initiated authentic conversations with users and other brands, interacting genuinely and actively.
How can I incorporate Threads into my content strategy?
At Good Rebels, we have analysed how brands have developed their strategies in the United States, where they do have access to the application.
Although the vast majority have simply copied and pasted their X strategy, it is important to remember that these are two different platforms, with different functionalities, which will not always allow us to replicate the strategy. For example, as we do not yet have hashtag, explore, and trending topic functions, we will not be able to use Threads to join current topics or index conversations (for now). What we do take from X is the possibility of generating conversation. And this is where the strategy should focus.
In summary, although Threads arrived with the full intention of taking the throne from X, the circumstances in play increasingly resemble an episode of Game of Thrones: it’s not so clear who will seize power, but entertainment is guaranteed. A race to consolidate functionalities, retain as many active users as possible, and navigate legal intricacies will determine the fate of these two platforms. Will there be room for both?