When new social platforms come on the scene, they often promise to disrupt the status quo. Threads, a new text-based platform from the Meta family, was no different when it made its seismic surprise debut earlier this month.
Like other would-be Twitter (or X, according to its questionable new rebranding) competitors like Bluesky and Mastodon, Threads offers a similar-to-Twitter text-based look and easy-to-use feel. Unlike those competitors, it had the significant benefit of being an Instagram product, gaining a record hundred million users within a week of launch.
Despite the platform’s red-hot start, brands are still wondering whether Threads will go the distance in the midst of more unexpected changes and uncertainty from Twitter. More importantly, they’re exploring what it might add to their social media mix and whether they should spend some time getting on board sooner rather than later.
If you’re considering jumping on the Threads bandwagon, we’ve got some thoughts on what we know so far and what might be next for the platform.
The contender: could Threads be the “Twitter Killer”?
A big part of Threads’ appeal as a new platform is the sheer number of users that have signed up so far. It officially became the fastest-growing app ever, reaching 100 million users in record time (less than week!). The platform’s association with Meta and its user-friendly interface both contributed to its early momentum.
Threads’ interoperability with Instagram is also an attraction for many users since it allows for the seamless sharing of content with a popular older platform and gives users the opportunity to let their Instagram followers know they’re on the platform.
It might be premature to call Threads a “Twitter Killer”, but the similarities between the two platforms certainly invite the comparison and open up the conversation about whether it poses a long-term threat to Twitter’s short-text-social-platform dominance.
For the many brands that have left Twitter due to concerns about brand safety or never leveraged the platform at all because of long-term challenges around ad performance, Threads is an exciting alternative. There are currently no ad offerings on the platform just yet, but brands and creators have wasted no time jumping on board.
And early engagement data featured in Marketing Dive indicates the platform has some juice, at least on the organic level. A study from Website Planet indicates that engagement on Threads outpaces Twitter for many major brands, averaging around 8x the likes vs. the same post on Twitter. Obviously this data needs to be taken with a grain of salt because Threads is so new, but it does indicate it may be a platform worth adding to the organic media mix.
For users, Threads has the edge over a lot of the newer competition like Mastodon because it’s simply a lot easier to use. Joining is simple and the interface is familiar. Meta is hoping this ease translates into increased and consistent use as Threads adds new features over time. If Threads continues to grow, it might become the first alternative to pose a true threat to Twitter as a text-based platform.
Staying power: does Threads have what it takes to go the distance?
While Threads quickly surpassed expectations in initial downloads and usage, it’s not all smooth sailing for the app. To have staying power, it needs to offer both a unique value proposition for users and successful monetization capabilities for brands, neither of which we’ve seen yet.
Threads is also facing more immediate challenges. One of the biggest are the privacy concerns around the platform. Threads gathers extensive data, including personally identifiable information, without informing users during the sign-up process. These privacy shortcomings are why Threads is currently prohibited in Europe, closing it out of a major market.
The platform also falls short when it comes to some elements of the user experience. Threads’ accessibility features are extremely limited, and users looking to delete their Threads accounts also face obstacles. Right now, users looking to leave have to delete their entire Instagram accounts to deactivate Threads.
Users have also complained about some aspects of the platform that might feel familiar to Facebook and Instagram users. A user’s Threads feed consists of both accounts they follow and algorithmically recommended content, often from renowned personalities and popular brands.
Right now, there isn’t an option to personalize your feed with only posts from accounts you follow or exclude content from unselected accounts. Threads also lack hashtags and a clear way to find other users. That may be why, despite Threads’ early success, Sensor Tower found that engagement on the platform has stayed relatively low.
Although Threads is the new kid on the block, the competition isn’t going anywhere. Twitter’s recent struggles, like a temporary cap on tweets, have given Meta an opportunity to snatch up disgruntled users. Twitter also recently rebranded as ‘X’ out of the blue, jettisoning Twitter’s iconic name and branding, which only muddies the future of the platform. It’s not clear yet what that will mean for competitors like Threads, but the Meta team is probably feeling pretty good about the potential future at present, not least because Meta itself may own the right to X.
Twitter X (they’re really doing this, huh?) is still a destination for pop culture, current events, and sports, thanks to its licenses with major entities like the NBA and the World Cup. For Threads to take the lead, it’ll have to make some major improvements to its platform.
The future: What we’ll find out on the next Meta Earnings Call
While Threads’ initial surge in users was impressive, the real test for the app will be user retention. Are people returning to the platform frequently, or was the excitement just a flash in the pan?
Early reports show that Threads has already hit its first speed bump when it comes to holding on to user attention, with active users halving in just a week. Brands will have to monitor the frequency of user engagement and track daily active user charts to understand if and how their audiences are using the platform.
Meta’s upcoming earnings call on July 26th will shed light on Threads’ strategic position, its early success, and what might be next for the platform.
Brands want to know when they can expect an ad rollout and what those brand tools will look like. Meta Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg offered a peek behind the curtain about the future of advertising on the new platform: “Our approach will be the same as all our other products: Make the product work well first, then see if we can get it on a clear path to one billion people, and only then think about monetization at that point.”
As much as we all want to know what the endgame will be for Threads, brands will have to wait and see with everyone else what the long-term impact on the social media landscape will be. Threads’ ultimate success and strategic position within the Meta family will only become clearer over time.
For now, we need to keep an eye on the platform and continue to analyze the data while remembering that these are (very) early stages for Threads. Will it be a Clubhouse (RIP) or a TikTok? The future isn’t clear yet. What is clear is what you should do right now for your business: start getting familiar with the platform and testing its features to figure out if a Threads strategy makes sense for your business moving forward.