As Twitter winds users up, Meta’s Threads app offers a place to unwind
With the exception of Elon Musk’s true blue believers, anyone familiar with the social space has been watching Twitter’s chaotic new era with the kind of morbid curiosity you might experience watching a slow motion train wreck.
From sweeping staff layoffs to surges in hostile user language and slurs, it’s been quite the soap opera. Some users, particularly those paying $8 a month for verification, hail the new era of Twitter as a place where free speech reigns supreme. Whether that’s true or not is debatable. But it’s certainly a place where divisive culture wars are fought.
While partisan posting has been a significant driver of social media engagement, the extent to which Twitter has become ground zero for controversy makes brands understandably uncomfortable, with risk-averse ones jumping ship.
To date the alternatives have remained somewhat niche products, like Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s currently-invite-only Bluesky and Mastodon, a decentralized platform that’s generally considered too complicated for the casual social user. All that has rapidly changed with the release of Threads, from Meta.
Billed as a new way to share with text, for now, Threads resembles a basic take on the Twitter of old. It’s text-first, but with no shortage of visual content. Posts can be up to 500 characters long and include links, photos, and videos up to 5 minutes in length. There’s no option to only see people you follow in your main feed yet, though Instagram head Adam Mosseri has indicated that a follower-only feed, and other much-desired features, like support for editing posts and a translation option for various languages are to come down the line.
Launched on June 5th, just days after Twitter forced temporary limits on the number of posts users could read, Threads comes with a built-in audience opportunity, as users can log in using their existing Instagram accounts.
While that doesn’t translate to instant following from all your existing Instagram followers, the simple set up process invites new users to auto-follow any of the handles they already follow on Instagram that have migrated to Threads. A decent percentage will likely do so.
It’s still early days, but by the morning after launch, Threads had grown to 30 million registered users, including a significant number of celebrities and brands. After the first weekend since launch, Threads has 100 million registered users – making it the fastest growing app in history. Ubiquitous social pundit and entrepreneur Gary “Vee” Vaynerchuck, is in the mix preaching optimism and positivity while Mark Zuckerberg (“Zuck” on Threads) claims “the goal is to keep it friendly as it expands”. Another high-profile entrepreneur, Mark Cuban points out that that’s going to be a significant challenge when trying to scale. However derivative the product is, it’s hard to deny that it’s fun to be witnessing the start of something somewhat-new.
For now, there’s something of a party atmosphere to the Threads feed, with former Twitter fans enjoying the relatively blank canvas that the app allows. Brands with a strong social voice are already flexing their chops, with Lyft comparing themselves to Threads and Uber to much-maligned Twitter. Wendy’s, always a prolific social participant joked, “about to have a thread count like fancy sheets”
In the long run, brands may have to navigate how best to engage with a platform that echoes Twitter’s text-based feature set, while starting with a traveled-from-Instagram audience that knows them best from visual content. But as social pundit Jack Appleby notes in his Threads guide for brands, the good news is your week-one audience on Threads already knows you. You’re unlikely to catch up to Wendy’s post count, but the water feels warm and welcoming for now. If you’re an active organic poster with a confident social voice, it’s not hard to jump in.
For now, of course, there is no Threads ad product, so it’s an all-organic feed, though that will inevitably change. We cannot rule out the possibility that Twitter’s post-Elon CEO Linda Yaccarino will restore Twitter’s cachet as a marketing platform, and there may be legal challenges ahead for what is clearly something of a Twitter copycat app. But looking forward, Threads will almost certainly be part of Meta’s advertising offerings.
Maybe, like Twitter has been in the past, Threads will be more of a “nice to have” on a media plan than a mandatory inclusion. But for marketers used to working across Facebook and Instagram’s unified Meta Ads Manager, Threads may be easier to integrate into their media mix, if and when that’s offered.
At its best, social media can be fun, spontaneous and conversational. Too often, of course, it can become an outrage engine that winds people up. How Threads will fare in the long run remains to be seen. But for now, it’s nice to find a lively new place to unwind.