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Threads App – The Newest Social Media Platform

Brand3 Team  •  August 1, 2023

The Threads app has made quite the entrance into the social media world. The changes at Twitter and its user discontent have created a unique opportunity for Threads to step in where Twitter once dominated. Over 100 million users rushed to try the platform within the first five days of launch. Threads even outpaced ChatGPT's user acquisition speed. 

In this month’s edition of BrandTalk, we’re going to delve into the mechanics of the Threads app. We’ll explore its features, weigh its advantages and challenges, and identify the most effective ways to leverage Threads in your social media strategy. 

Side note before we begin: Although Twitter recently rebranded to "X,” for the sake of clarity, this article uses its previously established brand name.

What is Threads?

The Threads app is a new social media platform developed by Meta – Facebook and Instagram's parent company. Unlike Instagram, Threads is a text-based platform. It allows users to post up to 500 characters, mention other users, and reply or repost someone else's threads. Built to foster stronger connections within communities, it competes with Twitter. 

Meta's roll-out of this new platform amounts to a soft-launch, as Threads is not yet available in all countries. Notably, Meta decided not to launch Threads in the European Union at this stage. This move is in response to the prevailing regulatory uncertainty in the region, mainly linked to the recent Digital Markets Act. Given this climate, Meta decided to withhold the introduction of Threads in the EU for now.

Twitter vs. Threads by Instagram

While Threads has some distinct functionalities, there are key areas where it is similar to its established rival. Yet some features, such as more stringent safety measures, present a potential advantage that could appeal to certain user groups.

As Threads continues to evolve, it'll be interesting to see how the following aspects shape its performance in the social media landscape.

Safety

Meta emphasizes safety as a key advantage Threads has over Twitter. Threads is subject to the same content regulations as Instagram. It forbids praising terrorist or hate groups, purchasing firearms, or issuing threats against individuals or groups. 

Twitter moderates less than Meta, but as Threads is a new platform, the effectiveness and impact of these safety measures remain to be seen. 

Moreover, in a controversial move in March of this year, Twitter released a subscription service allowing anyone to obtain a blue checkmark. This checkmark has historically been a special status reserved for public figures with confirmed identities, and the decision to put it behind a paywall caused concern over discerning real people from fake accounts.

Despite the backlash, Meta followed Twitter’s lead, recently introducing a subscription service to obtain a verification badge for $14.99 a monthMeta Verified. This subscription nets you a verification badge on Facebook, Instagram, and Threads. 

Meta Verified isn’t available for businesses or people younger than 18, and the company still allows public figures to apply for a free verification badge.

Algorithm

There isn't much visibility into the Threads' algorithm, but we do know Threads doesn't support viewing live events or accessing trending topics like Twitter does. 

Instead, the Threads app shows you content from those you follow and those you don't follow based on what the algorithm thinks you'll be interested in. It also doesn't show you content in any chronological order.

Twitter, which traditionally only had a chronological feed, implemented a similar algorithm in their “For You” tab back in January 2023. After receiving complaints, they let users choose to see the chronological “Following” tab by default.

Functionality

Like Twitter, Threads has a character limit: 500 characters per post. Twitter has a 280-character limit for users outside its monthly subscription service. Threads is free, although users can pay for Meta Verified and get a verification badge on their Threads account.

On both platforms, users can mention each other using the @ symbol in front of usernames and respond to individual posts. You can also quote or repost another user's threads like you can on Twitter. However, you can't edit posted threads like you can edit tweets. 

Performance

According to a performance review by Neil Patel, Threads blows Twitter away in engagement, but this doesn't mean you get more views and reach on Threads. Engagement doesn't always correspond with more views: "With Twitter, you can see your reach, and they showcase it, but with Threads, they don't. So it's too hard to tell."

After its initial sign-up boom, Threads will naturally lose users over time once the buzz wears off, which has already been happening. As of July 23rd, active users on Threads are down 70%, with the average time spent on the app amounting to 4 minutes.

Despite these initial retention issues, Patel predicts that Threads will become more popular than Twitter and have an increased reach in the next six months, especially as it opens up to more countries.

Threads App Pros and Cons

Like any tool, the effectiveness of the Threads app will depend on how well it aligns with your specific needs and strategies. Here's a balanced look at the platform. 

Let's start with the pros:

  1. Massive Audience From Day One

    Threads benefits from the existing user base of Instagram, creating an instant community.

  2. Focus on Discoverability

    This feature allows users to explore and discover threads beyond their immediate network. It provides a great opportunity for brands to expand their reach. 

  3. Non-Toxic Social Media

    Time will tell if Meta's goal of positioning itself as a "less toxic" version of Twitter works with a user base already exceeding 100 million. Regardless, the company's emphasis on moderation and creating a safer, more respectful environment is a pro. 

  4. Content Optimization

    Within the Metaverse, content optimization is less expensive and easier for businesses than on Twitter. When you sign up for an account, your profile picture, handle, and bio carry over from Instagram to Threads.

    You also have the option to follow all accounts you're already following on Instagram, allowing for immediate connection within your existing network. 

  5. Potential for Compatibility with Decentralized Social Networks

    Meta has stated its intentions to make Threads compatible with the "fediverse," which includes decentralized social networks such as Mastodon. This goal could revolutionize the industry, breaking down barriers between various platforms. 

    This decentralization would make it easier for your content to be seen across various platforms. For instance, you could have your posts on Threads visible on WordPress with users commenting across apps. 

Now, for the cons:

  1. Questionable Privacy Practices

    Threads is criticized for questionable privacy practices, opaque algorithms, and Big Tech monopoly power like other Meta platforms. Specifically, Patrick Jackson from the privacy tech company Disconnect reports the app takes data you wouldn't expect, like your phone's details – model number, screen resolution, and time zone.

  2. Limited Discoverability Features

    While Threads' focus on discoverability is a pro, it's limited in practice. For instance, there aren't any features like hashtags or keyword searches. The limitation means users must be active to expand their reach and grow their audience on the platform. 

  3. Planning Challenges

    There is no desktop version of the platform, and you can’t draft or schedule posts within Threads. However, some third-party software supports scheduling posts, and it’s likely more compatible software will emerge with time. 

  4. Lack of Integration with Instagram

    While profile integration between Instagram and Threads is a pro, there aren't any other native integrations. For instance, photos and videos can be included in Threads, but they won't appear on Instagram as posts or Reels. 

  5. Retention Issues

    Despite the massive influx of users when it launched on July 5th, 2023, Threads is already facing retention issues. Half of the initial users who signed up have been inactive on the platform, but four weeks isn’t a solid metric for predicting future success.

Is it a pro or a con?

There was an interesting dilemma in writing this pros and cons list. Some would-be pros for businesses on Threads are cons for individual users and vice versa. Moreover, we couldn't categorize some points because their implications could be pros or cons – it's too soon to tell. 

Here are the two most debatable points. We'll let you decide where they belong:

  1. Limited User Control and Algorithm-Driven Feed

    Currently, there isn't any way to only view posts from the accounts you've chosen to follow. Like TikTok, the feed on the Threads app is algorithm-driven, meaning it selects content based on past interactions rather than user choice.

    Users may see content from accounts or brands they don't want to hear from. They'll likely encounter content that doesn't align with their interests – a possible con for individual users.

    In some cases, this limited control could lead to users discovering new brands – a pro for businesses. But is that a quality lead? 

    Users introduced to a brand incidentally rather than out of a deliberate interest may not convert into engaged customers or loyal followers. Some may view this limited user control as an opportunity for increased visibility, but the long-term impact on customer engagement and conversion rates remains to be seen.  

    Adam Mosserri, Instagram's head, has stated that a follower-only view is on the company's to-do list.

  2. No Advertisements

    There aren't any traditional ads on Threads – it’s unclear when they’re coming, but many users likely enjoy this. This lack of ads means a unique opportunity for brands to connect organically with audiences without the usual paid-for competition.

    Instagram’s branded content tools will be coming to Threads, allowing brands to create and run their own campaigns. However, the current lack of paid advertising on Threads may prove frustrating for brands eager to establish a presence on what’s expected to be one of the world's fastest-growing social apps. 

    Without the possibility of paid promotion, some brands might find reaching their desired audience challenging, especially if they lack a solid organic following or influencer connections. Regardless, the eventual introduction of ads could significantly change user experience and engagement.

  3. No Threads in the EU

    Meta decided not to launch Threads in the European Union at this stage. This move is in response to the prevailing regulatory uncertainty in the region, mainly linked to the recent Digital Markets Act. Given this uncertain climate, Meta decided to withhold the introduction of Threads in the EU for now.

    Due to this decision, Meta can avoid legal complications or penalties that could result in the need to restructure the app to comply with regional regulations. Meta can also focus on growing and refining Threads in markets where there are fewer regulatory challenges.

    However, by not launching in the EU, Meta is missing out on a massive marker of active social media users. This decision could limit the app’s potential reach and growth.

  4. Delete Threads – Delete Instagram

    If you delete your Threads account, you're also deleting your Instagram account. By tying users’ Threads account to their Instagram accounts, users will think twice before deleting. Keeping more people on the new social media platform could ultimately improve the app’s engagement metrics.

    However, this forced linkage could be frustrating for users who want to get rid of Threads but keep using their Instagram. The model reduces users’ choice and flexibility. Some users may not want to engage with Threads but feel obligated to do so because of the connection with Instagram.

    Pairing Threads with Instagram in this way could result in forced engagement rather than organic growth which may negatively impact long-term user satisfaction.

How can you leverage Meta's Threads?

Given the propensity of Gen-Z to quickly adapt to new social media platforms, the Threads app likely provides a prime opportunity to connect with this younger group. Even though Threads is new and user demographic data is limited, early indications suggest it resonates with this Gen-Z. 

According to Rebel Interactive, 73% of Gen-Z advocate for or buy from brands that resonate with their beliefs and values, and 58% prefer content that brings a sense of levity and fun. As a result, your content needs to reflect this authenticity Gen-Z wants to see. 

For instance, brands have adopted a "slightly unhinged" and genuine tone on the platform – a kind of authenticity that Gen-Z finds particularly appealing. But what does an "unhinged" strategy look like? 

An "Unhinged" Strategy for Meta's Threads

It seems like this concept originates with Lucy Blakiston, Creator and Founder of the New Zealand-based media and news platform, Shit You Should Care About. As one of the first users on the app, she concluded the best strategy for Threads is no strategy – "Anyone trying to form a 'Threads strategy' is missing the point. Unhinged thoughts only."

While Blakiston seems to be onto something, social media and how we leverage it can change rapidly. Some people advocate strategies of posting 2-4 times per day – others, like Blakiston, advocate for no strategy at all. 

Our takeaway is that success on Threads may mean mastering the unconventional, "unhinged" strategy: a strategy so nuanced and organic that it gives the impression of there being no strategy at all.

Or maybe the key is to be just a touch unhinged yourself. Regardless, remember to leave room in your strategy for spontaneity. 

Focus on Reaching Audiences in Innovative Ways

Along with unconventional strategies, Threads' unique nature allows businesses to target audiences in innovative ways. Melanie Spencer, CEO of social media specialist agency Socialites sees Threads' clutter-free environment as a dynamic “Business Network.”

Brands can use it as a platform to communicate updates, exclusive offers, and company news directly to their audiences. Businesses don't have to worry about their messages getting lost in irrelevant content. With Threads, the connection between brands and their target customers can be more direct and meaningful. 

Actively Participate

The Threads app isn't a 'post once a day and forget' social media platform. It's a hub of continuous activity. For businesses to make their mark on Threads, they must let loose and immerse themselves in the ebb and flow of the platform's discussions.

Brands shouldn't take themselves too seriously on Threads. Instead, they should strive to become active in the conversation, reacting to trends, commenting on threads, and continually contributing to the platform's dialogue. This approach keeps brands relevant and helps them form genuine connections with their audience.

How are other brands using Threads?

When it comes to content creation, the brands with the most success are leading with compelling, witty, and attention-grabbing copy. Successful posts feature punch captions, engaging GIFs, and relevant questions designed to hook the reader's attention amidst conversations. 

But Threads isn't just about content creation – it's about content interaction. The platform encourages ongoing dialogue, making it essential for brands to keep content fresh, timely, and conversational. The aim isn't just to post content – it's to spark and be part of ongoing discussions.

This blog post from Street Fight details how some of the largest brands are leveraging Threads. For instance, Nike is taking a conservative approach with its brand voice mirroring its Twitter tone. 

Nike leverages Threads to engage fans by posing questions and gaining insights into their interests. It drives interaction by frequently sharing popular sports videos and GIFs.

On the other hand, Ulta Beauty is leaning more into the "unhinged" strategy, befriending Dunkin' and treating Threads like a party. Christine White, the company's social media and content director, says they're focusing on ROV – return on vibes – instead of return on investment (ROI).

How will YOU leverage Threads?

The social media landscape continuously evolves, and it's fun to see how brands embrace these new platforms. But these early stages of adoption can pose challenges for companies navigating this new terrain. 

At Brand3, we help companies determine social media strategies that suit them and their target audience. We offer a comprehensive marketing approach that prepares you for unique opportunities and challenges with old and new social media platforms. 

Schedule a call with us today, and let's start crafting a strategy to help your brand excel in the dynamic world of social media. 

 

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