Threads. What you need to know.
Steven Franklin, Social Media Manager at the National Archives gives us a first look at the new kid on the social media block - Threads. First published on the Cultural Content newsletter of digital specialists One Further.
Zuckerberg’s Thread of Life?
Threads, Meta’s Twitter alternative, was launched on the 5th July 2023. At the time of writing (6th July), it’s been reported that 50 million people have downloaded and created a Threads account. The first 24 hours has seen over 95 million Threads posted and the app is predicted to be the fastest platform to hit 100 million users. The growth that we are witnessing is unprecedented. Yet the same old questions remain:
Will Threads become the Twitter alternative?
Will this be another passing fad?
Is Threads a platform that we should invest in?
After being immersed in the app for 24 hours, my main takeaway is that this is the Twitter rival that’s got the best chance of long-term success and mass adoption.
Here’s what you need to know about the platform.
What is Threads?
Threads is Meta’s text-based, micro-blogging social platform. On the surface at least, it looks and feels like a Twitter clone. Users can post Threads of up to 500 characters. Features such as liking, reposting (rethreading), and quoting all exist. As you would expect you can upload photos and videos. Currently, there doesn’t appear to be any image cropping and videos can be uploaded in 4k. These features are packaged into an impressive UI and UX that’s incredibly easy to use and intuitive. It’s got the feel of Instagram, blended with the functionality of Twitter.
Threads doesn’t have a chronological feed or even one in which you can opt to only see content from accounts that you follow. Instead, they’ve opted for a feed that operates on suggestions.
Equally, there is no hashtag incorporation or trending topics, with no ability to send DMs. Let’s not even talk about the search functionality!
Twitter’s two USP are i) that it’s become the only real-time social media platform and ii) that it allows anyone – Joe Bloggs – to have highly visible and transparent conversations with public figures and organisations. Both of these USPs are available in threads. On the real-time front; you want to get real-time public reaction to global sporting events, national moments of celebration, or celebrity drama – then head to Twitter. It’s always been a relatively small platform, sitting around 500 million monthly users, which has been skewed by the weight of the voices present. But the reason it’s endured has come from these strong USPs. For Threads to become the Twitter-killer app that many want it to be, it will need to have these real-time commentary functions. We remain unaware of the direction that Meta will evolve the platform.
In many ways, Threads has a very nostalgic feel and it’s like the early days of Twitter. This feeling of nostalgia follows through to the current feel of the platform. Threads is currently a very chaotic place, in part down to the mass-influx of new users. It feels like you’re in the world’s biggest WhatsApp group: with constant notifications coming through as followers grow, like counts increase, and comments are left.
Part of the chaos and nostalgia also comes from the fact that nobody really knows how best to use the platform yet. It is, however, a place of meme sharing and pun-orientated word play. If one of your first posts doesn’t reference either not having a social strategy for Threads or making a pun on the word Thread, you’re not currently speaking the language of the platform. Engagement levels are high with brands and users locked in a constant exchange of witticisms. It really does feel like the Twitter of old.
Why is Threads scaling so fast?
One of the reasons other Twitter alternatives – think BlueSky, Mastodon, T2, Spill – haven’t experienced such rapid growth is that you’re required to build a community from nothing. For brands and organisations, one suspects this has been a major barrier to entry. Building a following takes a significant amount of time and resource – something within the cultural sector that does not come in abundance.
Meta, however, have found a way to solve this conundrum. Threads is an app by Instagram, meaning you need an Instagram account to have a Threads account. A Threads profile will have the same handle and username as an Instagram account.
The two channels work together. Upon setting-up a Threads account you’re asked whether you’d like to notify your Instagram followers of the existence of your channel, inviting them to auto-follow. Migrating followers from one platform to the other has traditionally been a challenge. Now you can do it in less than 30 seconds. The latest figures put Instagram’s monthly active users at over 2 billion. It comes that Threads is growing at unprecedented rates.
Establishing a Threads account feels like a relatively low-risk investment. Many of the major national and regional cultural organisations had a Threads account by midday. By the end of the day, many had follower counts of more than 10,000. One imagines that early adoption and usage will likely bring organic growth benefits too.
Do you need a strategy?
Nobody really knows that the best strategy is. To my mind there are a couple of ways forward.
First, you could just simply use it as platform where you cross-post your Twitter content. Whilst this might not seem like the most exciting way forward, it’s got benefits in terms of organisational efficiency. You’ll be regularly posting to the app and get a good sense of content performance.
The second approach would be to re-purpose a mixture of text and video-based content that has performed well on other channels, seeing how these perform on the platform. Again, this approach has in-built workflow efficiency.
To my mind, we’re currently in an experimenting phase with Threads, seeing what flies and what flops. In effect, do a bit of everything and just have some fun. Repeat content forms that work well.
Is it time to delete Twitter?
I’ve heard Adam Kozary repeatedly say that he doesn’t believe Twitter will entirely combust – unless something catastrophic occurs. And I completely agree. Twitter will endure, but the communities that exist and the views expressed on the platform will likely change over the coming years. Under Elon’s stewardship, it’s clear Twitter is acting on a more commercial footing and we’ve all felt the effects of these changes. For the time being at least, the best thing to do is track content performance and accept that there may come a time when it no longer offers any form of instructional benefit.
Is it time to Thread?
Threads is where the hype is. It’s a fun place to be, and unlike other platforms it isn’t clogged with endless ads (Zuckerberg has confirmed that Threads won’t be commercialised until the platform reaches close to 1 billion users)
If you’re a cultural organisation with an Instagram account, I think getting Threads is relatively low risk. Larger organisations will likely reap the largest rewards in terms of engagement and brand recognition by leveraging their Instagram following.
If, though, you’re reading this as a smaller institution that perhaps doesn’t have an Instagram account, then Threads might not be for you. There probably are growth advantages to be had on Threads right now. Ultimately, it depends where you’d like to invest the time and effort. On a platform with an upward trajectory, but no long-term certainty. Or an established platform that from the outside appears to be crumbling.