If you haven’t heard about the new social media platform in town, allow us to untangle the mystery for you.
Meta’s new standalone text-focused app, Threads — created to compete with X, formerly Twitter — had a banner rollout after entering app stores July 5 with more than 100 million downloads. In fact, the app had the biggest debut month for tech platforms since Open AI’s ChatGPT launched. But has the excitement trailed since?
Let’s unravel some questions and lessons learned so far about this new social platform that can tell us a lot about users’ desires across the social media landscape.
Familiarity and (some) predictability matters.
Threads was released during a social media maelstrom and was born from a leading tech brand. With some turbulence at X, users and advertisers alike were open to new options for short-form, text-based alternative apps. Threads came attached to Instagram, which has enjoyed more than a decade of prominence in the social platform world. Luckily for Threads, Meta (the owner of Instagram and parent company of Facebook) continues to reign supreme, and Threads benefitted from that name recognition.
Don’t count out text-based posts.
Social media managers and content creators know the importance of quality visuals to provide additional information, capture attention and stop the scroll. In fact, 47% of adults in a Statista survey said they like to see content in the form of images on social media. Actually, LinkedIn posts with images have a 98% higher comment rate, and posts on X that include visuals are three times more likely to get engagement. Text posts, on the other hand, are easy to curate and show no signs of phasing out.
The problem, though, comes when app functionality hinges so heavily on visuals, which are often harder for the general public to produce than text posts. Think TikTok. While it’s a wildly popular social media channel, many users find it difficult to produce their own videos on a regular basis, making it difficult for the platform to generate new content. Without new content, users can disengage.
Welcoming all through seamless sign-ups helped.
Another boon for Threads that contributed to the out-of-control initial popularity: It was incredibly easy for users to sign up and populate a profile. Not only does Threads copy your Instagram profile, but users could also follow all the same accounts on Threads that they followed on Instagram with one tap. Additionally, product creators made it simple to share the same content published on Instagram over to your Threads account, easily filling the platform with memes, pithy posts, videos and more.
Unfortunately, this also means you must have an Instagram profile to create a Threads profile, which is a sly way Meta can keep users on and encourage more use of Instagram. Even more unfortunate for the unsuspecting public, those who wanted to delete the Threads app often accidentally deleted their Instagram profile, a serious limitation Meta promises it’s trying to solve.
The public wants discourse.
When and how much platform oversight users want on social media are questions companies have grappled with for years. Whether you want the more relaxed option that X has been promising or you desire more stringent policies, it’s clear that the public wants discourse with their identified online community.
Both X and Threads offer ways for users to easily interact with other posts, therefore creating a more enriching experience on that platform. From shares to replies, it’s easy to glance at reponses to an original post on both platforms. On Facebook, for example, many comments on content are hidden unless users choose to click and read more, potentially stunting public discourse.
Social platforms need to have plenty of functionality to keep users on the channel.
While the platform quickly amassed millions of downloads, users weren’t able to send direct messages or search trending topics and hashtags. Also, users’ timelines didn’t seem to prioritize the accounts they followed or show posts in a chronological order — a much-sought-after feature on X. In less than a month, Threads lost half of its users, though head of Instagram Adam Mosseri promised to prioritize the “obvious features” the app lacks. In late August, users welcomed a web app for Threads after the mobile app had been on the market for nearly two months.
So what are marketers’ key takeaways about Threads?
You don’t have to spin up a new strategy on day 1, but be ready to change if necessary.
And you don’t even need to have a full strategy on day 30. Social media channels, like all digital channels, can change often and typically launch in a beta phase, meaning social media marketers have a chance to learn the platform and consider the best way to position a brand on it at the same time as everyone else.
While marketers don’t have to weave an entirely new strategy into the social media tapestry, you must be ready to pivot.
You don’t have to jump from one social platform to another, creating many loose ends that never have a chance to thrive. It’s a great idea to keep an eye on the emerging trends before you jump into a content creation and publishing strategy. If you really want to be a first adopter, try new tactics. You can also use social listening tools and a marketing partner to help monitor and analyze engagement.
The most important piece: telling a cohesive brand story across multiple platforms.