Meta launched the Threads app on July 5, and barely a month later, the Instagram spinoff lost nearly 80% of its daily active users.
Insider Intelligence forecasts that the Threads app will have 23.7 million monthly active users in the US by the end of this year. By comparison, X (the social platform formerly known as Twitter) will have 56.1 million monthly active users. The two most common questions marketers are asking are, “Is Threads going to survive?” and “What should I do with Threads in the meantime?” In this article, I explore both questions.
While Threads launched with buzz, generating over 100 million downloads (outpacing even ChatGPT usage), it quickly faltered. The platform was rolled out quickly to take advantage of frustration created by Elon Musk’s (mis)management of the X/Twitter platform. As an example of the struggle of gaining and maintaining Threads users, Meta doesn’t even own Threads.com, the most logical domain for the app. Threads currently ranks near the bottom of the most popular social media platforms, and Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg previously indicated the company has no plans to monetize Threads until it’s bigger and more established, which limits the appeal to brand marketers.
Despite the struggles, Threads may still become a major player in the social media ecosystem.
Threads app background
To understand the Threads platform, a bit of background is helpful for context. Originally built to compete with Snapchat in October 2019, it was discontinued in December 2021. The platform was resurrected after Musk purchased Twitter (now X). The rebuilt Threads, which focused on sharing text updates and joining public conversations, officially launched in July and quickly became the fastest-growing consumer software application in history. According to Meta, Threads will be compatible with the open, interoperable social networks via ActivityPub. Users login via their Instagram account and all profile information and connections carry over (with an option to customize at setup).
Features & functionality
Threads functions very similarly to X. Posts can be up to 500 characters long and include links, photos, and videos up to 5 minutes in length. Users also can share a “thread” to Instagram DMs. Users also can edit the automatically generated alt-text description of photos and videos before posting.
Threads’ “For You” feed includes a mix of posts from profiles you follow and recommended content, while the “Following” feed that only shows posts from people you follow. Posts are automatically translated based on the language setting of the person viewing it, and users can control who can mention you or reply to you within Threads.
Benefits of using Threads app
There are a host of benefits for brands using the Threads platform. For starters, it’s truly a viable alternative to X in terms of functionality. Threads also has native integration with Instagram and a built-in audience from Meta’s Facebook. To drive awareness and usage, Threads has promotional visibility in Instagram’s home tab. While not too popular after initial rollout, the web interface should help stabilize daily usage.
Challenges & threats
While the Threads launch was impressive, it struggled with a host of challenges from day one. On the day of Threads’ launch, X issued a legal threat against it claiming that it infringes on its intellectual property rights (which is still working through the courts).
The data collection policies of Threads have garnered criticism, raising concerns over the amount of private information collected by the app, as well as previous controversies surrounding Meta’s use of user data.
Additionally, Threads does not label state media accounts which has raised concerns of Russian and Chinese government propaganda and disinformation on the platform. To be successful, Threads will have to revisit these policies.
Threads app security & privacy issues
Threads is not immune from common security and privacy issues. Within the first 24 hours after launch, 428 domain names with the word “threads” were claimed, paving the way for domain fraud (malicious URLs and malware) as well as brand abuse. Like any social platform, Threads must navigate unintentional and malicious data leakage and exposure.
Additional concerns around shared credentials and account hijacking, as well as data privacy, compliance issues, phishing and related vulnerabilities are very real. To address these issues, Threads (and brands) must develop adequate training, policies and monitoring tools.
Threads app marketing best practices
Since Threads features are similar to X and other social platform posting capabilities, marketing best practices are quite similar in nature. For starters, brands should claim, optimize and integrate the Threads profile into website and email newsletter templates. Brands should also analyze past content on Threads (and X) to identify the most engaging content topics and media formats to inform future content. All posts should be optimized for reach (although hashtags are not yet supported, keywords in posts and comments still matter).
Brands also can cross-post Threads posts to Instagram and promote the new Threads profile via posts on other social media platforms.
The future of Threads app
For Threads to be a viable social media platform, two things need to happen: Meta needs to boost the monthly active user base and X needs to further falter. Indeed, there will be both causation and correlation in Threads’ survival, based on its relationship with X. If Threads is unable to nearly double its active users in the next six to nine months, I believe it will be re-absorbed into Instagram.
One way for Threads to survive (if not thrive) is for Musk to carry through with his plans to charge for access to the X platform. I believe he will reverse his decision before it creates irreversible damage.
Threads may offer frustrated X users a viable platform to share thoughts and information, but I believe it’s unlikely to survive without creating a viable advertising platform and additional functionality.
The alternative route to survival for the Threads app is Elon Musk blowing up his own X platform, which is not out of character. Regardless, brands will benefit from monitoring, testing and engaging on the platform until it is no longer viable or surpasses the X platform in active users.
Kent Lewis founder of pdxMindShare, an online career community and networking group mentioned on Seth Godin’s blog. Formerly a CMO and founder or co-founder of multiple agencies, he’s known as a thought leader in digital marketing. He’s been an adjunct professor for more than 20 years at Portland State University and a volunteer instructor for SCORE. Lewis co-founded SEMpdx in 2006, a trade organization for search engine marketing professionals, and has been named a Marketer of the Year by the American Marketing Association and Top 100 Digital Marketing Influencers by BuzzSumo.
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