Introducing Threads: Can we say goodbye to Twitter just yet?
Within 24 hours of starting my monthly digital marketing column for the North Bay Business Journal, a new social network popped up — and not just any platform, but one owned by Meta (aka Facebook Instagram). So I, of course, had to change course and dive into this new social network.
One that may be the end of Twitter.
After months of speculation from social media writers, Threads finally emerged from the shadows, containing just the most basic features. It's designed like Twitter, with its own versions of tweets (now “threads”) and retweets (or “reposts”). Users can tag people, comment and like, but there are currently no trending topics, keyword searches (other than usernames) or hashtags.
Right now, Threads has an uncanny resemblance to the early days of Twitter — users sharing their most spontaneous thoughts and participating enthusiastically. Granted, it’s only been a few weeks by the time you read this.
Instagram “stealing” features from other social networks isn’t new. They borrowed the idea of Stories from Snapchat and the idea of Reels from TikTok. Then again, Twitter borrowed the idea of Spaces from Clubhouse (RIP to that app everyone in the tech industry was excited about two years ago).
Within the first four hours, Threads attracted a whopping 5 million users. Within a week, it had 10 million. All users who already had Instagram were quickly able to set up their Threads accounts and follow their Instagram friends.
The real question is … will Twitter users flock to Threads and STAY there?
I'm inclined to say yes. Threads is already showing a level of user engagement that's hard to ignore. Instead of starting from scratch like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram back in the day, users start with the ability to connect with their current Instagram community and a list of influencers that Instagram is pushing on the feed. (To combat this, I have been hiding everyone I don’t want to see. Just click on the three dots on the top right part of the thread and click “hide.”) Yes, the engagement has gone down since the first days of being on the app, but that’s to be expected.
But even as things even out on Threads, sharing your random thoughts and having Instagram feeds, like, or comment on them makes it feel like you aren't shouting out into a void. It's a Twitter-style experience with people you already know, either online or in real life.
This is the most exciting part of all of this.
Instagram had a discoverability problem. Where Facebook has suggested users (often people you didn’t want to connect with), you had to go out of your way on Instagram to find new people to follow. Instagram tried to change that with Reels and showing users new videos from content creators, but Instagram users complained they did not like seeing new people on their feeds.
This makes it hard for brands to grow, and when businesses are frustrated that all of their hard work isn’t seeing any growth, they don’t want to use the app as much.
TikTok was started almost as the opposite of Instagram or Facebook. You don’t want to follow people you know. You are entertained by content from creators who share your passions. The problem is that when Instagram borrowed the idea for Reels, they tried to bring people from TikTok to their app. But there are fundamental differences between the apps and those who use TikTok versus Instagram.
So where do Twitter users fall in the mix?
Why Threads vs. Twitter?
Twitter, led by Elon Musk since October 2022, has been navigating choppy waters since the day he took over. Musk's (seemingly) chaotic leadership style has resulted in a fair share of controversy and backlash. Recently, the platform has found itself on even thinner ice, angering users over a temporary cap on daily content viewing.
This turn of events could be a golden opportunity for Meta, which may be the only social network best suited to capitalize on this discontent.
As Twitter grapples with its challenges, Meta is poised to step in and reshape the social media landscape.
It's worth noting that Threads doesn't bring anything groundbreaking to the table. Everything it does offer, Twitter has provided for years, and there’s plenty that can be found on Twitter that’s missing from Threads. It doesn't have direct messaging, feed filters, audio rooms, or even a proper web version. Yet, a compelling draw makes me believe it will attract a large user base, leading many to use Threads more than Twitter.
Why stay on Twitter?
No matter how chaotic and angry I got at Musk for making changes to Twitter, I never deleted the app entirely because Twitter had become my go-to source for breaking news about fires here in the North Bay area.
If I smell smoke in the area I have the ability to quickly search the area I'm in on Twitter, and I can get real-time information about potential fires. I can't do this on any other platform. A big part of my breaking news about North Bay fires comes from Sonoma-based Sarah Stierch, @Sarah_Stierch on Twitter. She has dedicated her Twitter-feed during fire season to keeping the world up to date on fires and has become a valuable source for real-time information.
Tips for Threads
The platform is new, so for now play around with it and change your mindset about ROI or selling on this social network. Use it to connect with others who share the same passions as you, or your brand — respond to people, and worry about selling later when Meta introduces ads.
Threads has only been around for a few weeks, so we don’t yet know if it’s going to last. Yes, there is a lot of hype surrounding the platform, but social networks grow through users creating habits around using them. Are people going to open it when they wake up to look at their replies? Are they going to automatically look for Threads when they open their phone? Will people care about Thread’s strong potential vs. Twitter's legacy chokehold on the space. And, perhaps most importantly for me — where will people go when breaking news happens?