Unravelling Threads

By Harry Willis

Nearly three weeks after its launch, Threads, the first noteworthy competitior to Twitter in years, has taken the internet by storm. But what is the platform actually like? How has it been recieved? And should brands be jumping on board?

Meta's new social media platform has been met with mixed reactions. After it’s launch on July 6th 2023, the app surpassed 30 million sign ups in less than 24 hours, then exceeded an astonishing 100 million in less than five days, surprising even its founder Mark Zuckerberg and his team of engineers (many of whom were poached from Twitter following Elon Musk’s cull of staff earlier this year). This makes Threads the fastest growing online platform in history, beating out Chat GPT which took two months to secure the same user-base.

And it can be no coincidence that this week Elon Musk announced plans to axe the famous Twitter bird logo and replace it with an "X". "And soon we shall bid adieu to the Twitter brand and, gradually, all the birds", he tweeted in clear response to Threads’ popularity.

A first impression after scrolling Threads for a couple of hours, is that it’s impossible not to compare the user experience to that on Twitter.

Threads is clean, easy to use (simply import your Instagram followers and you’re ready to go) and notably devoid of ads, for now.

It seems Threads is aiming to provide a more interactive and meaningful experience than it’s counterpart. It encourages users to engage in ongoing conversations called "threads" that revolve around user-generated topics. This approach fosters in-depth discussions and facilitates connections based on shared interests, passions, or expertise.

Unlike social networks that focus on accumulating a large number of followers or broadcasting content to a broad audience, Threads has been billed by it’s makers as a place for intimacy and dedicated spaces for specific topics or interests, similar to Reddit. Users are able to participate in ongoing discussions, share content, and collaborate within these threads, creating a more focused and engaged community.

However, companies are jumping in, too. Casual brand-on-brand chatter isn’t a new trend to social media (cc TikTok), but the conversational, internet-slang approach feels fitting to a text based platform like Threads, and we’ve already seen some of the world’s most recognisable brands signing up and sharing quippy memes.

It makes sense for companies to be speaking in Gen Z’s language, as it’s this generation of users who have been the quickest to make the jump to Threads. Enterprise Apps Today’s site states that users between 18 and 25 comprise 42% of its userbase. It’s an interesting insight into a digital generation that’s most used platforms are visual/video based: YouTube, followed by Instagram, then TikTok. Perhaps the FOMO is too real.

After speaking with a couple of our own clients that have registered accounts but have not started posting, it would be safe to assume most brands are holding back from incorporating Threads into social media planning.

Integration with Instagram allows users to connect seamlessly with people they already know or follow, but the Meta team have opted for an algorithmic approach, similar to Twitter’s ‘For You’ feature that recommends content ‘TikTok’ style, predicting what you want to see.

Notably it’s this algorithmic timeline that displays posts beyond just those from the accounts the user follows. Threads is also exclusively available on mobile devices, at least for the time being, and takes a major departure from Twitter's approach by choosing not to promote hard news or political content.

Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, has justified this choice by stating that any potential increase in engagement or revenue from such content does not outweigh the risks associated with scrutiny, negativity, and potential damage to integrity. Time will tell how that turns out.

So who’s using it locally? New Zealand’s major news organisations including Stuff and NZ Herald jumped in early, as did some of the country’s largest businesses such as Spark and One NZ, immediately embroiled in controversy after some hot fingered ‘threadding’ from official accounts discussing transgender issues. Since then, Spark has kept a lower profile, with only one thread in the past week.

The National and Labour parties were also quick to join in, eager not to miss an opportunity to engage with voters this election cycle. The latter is still active on the platform and the former fell silent after posting one thread nearly three weeks ago.

World leaders are also signing up, with DigiThreads reporting last week that 103 heads of state had joined. Looking closer to home, there’s currently a non-registered account with the name and likeness of PM Chris Hipkins (22 followers), and a verified Christopher Luxon account (nearly 2,000 followers).

Some users have praised the platform for its focus on long-form content and its ability to foster more meaningful conversations. A Thread  can be up to 500 characters long, much longer than the 280-character limit on Twitter.

Others have criticised the platform for being too similar to the bird app and for lacking any truly innovative features. There is no ability to post live video, audio, emojis or hashtags, yet.

But are users sticking around? Threads’ active users halved in just it’s first week, with 20 million active users currently, spending an average of six minutes on the app each per day.

It seems the new platform’s future may be hanging in the balance. With the dust still settling and the unprecedented early popularity waning, it remains unclear who this app is really for, as brands, media and the wider public scramble to find their place.

Latest Blog Posts

Get in Touch

Give us a call, send us a message or call in and see us.  We’d love to hear from you.