Heads up Elon, there’s a new app on the block.
On Thursday 6th July, Meta launched their newest app, designed to rival Twitter – Threads. So far, Threads has seen over 10m people sign up in the first 7 hours, and is big enough to be causing waves all across the internet. And a Meta project rarely fails (except for their metaverse idea, but the less said about that the better!).
So what is Threads, why should you care as a marketer? More importantly, will it dislodge Twitter from the social media ‘big boys’?
Threads is a new platform built by Meta, specifically the team that designs and maintains Instagram. No longer are they tied to hosting your holiday pics and cute snaps of your dog – they now offer text-based services too, a major move away from Instagram’s USP of photo-first sharing.
Threads behaves very similarly to Twitter, in that you can share short-form posts that are text-led, and use imagery as extra ‘flavour’, rather than being the main focal point of the post. You’re limited to 500 characters per post and can post up to 10 images or videos up to 5 minutes in length.
If you’ve been around long enough, you might remember that Threads was also the name of a short-lived Instagram companion app, launched in October 2019, which aimed to let people keep in touch with their close friends. It was billed as an alternative to Snapchat, but it never really picked up much steam and was scaled down, eventually becoming the ‘Close Friends’ feature we know and love on Stories. It’s part of the reason Meta has been able to get Threads up and running so quickly, and smoothly to boot. They didn’t have to start from scratch with the code – just tweak it a bit to make it fit for use.
Both Threads and Twitter are alike in the sense that they are straightforward, text-based apps that allow their users to share their thoughts instantly and in real time. The methods for engaging with posts are largely the same – you can ‘Like’ a post, ‘Share’ it to your network (the same as Retweeting) and send the post to a person you follow. If you want to share your thoughts, all posts can be replied to by default.
There is also an algorithm that will suggest accounts and posts that you may like based on your previous activity. As the app is currently so new, it’s a bit hit-and-miss, but with a bit of training and activity on Threads, it’ll soon show you things you like.
The main difference at the moment is that instead of being treated as a standalone app, Threads is already integrated into the Instagram and Facebook ecosystem that Meta has worked so hard to maintain.
Keeping Threads in the Meta ecosystem is massive for community building.
Businesses of all sizes will have a presence on Facebook and Instagram, or at the very least one of those platforms. When you download Threads and sign up, it streamlines the process massively by allowing you to import the majority of your details from Instagram. You keep your Instagram username and can import your profile picture directly.
In the next stage, Threads also gives you the option to automatically follow everyone on your Instagram. If they aren’t on Threads yet, it’ll automatically follow them when they sign up.
Currently, not much. The app is still in its infancy and has launched without any advertising options at all. However, that won’t be the case for long, as Meta relies heavily on advertising for income – according to BusinessofApps, Instagram generated £42.38bn ($51.4bn) in advertising revenue in 2022, with forecasts expecting this to grow even further by the end of 2023.
Meta has previous history in releasing features or products completely free of advertising, and then adding it in later on. Stories started off completely free of adverts, with Instagram weaving them in once it had proven to be worth their time to do so. It was a similar case with Instagram’s ‘Explore’ tab, which was previously free of advertising. So while Threads is ad-free for now, don’t expect this to be the norm.
Furthermore, it’ll be incredibly easy for Meta to integrate ads into Threads. By keeping it in the Meta ecosystem, they’ve not only made it easy for people to sign up, but for businesses and advertisers to start showing their ads on Threads too. At Semetrical, we expect Threads to be integrated into Ads Manager fairly effortlessly, using the same payment methods and pipelines for ads. It’ll be a busy week ahead for the Meta advertising teams, as they send Threads elevator pitches to the roughly 200m businesses that advertise on Instagram.
Thankfully, much of what you can do on Twitter in terms of organic marketing can also be done on Threads. Link embedding and sharing are allowed, meaning you can share your blogs, YouTube videos and much more on Threads. Although there were concerns that Threads would follow in the same direction as Instagram, in that links are not allowed to be posted on feeds, this has proven to not be the case.
However, there are some potential issues that have arisen already. Threads is suffering from its own success in a way, and has so much functionality from the off that secondary tools such as Later and Hootsuite are having to play massive amounts of catch-up. As of writing, no social media management tool has Threads integrated into their offering, meaning you need to go on Threads manually and post your content. This can put marketers off, as the duplication of effort for what is currently a brand-new app with only a tiny fraction of Twitter or Instagram’s MAUs isn’t exactly appealing in terms of time management (Threads has ~12m users at the time of writing, whereas Twitter has ~220m and Instagram dominates with ~2bn MAUs). However, we expect attitudes to change if Threads continues in the positive way it has, adding to user bases and allowing secondary integrations from sites like Later.
It’s too soon to know for sure, but some concerns have already been raised. Facebook and Instagram are known for their heavy tracking of user activity and collating of user data – Meta already has a colourful history of being overzealous in their tracking, and Zuckerberg has been hauled in front of committees more than once in the last few years for it. For all its faults since Musk’s takeover, Twitter is good at protecting its user’s data and not oversharing or over-tracking for the most part.
Threads is attempting to remedy this and allay fears from the off, however, with its promise that Threads will be a decentralised platform. A decentralised platform means that privacy and security for its users are prioritised, as instead of storing all user data in one central server, the data is spread evenly across a wide network of computers and databases. This means it’s a lot trickier to access data that’s not meant for you or fall victim to a worldwide information breach.
While Threads has passed the tests in many countries, the EU isn’t convinced just yet. For the time being, Threads is unavailable in most of Europe, with Ireland’s Data Protection Commission stating that this is due to stricter GDPR rules.
How can I access Threads?
Currently, Threads is limited to apps on iOS and Android. It is unknown currently whether Meta plans to offer a web version of Threads, or if they want to keep it app-only.
Can I send Direct Messages to people on Threads?
Not yet. As it’s built by the Instagram team, where DMs are a core function of the app, it’s a near-certainty that DMing will be added in very soon. It’s likely that it was left out for the time being to stagger feature rollout and reduce bugs on launch day.
Can I change my privacy settings on Threads?
Yes. While Threads is part of the Meta ecosystem, it allows you to edit your privacy settings to be different from your Instagram or Facebook privacy, if you wish. It’s very easy to have a protected Instagram account, but a public Threads account, or vice versa. You’re given the option of protected or public at sign-up and can edit it at any time in Settings.
How strict is the moderation level on Threads?
Can I set up a Close Friends list on Threads?
Currently, no. However, this doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the future, as Meta is good at listening to its audience’s desires. In the meantime, if you only want a select few to see your posts, the only way to do so currently is to have a protected account.
Can I change my username on Threads?
Not at this stage. This is good news for big business accounts and influencers, as it means nobody can grab your handle from you if you weren’t signing up as soon as it came out. It’s possible that they will allow it in the future, but for now, the only way to change Threads usernames is to also change your Instagram username.
In need of social media consultancy or management to make the most of the Threads launch, and boost your presence on existing platforms? Contact us today to see how we can help you realise your digital ambitions.