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Five Things to Know About Meta’s Threads

July 7, 2023

In less than 24 hours, Meta’s latest product Threads amassed more than 55 million users. The reviews are mixed, but with the growing userbase alone, it is a platform for organizations and brands to consider connecting with audiences.

With the volatility and unpredictability of Twitter, many individuals and companies went dark and have been searching for a Twitter alternative—and Threads is just that. Other competitor platforms like Bluesky, Spill and Mastodon didn’t gain traction as quickly, likely because their brand awareness and existing audience just weren’t there. Most new social networks fail because they can’t reach scale fast enough, but Threads’ instant access to Instagram’s 2.35 billion monthly active users helped the platform grow significantly in a very short time.

However, only time will tell if Threads will become a true alternative to Twitter or if it too will fall by the wayside. While we watch to see how it performs, our team is answering a few key questions to help guide conversations with brand and social community managers on their presence on the platform during this early phase.

  1. What is Threads?
    Built by the Instagram team, Threads is the latest of Meta’s mobile-only social media apps for sharing text updates and joining public conversations that is being positioned as a replacement for Twitter. Launched on July 5, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerburg noted Threads aims to “keep it friendly as it expands… That’s one reason why Twitter never succeeded as much as I think it should have, and we want to do it differently.”While the app recognizes its room evolve its user experience and functionality, it doesn’t quite feel like a direct replacement for Twitter. Threads is currently only accessible from a mobile device and has an explore-style feed that prioritizes content from verified users rather than a curated selection based on the user’s preferences. Paid amplification and ads are also not a focus for Meta at this time. It’s easy to join if you have an Instagram account, but also worth noting that users have to delete both Instagram and Threads to leave the new platform.
  2. What are people saying about it?
    According to our analysis, reactions on social and online news media has been mixed reviews with most of the conversation remaining neutral as audiences are still forming their opinions. In the first 12 hours after its launch, Threads sparked a conversation in approximately 2 million news stories and posts. The most visible topics of conversation include news of the launch, the exponential sign-ups and the differences from Twitter, many of which people are discussing in real time, such as the previously mentioned inability to delete a Threads account without also deleting an Instagram account, inability to edit posts and acknowledging that users show up differently to Instagram than they do Twitter. For brands, questions remain about monitoring mentions and eventual use of APIs for embedding feeds and team management tool support like Hootsuite to help keep tabs on conversations.
  3. Who is using it?
    To help jump start its reach, several hand-picked influential celebrities and brands gained early access to Threads, flooding feeds with content before the platform officially launched. Threads is not available in all regions of the world yet, most notably in the EU due to regulatory complexities.

    A number of celebrities like  Jennifer Lopez, Shakira, Gordon Ramsay, Tom Brady and Coldplay are among the early users.

    Various companies jumped to Threads following the launch. Keeping their brand on the new app, Wendy’s entered the conversation with style. Spotify, Netflix, the NBA, Microsoft, CNN, Marvel, the NAACP, Adidas and more have also started posting content and amassing followers.

    Elected Officials
    As of Thursday evening, more than a quarter of the United States Congress’ 535 house members and senators had made accounts. Early adopters included:House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Jasmine Crockett (D-Texas), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), August Pfluger (R-Texas), Troy Carter (D-La.), Wiley Nickel (D-N.C.), Morgan Luttrell (R-Texas), Jennifer McClellan (D-Va.), Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Ben Cline (R-Va.), Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), Greg Stanton (D-Ariz.), Chris Deluzio (D-Pa.), Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Lloyd Smucker (R-Pa.) and Jim Himes (D-Conn.).

    Many news outlets were early adopters of Threads. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Associated Press and more had accounts up and running early this morning. Following their workplaces, journalists have also created accounts. Internet and culture reporters like Joanna Stern were early adopters and it is safe to expect journalists to flock to the app.

    Gen Z
    Most of the chatter online about Threads has been led by Gen Z users. Young people are owning the conversation on Threads as the excitement of a new app and ease of creating an account is a big draw for younger users.Many Gen Z users had already quit Twitter amid the platform’s internal changes. The app’s negativity and lack of organization drove users toward apps like TikTok where they can choose their own feed. Threads currently has an explore style feed, though it is pushing verified users’ content rather than a curated selection based on the user.

    However, it remains to be seen if young will want to be active participants and watch what they’re saying because of the “terrible uncle problem.” Threads’ integration with Instagram makes it more difficult to separate identities via usernames, something made more challenging as users can automatically follow the same users they follow on Instagram when creating their accounts.

  4. Why is it important?
    Threads’ user experience feels very similar to Twitter and has the familiarity of Instagram with a similar user interface and audience, so individuals and companies are quickly finding their footing.An account’s initial followers platform likely mirror its Instagram followers, so chances are they already know its brand and voice. Threads provides an opportunity to streamline and integrate the conversations that would be happening on Twitter with the audience that is already engaging on Instagram. Threads will allow brands to bridge the two audiences and learn even more about who their followers are. Similarly, with the integration of the Meta-owned platforms, cross-promotion becomes easier, allowing brands to leverage the opportunity to promote content between Instagram and Threads. With a simple click, Threads can become Instagram Stories.
  5. Should your brand be on Threads?
    As always, it depends! If your brand already has an active presence on Instagram and a Twitter strategy in place, it most likely makes sense to meet this moment and jump on the Threads bandwagon. Being agile and adopting a strategy that you know works well with your Twitter audience should transfer well to the text-based platform.But just like any new product or platform, social media managers need to have conversation on long-term business case and strategy. There are plenty of businesses and organizations who aren’t on other social media platforms—like TikTok—and for good reason. If it doesn’t make sense for their target audience, brand position and communications goals, creating a profile may be counterproductive.Questions to consider when determining a path forward:

    1. Is Twitter already a key part of audience and digital strategy?
    2. Is there an established Instagram presence?
    3. If already using Twitter, is there strong audience engagement?
    4. If on Instagram and Facebook, how does engagement differ?
    5. What are the pros and cons for a choice to adapt Threads quickly? Does it make more sense to watch how the Threads popularity and performance pans out?

Looking ahead: APCO’s Digital teams will be watching how corporate brands, politicians and users are adopting and engaging on Threads in the coming weeks and months, with a close eye on the rollout of advertising opportunities and how they integrate across the Metaverse.

APCO alumna Zoë Rosenberg contributed to this post. 

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