If you were online at some point on 5 July 2023, then you may have seen the buzz for Meta’s answer to Twitter, titled Threads, as it launched into the ether. If you are particularly active on Instagram, then you definitely will have seen it.
What has happened to Twitter?
Ever since Elon Musk spent $44 billion buying the social media service, Twitter, in October 2022, many users have openly voiced their concern at the direction the platform was heading. News of mass firings and office walkouts at the Twitter headquarters surfaced, and many users experienced frequent errors while using the platform.
New features were chopped and changed in quick succession, such as a user’s rights to a free authenticating blue tick being removed and how many tweets a user has access to in a day. The tweet limits were temporary, but the damage done seems to be a bit more permanent.
Twitter’s recent name change, simply to the ominous letter “X” due to its merger with Musk’s company X Corp, is the latest move in the wild roller coaster. The Guardian called it “a desperate attempt at world domination” and Politico branded Musk’s version of Twitter as “like an uncool nightclub”.
All of this made it very clear that Musk and his new team were constructing their plan as they worked through it. In other words, they were utterly clueless, and they aren’t hiding it! In mathematics, X refers to the unknown element of a proposed equation.
The future of Musk’s social media platform is, in his own words, a mystery.
What is Threads?
Throughout this time, Silicon Valley did not sit with a bucket of popcorn watching everything unfold. Mark Zuckerberg and his team at Meta decided to use what they could see as an inevitable to their advantage. Development on Threads, which was internally known as “Project 92”, began in January 2023, with the platform officially launching on Wednesday 5 July 2023.
Threads was created by the Meta team behind Instagram and is a platform that allows you to publish posts that are up to 500 characters. This could include links, photos, or videos up to five minutes long. The app is linked to your Instagram account and, when signing up for the app, you immediately follow everyone you already follow on Instagram, provided they have also signed up for Threads.
And they automatically follow you back.
For example, on my personal Threads account I have 53 followers, I’m following 313 profiles and I am yet to post anything. This means that gaining an audience and an active feed is relatively quick and straightforward.
Within one day of its launch, Threads gained 30 million users. This overtook the previous record set by ChatGPT and made it the fastest-growing platform in history. Within five days of its launch, this number grew to 100 million users.
However, recent news outlets have revealed a secret recording of Mark Zuckerberg telling employees at Meta that out of those 100 million users, 70% have not converted into active users.
Basically, they signed up and haven’t returned since.
Why did this happen?
Upon launch, Threads was extremely basic and missing a lot of features that users enjoyed about Twitter.
Mark Zuckerberg said he considered the drop-off in users to not be a perfect start but was to be expected. He added that he predicted retention to grow as the company adds more features to the app, including a desktop version and the ability to search for content on the platform.
The Meta CEO also admitted during a call that “we have a lot of basic work to do” on Threads, and “there’s still a lot of basic functionality to build”. When Meta manages to do this, Zuckerberg said he was “highly confident that we’re going to be able to pour enough gasoline on this to help it grow”.
What do we think of Threads at Yardstick?
I wanted to ask the wider team who had dipped their toe into Threads, why they signed up and what they thought of it, to see if their thoughts matched the lacklustre, basic reputation of the platform thus far. Here are some of our musings:
“I think I learn the hard way and wanted to secure my handle more than anything.”
“What are the benefits of being on there? I know from a business point of view, it’s great to be completely personal and not very corporate, but for a personal account… What’s the point? What can I do on there I can’t do on LinkedIn/Facebook/Instagram?”
“I didn’t find the app particularly engaging, there aren’t many features, and I didn’t like the fact that it’s taken people from my Instagram. I follow a lot of people for their images, I don’t really care for their written thoughts.”
“I have done a handful of posts but, when it lost that initial spark, I did fall away with a lot of the crowd, especially when I got zero engagement (as unsurprising as that is).”
“I like how it makes everyone equal if that makes sense? On LinkedIn people can waffle on for days or someone could just post one sentence, and it’s not a level playing field. On Threads, you have got to master the art of saying a lot with very little, and I appreciate that.”
“I am enjoying it, but it needs a conscious effort to pick it up. It’s also been a big buggy and slow (which it’s doing right now as I load it up to have a look) so it’ll be interesting to see how it improves over time. It will also be largely dependent on how other people use it. It isn’t social media without the social!”
Have you created a Threads account? The next 12 months for the social media platform are going to be fascinating to watch. Will Threads be the “Twitter killer” it was expected to be, or will it be a costly failure from Meta?
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