Threads first impressions: disorganised, simplistic, and fun

Threads first impressions: disorganised, simplistic, and fun

Within the first seven hours of its launch, Instagram’s Twitter competitor Threads surpassed 10 million users, according to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

The rapid user growth app is unsurprising given the ease through which users can link their Instagram name, bio, and followers, as well as timing of its release amid widespread complaints over the declining quality of Twitter.

Major brands, celebrities, and news outlets have jumped at the chance to be early adopters. Top YouTube personality MrBeast quickly amassed 740,000 followers and counting. Major newsbrands like The New York Times and BBC have joined but did not immediately begin posting; others such as the Daily Mail have taken the opportunity to immediately spread news articles.

Other brands like Netflix and McDonalds were getting in on the action, posting jokes and memes. “Any other social media gremlins get this call today?” wrote HBO’s official Threads account above an image of Succession character Kendall Roy (played by Jeremy Strong) saying: “Fucking get on it. Figure it out.”

“We’ve been up since midnight and we still have no idea what we are doing,” replied Channel 4’s new account.

Reception of the app from users has appeared mostly positive. “It’s prettier Twitter,” one user wrote. “Needs a few more features but overall, love the integration with the Gram.”

The app is indeed lacking in features. For one, there is no feed of only accounts followed by the user. Instead, the current feed is a hodgepodge of algorithmically sorted posts from seemingly random accounts.

Users also currently cannot create lists of accounts and topics they want to follow while filtering out other content, like they can do on Twitter. Much beloved third-party apps on Twitter, such as TweetDeck, are not yet developed for Threads and may not receive necessary support from Meta. There is not currently a trending page, nor widespread use of hashtags to tag content. There is no ability to send direct messages. In fact, there are only tabs for the feed, search, post, activity relevant to your account, and profile.

In other words, it feels disorganised, messy, and also fun.

“I love it when a new social channel launches,” said Wavemaker’s global head of applied innovation Sarah Salter. “The same fifty ‘cool’ friends join, no one quite knows what to do or say and you invariably end up with a feed that feels a bit like an awkward school disco. On joining Threads I was greeted with far too many selfies, an algorithm that seems to think I like the Jenner family and an array of jokes which feel like I’m back home with my dad.

“That said there is an air of excitement to Threads and people seem to be loving it. It feels lighter and more fun that social has recently. It brings the scale of Instagram and the joy and fun of a playground. It’s early days, there will be a lot of eyes on the safety, moderation and positivity but I’m excited to experiment and see where it goes.”

Will Instagram’s Twitter rival duck privacy for advertising?

In between replying to posts about martial arts, Zuckerberg responded when asked whether Threads could become bigger than Twitter: “It’ll take some time, but I think there should be a public conversations app with 1 billion+ people on it. Twitter has had the opportunity to do this but hasn’t nailed it. Hopefully we will.”

Addressing expected concerns over the moderation of harmful content and misinformation, he added in a separate comment: “We are definitely focussing on kindness and making this a friendly place.”

Whether Threads will be a significant boon for Meta’s business is uncertain, but taking any users away from a major social media competitor can only be good for the company. There is currently no ad inventory being sold on Threads, but Instagram head Adam Mosseri told The Verge adding advertisements would be a “champagne problem” assuming Threads achieves sufficient scale. Shares of Meta rose 2.92% yesterday ahead of the launch, and remained buoyed in pre-market trading today.

In its app privacy policy, Meta laid out that it will happily take a great deal of user data to sell to advertisers, signalling how it intends to generate revenue.

That has caught the eye of data privacy advocates; Threads’ launch has been delayed in European Union countries over regulatory uncertainty of personal data use. “The complexities with complying with some of the laws coming into effect next year are significant,” Mosseri admitted to The Verge. “We don’t want to launch anything that isn’t forward-compatible with what we know and what we think is coming. It’s just going to take longer to make sure not only that it’s compliant but that any claims we make about how we’ve implemented compliance stand up to our very high set of documentation and testing centres internally.”

Regardless, advertisers have been buzzing about the shiny new toy.

“There’s a new social kid on the block and it’ll be interesting to see which advertisers choose to get to know Threads first,” said Hannah Walley, head of media, Insights, UK at Kantar. “With any emerging platform, our advice to brands is always to test and learn – to track how its consumer following develops and whether it could work for them.

“There can be benefits to getting in early from an advertising point of view – businesses can use the opportunity to build their brand in a less cluttered online space. Embracing digital disruptors can help brands seem more innovative too but there can be risks of course.”

Writing in his Madison and Wall Substack, media business consultant Brian Wieser wrote that Meta would be wise to address those potential risks, but expressed optimism for Meta to capitalise on Twitter’s decline regardless: “While there are many, many reasons to have antipathy towards the parent company for consumers and advertisers alike, if anyone could take an existing base of producers of content to catalyse usage of such a product, Meta is very well-positioned.

“Of course, it will be helpful if any product launch coincided with some kind of pledge from Meta to assure stakeholders that there will be active efforts to curtail the distribution of misinformation.”

Do you work in media or advertising? What are your first impressions of Threads as a user or an industry professional? Email jack.benjamin@uk.adwanted.com

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