Threads’ huge launch does not mean it’s stolen Twitter’s lunch

Threads’ huge launch does not mean it’s stolen Twitter’s lunch


Threads has a number of things going against it. Not least because social media has become a surprisingly slow-to-evolve medium with myriad regulatory issues.

So.  Threads….  Hopefully not named after one of the things medics look for in STI tests.

The app for the new Meta-owned ‘service’ has now been downloaded over 100 million times, making it the fastest app of all time to reach that figure, easily overturning Chat GPT’s recent record.

So it’s a big deal, yeah?  Well, perhaps. Or perhaps it’s just a storm in a teacup.

I have no data whatsoever to support this, but I’d bet there are two key drivers of early growth: professional users (politicians, journalists etc.) hedging their bets; and Fomo.

Neither growth curve is particularly sustainable, so the product itself must now deliver something worth crossing the road for — which it doesn’t, at least yet.

Being ‘not Twitter’ isn’t enough

The only thing Threads has going for it is that the owner of the product it purports to replace and/or improve upon — Twitter — is making such a hash of it. I first joined Twitter in 2009, found it enjoyable and useful, and have operated several accounts segmented by interest group ever since. I use it many times each day but have been dismayed as it has been in the vanguard of social media platforms which have led the world into a much less kind place.

However, Threads has a number of things going against it.

Facebook is used to much bigger numbers and revenues.  Twitter was always an also ran in advertisers’ eyes, witness the commentary when Elon Musk overbid for it, tried to renege, couldn’t, ended up with it and started to crash it.

Most agency and advertiser leaders at that time – at least the few who break cover to express an opinion on anything beyond inclusion these days – considered it a pretty dispensable, marginal media buy.

Musk’s moves to trade user validation for small amounts of money and more recently segment the number of tweets visible by subscriber segment have both backfired.

Despite my profiles in this and another sphere., Twitter declined my requests for verified status when it had value.  Now it seeks to charge for something which no longer has any value.  And limit my access to tweets, which limit it then wastes  with crappy  “promoted content”,  Cheers for that.  I’ve worked with enough marketers to know that there is no surer way of losing custom than corroding your offer thus.

What’s to say Threads will create anything approaching the Twitter of its heyday, and if so, how?

Facebook or Twitter are mature platforms whose user bases have aged with them and been largely sidestepped by their kids and younger peers.  The phenomenal growth of TikTok is the most obvious example, but there are many others, Telegram for one.

The younger generations that marketers continue to worship despite their relative poverty move on all the time, have certainly moved on from these platforms and continue to do so.

Heavy-handed approach

Would you launch a Twitter now?  And if so, would you launch one that reflects it in its diminished state?

Meta obviously sees one advantage, which it’s trying hard to leverage – the success and audience profile of its other main platform.  History has concluded that the record $1bn it paid for Instagram in 2012 was well spent.

Now Meta seems to see it as its saving grace – it’s trying hard to bundle Threads with Instagram.

To be fair, this makes some superficial sense.  Twitter is largely text-based, whilst Instagram is exclusively image-based (by which I mean you can’t post without an image).  So, many like me have accounts on both for complementary purposes.

However, the current approach is heavy-handed.  Consistent with its unprecedented uptake, there are many reports of dissatisfaction and disappointment with Threads.

Some of these concerns will surely be ironed out over time.  But many of those dissatisfieds report that it is only possible to extricate yourself from Threads if you don’t like it by cancelling your Instagram account as well.

I’ve valued my Insta since 2013, and my wife has built a very successful business on the platform.  For this this reason alone, neither of us will be joining Threads in a hurry.  Nor, it seems, will many I discuss it with.  Only one so far, in fact.

Zooming out, Threads also launches (and Twitter founders) in an environment that is surprisingly slowly but nevertheless now getting inexorably more challenging.

More and more questions are being asked by Governments, regulators and commentators about the safety and financial probity of online channels, and rightly so.  Even if the advertisers and their agents continue to turn blind eyes to their biblical waste.  As ever, Nick Manning sets it out beautifully.

Doubtless Facebook/Meta will be leveraging their massive resources and relationships like crazy.  Meanwhile, Twitter’s new and much-hyped CEO, the former NBCUniversal commercial chief Linda Yiaccarino will surely be looking to make early marks.

It’s going to be very, very interesting to see how the text-led social space evolves from here.  Conditions are just right for a new entrant from left field….

Bob Wootton spent 40 years working in advertising, first as a media buyer at some of the UK’s leading agencies  before joining the trade body ISBA in 1996, where he was advertising and media director for 20 years. He is also the founder of Deconstruction, a media and tech consulting business, and presents The Guitar Show on YouTube.

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