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Trends & Insights | Blog

We’ve tested Meta’s Threads for three weeks – here’s what we’ve learned

July 28, 2023


We've been exploring and testing Meta's new text-only app, Threads, for the last three weeks. Here's everything you need to know...

Nicole Mezzasalma

Senior Consultant

It’s been three weeks since Meta launched its latest app, Threads – dubbed by some as a ‘Twitter killer’. If that’s perhaps a bit too strong, the timing certainly couldn’t have been better – as Elon Musk’s platform continues to struggle with usage rate limits and an advertiser exodus.

Threads has become the fastest-growing app of all time, with over 100 million users joining in the first five days (it took previous record-holder ChatGPT two months). While growth has since slowed down, it’s estimated that more than 150 million people have downloaded the app so far. And with parent app Instagram having more than 2 billion users, it’s conceivable that Threads will continue to grow steadily over the next few months.

Indeed, latest figures indicate the app has already achieved one-fifth of the weekly active user base of Twitter worldwide – although time spent on the platform seems to have fallen 50% from the early days, from 20 minutes to 10 minutes a day. Factor in that it’s still unavailable in the European Union due to privacy rules, and those figures look even more impressive.

Naturally, our team has been exploring and testing the new platform extensively over the last few weeks. If you haven’t got under the hood of Threads yet, here’s everything you need to know. 

What is Threads?

Threads is a new social media platform created by Meta (owner of Facebook and Instagram), primarily to compete with Twitter. The app centres around text-only updates, with the option to include links, photos and videos too. 

Threads profiles are linked to Instagram accounts, so when signing up for the service users get the same username and profile photo carried over. While this makes it quick and easy, it also comes with a warning: you can’t delete a Threads account without deleting Instagram too. You can, however, deactivate Threads without affecting Instagram. In addition, anyone you block on one service is also blocked on the other.

Account verification is also linked. If your brand is verified on Instagram, its Threads account will automatically be verified as well.

How does Threads work?

While Threads looks a lot like Twitter, it works very differently as a platform – and based on what’s been revealed by Meta so far, has a different strategy too. 

The app took a couple of weeks to introduce a 'following' feed, and the search feature is still lacking – with users only able to search for usernames at this point. Threads doesn’t currently offer hashtag support, but that is also in the works, according to Mosseri.

As Threads gives users the option to automatically follow everyone they already follow on Instagram, celebrities, creators and brands with large numbers on IG have seen this duplicated on Threads.

How are brands using Threads so far?

Brands have approached Threads with a degree of caution. While some have simply copied their Twitter content (particularly media organisations), some have gone off-piste and adopted a more playful tone of voice on the app (see Channel 4’s post below). Others, including major consumer brands like Lego, have adopted a ‘wait and see’ approach – opening an account but not yet posting.

If you’re just logging in for the first time, you can expect to see much of what you already get on Instagram – motivational posts, memes and a bit of fun – but in a more text-based format. The main difference is the more scrappy and sometimes chaotic approach from brands – at least for now. As a new platform without an agenda, Threads has been used by many for a bit of light-hearted fun rather than overly-branded content – with those taking that stance becoming early winners on the app.

This scattergun strategy is understandable, as there doesn’t seem to be a clear use case for Threads yet. It’s not for sharing videos and pictures (like Instagram), or for jumping on time-sensitive news and trends (like Twitter). This is likely due to the absence of key features at this point, notably a way to search for keywords and the lack of hashtags, making it hard to see what others are doing and what type of content is trending – unless you spend a lot of time on the platform.

Two initial trends have become popular among brands. The first has seen accounts including Starbucks, McDonald’s and Adidas following an “I am _____” format when describing themselves. Another has had brands - including BMW, WhatsApp and Puma - posting repeated copies of the same emoji to represent what they are, or what they stand for. The latter, however, has attracted some criticism from accessibility charities and campaigners for its potential impact on visually-impaired users, who require text-to-speech software. Threads is yet to implement basic accessibility features including alt text for images – which should be a priority area of improvement for the platform in the future.

What does the future hold for Threads?

The list of requested features for the app is long, with many in the works – according to Instagram. These include:

  • Chronological feeds
  • The ability to edit posts
  • Language translation
  • Ease of switching between Threads accounts
  • Desktop access to Threads
  • A ‘robust’ search function
  • Ability to follow topics and trends in real time

Advertising, however, is not in the short-term plan for Threads – according to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg. He explained that the app will follow the Facebook and Instagram strategy of building a core user base first, with monetisation expected to follow in 2024 at the earliest. Still, there are indications that paid partnerships with creators may roll out before then in a style similar to Instagram.

From an engagement perspective, it seems like Threads is already beating Twitter for brands that share the same content between both platforms. Website Planet published a comparative analysis of brand performance between the two apps, looking at 30 brands including McDonald’s, Red Bull and Reuters. In the first week, 87% of those generated more likes on Threads than on Twitter. On average, these brands saw eight times more likes on the new platform, and Threads showed a higher average engagement rate than Twitter (0.45% vs. 0.02%).

As the algorithm evolves and new features are added, Threads may cement its place in the social media landscape as a Twitter replacement, but it’s too early to tell if that will be the case – or whether the things users want are added fast enough to keep them on the platform. 

In the meantime, brands can experiment, be playful and explore the platform without major reservations, as Channel 4’s social team so eloquently put it... 

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