As we reach the end of a full month since Meta’s public launch of Threads, we’re witnessing one of the most fascinating case studies in brand and social media platform building of our modern social era. The impact of this launch on the world at large is still being determined, but the scale in just a few weeks has been impressive, and it makes sense for us to delve into what it means for brand marketers and communicators. With a whole new channel being introduced to the social app space, the big question is: Should I include Threads in my content, PR, and social media brand planning?
First, let’s take stock.
Threads, a short-form, text-based social media platform, officially launched on July 5, 2023, causing a frenzy with 70 million downloads in the first 24 hours. The app gained significant traction, partly due to Elon Musk’s influence over Twitter (currently rebranding to X, but we will keep Twitter nomenclature to avoid confusion in this article) and the migration of billions of Instagram users. After Threads’ debut, Twitter saw a 5% decrease in daily user activity week-over-week in the two days following its release, an impressive feat for competition that didn’t exist before.
Threads, previously released as a standalone app connected to Instagram’s Close Friends feature in 2019, was discontinued in December 2021 when its features were integrated into the parent app. The idea of creating a new app gained traction after Elon Musk acquired Twitter in October 2022. Threads, known as “Meta’s answer to Twitter,” entered the public lexicon in January 2023 under the codename Project 92 (P92) and was officially acknowledged by Meta in a June 2023 article from The Verge.
Despite its remarkable success, some critics raised concerns about privacy allowances, and European approval is on hold due to uncertainty over data usage. Moreover, some have criticized the lack of tracking of news stories and trends, a core function of Twitter for journalists. The absence of a viable search for content on Threads also means that many users will still decide to keep the Twitter app for certain functions. Current estimates suggest Threads is maintaining an active user group of around 23 million users, or the equivalent of 22% of Twitter’s current active user base.
Now that we have one of the largest social app releases since the industry’s inception it’s clear that Threads, launched to capitalize on a potentially short-term instability in a core industry player, will continue to challenge Twitter’s standing into the future. Threads lacks the searchability and the “first to know” trends capabilities, which are competitive limitations, but the culture and feel has been hailed as refreshing in comparison to the bird. The platform’s focus on short-form text content and soap box public content leanings, combined with an enormous built-in potential userbase from Meta, position it as a primary alternative mode of breaking news, releasing brand communications, and more.
So, how will Threads impact the PR and communications space, and how should brands and agencies incorporate it into their planning?
Threads as a tool for PR and outbound communications:
Threads is already proving to be a solid channel for amplifying brand messaging and communications. With millions of active users and prominent brands like Wendy’s and Starbucks embracing and engaging there, extending existing content to Threads as part of your communications strategy can be beneficial and provide early comparative metrics on engagement rates and other KPIs. While the content itself may not be searchable, accounts are, allowing users to quickly find brand responses. The algorithm’s treatment of branded content remains uncertain at this stage, but following a recently released “follow, your follower count is likely to have a significant impact on reaching the intended audience, especially for crisis communications and important messages.
Social listening or monitoring data will almost certainly be a limitation of the Threads platform, as it is with much of the Meta ecosystem, at least in the near term, as it will likely adhere to privacy expectations set by parent app Instagram.
Threads for Brand Marketers:
As a channel for brand building, Threads may present mixed results for some time. It is unclear to what extent the algorithms powering platforms like Instagram and Facebook feed generation are carried over to Threads; the feed likely won’t be as easy for brands as it would be for organic connections for users.
The concept of followers is carried over from platforms like Twitter and Facebook, and as of a recent release, Threads does allow sorting your feed by the accounts you’re following in a chronological feed. Therefore your follower count can drive heightened visibility on the platform; however, that “Following” list is hidden from most users until they click on the logo atop the app and, we would expect, will be limited in use primarily to super users, especially in these early days.
For ads and promotions, Meta Business suite integration is not expected in 2023, and a timeline for ads and promoted content is not planned until early 2024. However, you can port over your verified status from Instagram to Threads, easing that piece of establishing a brand on the channel.
In either case, it is critical to establish brand presence and start building a profile on Threads, even if it may not immediately be a part of your comprehensive strategy, so your team can monitor mentions and outreach, or potentially head off brand risks and complaints if they are reported via a direct mention.
What should content on Threads look like?
Many brands have been repurposing content from Twitter/X as a common stopgap, which creates a comparison for benchmarking performance on the new channel.
Threads allows posts of up to 500 characters, including links, photos, and videos up to 5 minutes long. While short-form text content is similar to Twitter, the community perspective on Threads is likely to have a different feel. Initially, it has been less news-focused and serious and instead more playful in tone. Given the platform’s close connection to Instagram, known as “the internet’s happy place,” the tone is expected to remain light and playful over time, as signaled by the Threads app developers.
In conclusion, Threads has burst into the social ecosystem with enormous energy and a massive user base, setting the stage for an even more powerful space for brands and users in the coming years as the platform continues to grow. While many brands are still experimenting with the channel, it is likely to become a mainstay of comprehensive social programs going forward, and therefore one you should probably plan for. The immediate use for brand communications and PR is evident, and while paid capabilities for brand marketers are still in development, it’s wise to consider Threads in your content budget and planning for 2024. Embracing this dynamic and fun new channel for customer engagement can give your tech brand a competitive edge in the evolving social media landscape, as well.
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