- Why does this social media Thread already have 100 million followers?
- What does Threads mean for users, brands, and agencies?
- Can Twitter survive? Does anyone care?
In boxing, it’s never a good sign for one fighter to be knocked down in the first few seconds of the first round. This usually suggests a knock-out punch might be coming soon. On July 5th, Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, threw the first punch in this battle of the heavyweights and officially launched a new app called Threads.
This platform, described as “kinder and gentler” by CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is intended to offer a space for “real time conversations online,” a function that has long been Twitter’s core selling point. This opening punch, while not a knock-out, was a hard shot in the gut to Twitter and its owner Elon Musk.
The initial response was nothing short of stunning for both social media users and the brands and agencies that use these platforms to promote goods and services. The app received 30 million sign-ups in the first day, according to Zuckerberg and in less than 48 hours, the Threads sign-ups reached more than 70 million. After its first weekend, Axios reported more than 100 million had downloaded Threads, making it “the most rapidly downloaded app ever.”
What This Means for Consumers, Brands and Agencies — While many love the short-form, real time conversational aspect of Twitter, millions have grown weary of the constant drama and technical screw-ups of the platform. This helps to explain the exuberance for the Threads blockbuster launch. However, for brands and consumers this story is reminiscent of the 1966 movie starring a very young Clint Eastwood. It’s a story of “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”
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In a few years, the big social media thinkers will look back on the Threads’ launch, shake their pointy heads and sagely opine,” This huge shift could not have occurred without Instagram and a dysfunctional Twitter.”
As CNN pointed out, “The overnight success of Threads is a testament both to the dissatisfaction with Musk’s ownership of Twitter and to the unique power and reach of one of Meta’s most important properties: Instagram.
“Instagram has more than two billion users, far more than the 238 million users Twitter reported having in the months before Musk took over. When new users sign up for Threads, which they do using an Instagram account, the app prompts them to follow all their existing Instagram contacts with a single tap. It’s optional, but is easy to accept, and it takes a conscious decision to decline.
“By promoting Threads through Instagram, and by sharing Instagram user data with Threads to let people instantly recreate their social networks, Meta has significantly greased the onboarding process. That frictionless experience has allowed Threads to leapfrog what’s known in the industry as the ‘cold start’ problem, in which a new platform struggles to gain new users because there are no other users there to attract them.”
Here’s how easy it is to sign up for Threads.
There are several positive results of this Threads launch:
- Social media fans will now have a friendlier, or at least less toxic, place to visit with friends. This is in part due to the large IG base of users.
- These IG fans also love the visual nature of the platform, and this will likely encourage more photographic-oriented storytelling from consumers, brands, and their agencies.
- Stock photography services such as SuperStock and others will benefit from an increased demand for compelling images that are less expensive to use than new photography.
- Brands and agencies will now have a more stable environment to place advertising and deploy promotions on a Twitter-like social platform with lots and lots of buzz.
- For Meta, even though it continues to face antitrust scrutiny, Axios stated the obvious, “Most of the damage in the form of bad press Meta suffered in 2021 has been eclipsed by Musk’s chaos.”
Despite it getting out of the blocks quickly, all is not rosy for Meta and Threads.
To the casual observer, it looks like nothing but blue skies and smooth sailing for Threads. Right? Well, no, not by a longshot. There are still dark clouds for this new platform, especially in Europe. The frictionless transition from Instagram to Threads looks a lot like a monopoly to the EU regulators, where new antitrust rules for digital platforms are set to go into effect in a matter of months.
According to analysis from several sources, including this one, “From a competition perspective this can be problematic because Meta can use it to leverage its market power and raise barriers to entry, as other rivals would not have the customer base Meta has via Instagram,” said Agustin Reyna, director of legal and economic affairs at the Brussels-based consumer advocacy organization BEUC.
“Under the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), “digital gatekeepers” — a term that’s expected to cover Meta and/or its subsidiaries — will be prohibited from combining a user’s data from multiple platforms without consent, Reyna said. Another restriction forbids requiring users to sign up for one platform as a condition of using another.”
According to wire services, Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri said that Threads will not be launching in the EU for now because of “complexities with complying with some of the laws coming into effect next year.”
This is a huge market that Threads will be missing out on until it figures out how to get around the DMA, which was passed “specifically to deal with the antitrust concerns raised by large tech platforms. That Threads apparently cannot (yet) comply with rules designed to protect competition underscores uncertainty about the app’s potential competitive impact,” according to CNN.
It’s always tricky to poke a sleeping bear and Threads could revive criticisms about Meta’s alleged practice of copying and killing rivals. This is not lost on Twitter, which is threatening legal action for theft of trade secrets. The optics look bad for Meta and a protracted lawsuit would be outrageously expensive for both parties.
To the average social media fan, who just wants to start a conversation about something silly or serious, without dealing with slipshod technology, this battle between two billionaires seems irrelevant or even creepy. This source notes, “Now, some competition experts and even some Threads users worry that if the new app’s traction continues, it may simply lead to the accumulation of even more power and dominance for Meta and its CEO Zuckerberg.
Long before Threads emerged, Twitter had always been much smaller than Meta’s platforms. However, it had an outsized influence in tech, media, and politics. As Musk drove the platform into the dust, several smaller apps tried to gain traction. However, as CNN notes, “Threads’ blockbuster launch this week highlights the uncomfortable reality of the modern digital economy: To potentially beat some of the biggest players in the industry, you might have to be a giant yourself.”
This fact can rightfully be called “the ugly.”
Playing Well with Others
There is also another important aspect that Threads is bringing to the party: Interoperability. This wonky word simply means Threads wants to play well with others.
“Threads has one thing going for it that may nip any competition concerns in the bud,” according to CNN. “A commitment to integrate with the same open protocols used by other distributed social media alternatives, such as Mastodon. That would give users the option to migrate their accounts, along with all their follower data intact, to a rival like Mastodon that isn’t controlled by Meta.
“When and if it happens, that could be a significant step. What may appear now as an audience grab by Meta could someday wind up being how millions of people were on boarded to a massive, decentralized social networking infrastructure that is not controlled by any single company, individual or organization.”
Is the launch of Threads good, bad, or ugly? It’s probably a little of all three. However, if it brings more users to social media and provides a less toxic environment for brands and their agencies, it will represent a seismic shift in media.