A phone screen showing social media app widgets - Threads is in the center, with instagram and twitter either side

Sew far, sew good: will Threads disrupt the “Big Five”?

Since its 100 million downloads in the first five days of its launch on the 6th of July, Thread’s positive spotlight as the fastest-growing social media site has dimmed somewhat. The established “Big Five” worldwide social networking sites (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and Twitter) were looking due for a shake-up after the success of the initial launch. But three weeks later, it’s hard to say if Threads is here to stay. 

So, let’s take a closer look at Meta’s prodigy app’s exponential growth, as well as its content, functionality, and potential future. 

The context behind Threads’ launch

The most concerned competitor of Threads is obviously “X” or as everyone still refers to it,  Twitter. Following Elon Musk’s acquisition of the popular social networking platform in late 2022, there have been several… undesirable changes to the site’s user experiences. 

Although screen time limits are not a new phenomenon, Elon’s 500 tweet limit per day for unverified users as an incentive to subscribe to verified status for $8 (£6.30), has been hailed as a mockery of a money-making scheme. Some critics of these changes (of which there are many) have even labelled Tesla’s founder as an elitist. Besides this, if anyone can buy verification, surely the value is lost? The unpopularity of Twitter’s recent moves is highlighted by more users taking breaks from the platform since Musk took over. 

It’s against this backdrop of Twitter uncertainty that Threads was born. Although it is undetermined just how long this new Twitter/X dupe has been in the works, building an app is not something that happens overnight. Creating a platform to rival Twitter and garner the attention of the world is not an easy feat, but Meta had a unique advantage as the operator of two of its main rival platforms, Facebook and Instagram. This is Mark Zuckerberg’s latest jab at Elon – will they ever make it to the boxing ring and stop affecting our social media user experience? 

Image of threads app

New Threads: Content, Functionality, and Future

These changes gave rise to complaints and an ongoing search for a new platform like Twitter, but without Elon’s constant unwelcome changes. Threads launched at a strategic time then, following the tweet limit controversy. Sew far, sew good on paper, let’s have a closer look at the mobile-only application…

Like many other businesses, Babel jumped on the Threads bandwagon fairly close to its launch, starting with a post of our morning team news reading, “Guess the main headline”? A new profile of course means new followers – although Threads is linked to Instagram, the latter site’s community is typically more interested in audiovisual content whilst Twitter (and presumably, Threads) is more for conversational thoughts and opinions. It’s also used in a work context (although naturally not to the same extent as LinkedIn.) Many professionals in the broader communications industry have a LinkedIn and Twitter account specifically for work. As a communications agency,  trying to follow our mutuals from LinkedIn and Twitter proved to be difficult, as they used a different handle/pseudonym. Imagine how much more difficult it was when the search functionality was blocked as the “extreme usage” was allegedly suspicious. We were only trying to find our Babel buddies!

Fortunately, we were able to post content despite search function restrictions. Although there is uncertainty about what goes on Threads, many social media teams are publishing copy following Twitter conventions. During PRCA’s discussion on how the new platform is influencing PR, valuable insights were shared by a panel of industry experts in social media account management and brand development. From their initial observations, while there are a few fluff Threads posts, the free comparatively-longer 500 words character limit function widens the scope for higher-quality content. However, the majority of panellists felt there was a need for a website version of the application for reading ease and practicality. Currently, Threads’ developmental team stands at just 20 employees, and Meta will need to invest to produce a viable product that can compete in the choppy waters of social media. Meta does however have a reputation for effectively monetising their platforms through advertising, while Musk’s attempts to introduce a similar scheme on X have fallen flat.  

Threads for PR, marketing and communications 

For businesses weighing up this new platform, the panellists argued that observing from the sidelines isn’t going to accelerate understanding and knowledge of Threads. They advised everyone to play around with the platform with a separate social media strategy plan to establish a tone of voice. It’s in the early developmental phase which is great for experiments, but as mentioned earlier, functionality and features need updating and synchronising before people lose patience and stop using the platform. Thankfully, Threads has been requesting feedback about functionality, unlike others *cough*, which highlights their willingness to learn and improve with their users’ – could this set them apart from the competition?

For communications consultancies that manage social media campaigns in a B2B or B2C capacity, it’s tricky to strike a balance between being creative, informative, and engaging on Threads. Brands still don’t understand or know who their audience is or even what the platform is. It’s been interesting trialling different social media strategies to engage an unknown audience, and we’re happy to be part of the initial trial phase as potential trailblazers. If you would like to see what we’re churning out of our headquarters, follow us on Threads @Babelpr. Whilst you’re there, you may as well follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter to ensure you stay connected and updated! 

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