There have been half a dozen apps called “Twitter killers” at this point. All promise to be a balm from the bird app’s ongoing chaos since its purchase by Elon Musk. But so far, all have seen a brief boom of interest, a few million sign-ups and then a slow fade back to quasi-obscurity.
Enter Meta’s Threads app.
In just seven hours, the app gained 10 million sign-ups, according to Mark Zuckerberg via the Washington Post. For comparison, one of the buzziest competitors, Mastodon, has 10 million users after a solid six months of receiving Twitter refugees.
If you’re a comms professional, this is one to pay attention to. Here’s what you need to know.
It’s all about Instagram
One of the major marks in Threads’ favor is that it is already integrated with an exiting social media network: Instagram. You log in using the same credentials (that means you must have an Instagram account, if you don’t already) and can easily port over your entire profile, including, notably, your verification badge, according to CNET. You can also automatically follow everyone you already tracked on Instagram.
These benefits make Threads an attractive, low-lift option to try. You likely already have everything you need to create a profile, today, without having to wrangle new assets or hunt for people to follow. It’s all designed to be low-friction and easy to start threading right out of the box.
What it’s like
Once you’re logged in, you’ll notice that the app does indeed look like Twitter and Instagram had a baby. The icons have the same bubbly Instagram style, but the appearance is far more Twitter-esque, with usually text-driven messages (limited to 500 characters versus Twitter’s 280), though you can also add photos, videos and links. You can like, repost (think retweet), quote repost or reply, creating those threads that give the app its name.
If you’ve used either Twitter or Instagram, you’ll find a very easy learning curve.
It’s an algorithmically-driven timeline
Even if you choose to port over your Instagram followers, you’re likely to find that your home feed is populated with accounts you’ve never seen before. Unlike classic Twitter, it also isn’t a chronological feed — so you’re seeing things out of order, reducing the tool’s utility as a real-time monitoring tool, especially in a time of crisis.
At the moment, there is no way to see a feed of only the people you follow, though Instagram head Adam Mosseri confirmed via Thread that it’s “on the list.”
In the short term, the use of the algorithm makes Threads feel busy and thriving, even if you aren’t following a ton of people yet. It makes discovery easy and gives the vibe of a cocktail party already underway, rather than one where you’ve arrived awkwardly early.
In the long run, this will be frustrating when you’re trying to track competitors but the app wants to show you Taylor Swift threads. It should be a priority for that list. But…
There’s a long list
That list of features to implement is long. Among the items Mosseri’s indicated are coming soon are:
- A web interface. Currently Threads is app only, and while Mosseri confirmed mobile is the priority for now, a desktop version is coming.
- Improved overall search, including hashtags.
- An option so only people you follow can reply to your thread.
Interestingly, one item that Mosseri says isn’t on the near-term list is advertising. “Honestly, not the priority right now,” he wrote in response to a thread. “So humbled by everyone signing up, but we gotta make sure this is an app people want to keep using before we worry about making money…”
To be clear, there absolutely will be advertising on Threads one day, and probably sooner than Mosseri is indicating. But again, this is a benefit of a Meta’s deep pockets. It can be patient in a way smaller competitors can’t be.
The bottom line for communicators
Will this be the app that kills Twitter once and for all? It’s far too early to say. But it appears to have the best chance of any app that’s tried so far, benefiting from Meta’s resources and plug-and-play Instagram integration.
If you have an Instagram account already, go ahead and set up the Threads account. Take a look around, see what the conversation is like and if it might be worthwhile to use it regularly. If you already post regularly on Twitter, try using similar content on the new app and see what the response is.
If you don’t have an Instagram account but think Threads might be a fit for your organization down the road, go ahead and sign up for an Instagram account anyway. It’s a good idea to reserve your brand name, and that will allow you to move into Threads if and when you decide to get started.
Threads is an intriguing alternative. Explore it, consider its utility, but remember to never put all your eggs in one basket.