Birds Eye View

The Thread that broke the camel’s back?

By Philip Lam, Client Account Manager

Last Wednesday, Meta captured news headlines with the launch of their new text-based conversation social media app, Threads. The Twitter replica acquired over 30M users in its opening 24hrs, causing a huge sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) within the digital sphere. At The Kite Factory, we strive for creativity and innovation, which poses the question of who is Threads for? What’s in it for the brand and users? Or is this innovation for innovation’s sake in the latest duel between Zuckerberg and Musk? 

Much has been made of Musk’s tenure at Twitter; widespread redundancies, the introduction of subscription models, and, more recently, usage limits are among the cacophony of change. These changes have led to plummeting ad revenues, with a reported % sales decrease of 59% in the U.S. alone.

Twitter no longer posts monthly active users’ data, yet Musk claims Twitter usage is at an all-time high. This disconnect poses the question, is Meta simply building an advertising platform and labelling it a social media channel? Have we really diverted so far from the original purpose of social media to connect users?   

The motivations are transparent. Branding Threads as a safer space than Twitter, the longer-term focus is on ad-funded revenue, and whilst Meta is yet to announce a Threads ad platform, this is somewhat inevitable. Cynically, should Threads prove successful, it could go a long way in plugging the $24bn poured into the Metaverse.   

Influencers, by nature, are advocates and, unsurprisingly, have been pivotal to Thread’s early success. These should be viewed as acts of self-interest. After all, increasing their own digital footprints means increased rates. We as marketers find ourselves in a purgatory between the shiny new toy, increasing influencer rates and minimal understanding of the platform and how it can be deployed effectively.   

It shouldn’t come as a surprise; many have tried to take Twitter’s crown, Mastodon and Bluesky, to name a few. However, until now, nobody has managed to take Twitter’s audience. Meta, too, has a chequered past in replicating competitor brands, dating back to its conception with Zuckerberg allegedly stealing the concept, right through to attempts to replicate TikTok with prioritisation of Reels and video content on feeds. Undeniably, easing friction between creating a Threads account via Instagram is a huge advantage but comes with a monumental pitfall… audience insight. Social media is no different to any other form of media. Motivations behind consumption differ from channel to channel and indeed platform to platform; consumption of content on Instagram is fundamentally different to Twitter and LinkedIn, and importantly so are feeds. A simple bolt-on to Instagram and a co-populated feed will not make this Twitter 2.0. Twitter has also been a place for insights, smart conversations, and news (amongst a sea of other things), which Meta channels have never entered and in its current capacity, I can’t see it rivalling Twitter. 

From a media perspective as it stands, Threads will not result in incremental audiences to Meta, so why the launch? As we know in media, timing is crucial. The opportunistic unveiling of Threads comes off the back of Google announcing the removal of third-party cookies in Q3 2024, alongside growing discontentment between brands and users of Twitter. On the surface, the prospect of brand safe platform with enhanced first-party data options makes it seem like a no-brainer.  

Thread’s capacity is still to be determined. It certainly bolsters Meta’s advertising options with further insights and channel mapping. Threads’ arrival could have massive consequences to market share of attention; with engaged audiences across WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and now Threads, what does this mean for TikTok, YouTube and Twitter usage?  

Dunbar’s theory suggests we’re only capable of 150 meaningful relationships, 500 acquaintances and can only recognise 1500 people. How many followers and across how many platforms do we really need? Let alone a written version of Instagram stories. 

Twitter has its issues, don’t get me wrong, countless campaign problems and UX and algorithm issues paint a bleak reality of Twitter both from a user and advertiser perspective. News of daily limits on basic accounts is almost commendable, having recently discussed a focus on unregretted time spent on Twitter. However, these restrictions are likely because of growing concerns about AI data scraping, posing the question, are Meta’s advancements into text-style conversations a simple tactic deployed for enhanced data harvesting? 

Zuckerberg is clearly feeling the pressure from shareholders on the Metaverse and is reverting to his previous tactics of taking tried and tested formats and doing them better than the incumbent. But this feels like innovation for innovation’s sake or an attempt to appease a frustrated board. Whilst on the surface, Threads appears to be a challenger to Twitter in format, by its very nature, it isn’t, and for now, can’t be. The attempt is hollow. The Instagram profile pre-requisite and inability to delete Threads’ accounts keep the userbases high and stop it from becoming the latest Clubhouse. Begging the question, does Zuckerberg even believe in the platform? In the best-case scenario, the increased competitiveness forces Musk to restore Twitter to its former glory.   

Operating under the assumption Threads is not Twitter. Including Threads as an owned channel brings significantly reduced risks and resource permitting, one worth testing, as with any channel that facilitates more informed decision-making.  

As ever, from a paid perspective, we should stay on the side of caution and diligently examine the platform to understand how this can complement campaigns (if, in fact, at all). I, for one would far rather see Musk and Zuckerberg battle it out in the coliseum than add another app on my phone.