Picking Up Threads: What Brands Must Know About Meta’s Twitter Alternative

Published on July 28, 2023

Marketers are exploring Threads, Meta’s bid to replace Twitter.

Threads is the latest addition to the Meta Platforms stable of social media and messaging platforms, joining the ranks of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has made it clear that Threads is designed specifically to compete with Twitter as the premier microblogging app.

Since launching July 5, Threads gained 100 million new members in its first week—the most successful product launch in social media history. In a July 27 meeting with employees, Zuckerberg suggested Threads had retained more users than expected, yet fewer than half had remained active.

How Does Threads Work?

In its user interface and user experience, Threads is a Twitter clone built on Meta’s subscriber network. Instagram users can bring their IG username, and more importantly their followers, with them to the Threads platform.

Threads is a green field, with Walmart, Nike and other early users still testing the platform. Brands may enjoy early adopter advantages, which will be magnified if the platform really takes off. For instance, brands and companies may be able to secure a handle that best optimizes for them, rather than whatever it can get in the Twitter ecosystem.

Walmart post on Threads.

Can Brands Advertise on Threads?

Currently, Threads is still working out the advertising side, so it is too early to tell whether it will be a better medium for advertisers than Twitter. However, Threads advertising–and other brand features such as advance scheduling of messages, which is not yet available–most likely will be built out from the Meta Business Suite, Meta’s established advertising management system.

The process should be comparable to the Facebook and Instagram advertising experience. As Twitter’s ad revenue has slumped severely in recent months, there is clearly pent-up demand that Threads could tap. Like Twitter, Threads will share user data with advertisers and partners. Ad targeting likely will follow the Facebook and Instagram playbook.

Nike post on Threads

Why Are Competitors Targeting Twitter?

The Threads launch underscores the problems facing Twitter since October last year, when Elon Musk took the company private in a highly publicized, fractious takeover deal. The controversies and user complaints blanketing Twitter has led some tech industry players to see an opening for a new competitor.

Twitter has struggled since Musk’s takeover thanks largely to questionable decisions from the top, both internally and externally. Major internal moves, such as firing large swathes of staff and refusing to pay bills, have sparked considerable controversy. Recent user-facing changes, including allowing any user to buy “verified” status and restricting the number of posts users can see each day, have also negatively impacted the platform and undermined its credibility as a news source.

Can Threads Unravel Twitter?

Musk’s missteps have opened the door for a host of Twitter alternatives such as Bluesky, Discord and Mastodon. Most are distributed social networks, using common systems or software in a decentralized hosting model. Meta plans to move Threads to a distributed format, which eventually could allow interoperability between platforms. Users of open-source systems might be able to follow each other across social networks.

Whether Meta’s offering will succeed in supplanting Twitter as the preferred platform for journalists, political commentators, and public figures remains to be seen. Regardless, PR and marketing professionals should take the lesson of Twitter to heart: Unforced errors and short-sighted decisions can create long-term problems—and even open the door to serious new competition.

Weaving Threads Into a Brand Narrative

For now, Threads is a platform to watch. Ultimately, brands should commit to social media platforms that reach their customers and advance their goals. LinkedIn’s business-focused approach should remain compelling for many B2B organizations. Support for third-party scheduling apps such as Buffer will make it easier for consumer brands to spead the same messages on Threads, Twitter and other platforms.

In a microblogging multiverse, brands won’t need to be everywhere. But they should make sure they are everywhere that matters. Marketers should identify niche audiences they can reach on Threads and other social media sites, and explore how to engage them in multi-channel campaigns.

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