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To Thread, or Not to Thread?

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Threads – Meta’s new challenge to Twitter – has exploded onto the social media scene, quickly sewing up over 30 million users within three days of launching.

Threads was launched on Wednesday 5 July by Meta in 100 countries (notably not yet in the European Union, where Meta says it is awaiting clarity from regulators about privacy considerations), and had signed up 10 million users by the end of the first day, and over 30-million within the first three.

At this rate, it’s set to surpass ChatGPT’s record of attracting 100 million users in its first two months. (In comparison, it took Twitter, launched in 2006, two years to reach 30 million users. Of course, Twitter has paved the way for Threads.)

What is Threads, exactly, and why should you care?

Threads are like a mixture between Twitter and Instagram. It’s Twitteresque in the sense that you post one message at a time, of up to 500 characters (compared with only 280 characters on Twitter), and you can include links, photos, and videos up to five minutes in length (compared with two minutes and 20 seconds on Twitter).

It’s Instagram-like in that the photos and video are hero content over text, though, like Twitter, you can post text without visuals. And its integration with Instagram is flawless.

You can easily set up an account on your phone (there is no desktop version yet, much like Instagram when it began in 2010; it took three years before it released one). And you can import your bio, profile image, and followers seamlessly from Instagram, inviting them to follow you easily when they join Threads.

This is one thing Threads really has going for it – by helping ordinary people gain followers quicker than on any platform in history, it is tapping into rewarding and addictive releases of dopamine, a feel-good hormone long documented as being associated with social media consumption.

Joining Threads is going to be unavoidable for marketers, influencers, and any brand that already has an audience on Twitter or Instagram. My advice is to get on as quickly as possible because there is an early-mover advantage – as we saw when Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram launched – and you are likely to attract exponentially more followers (and therefore ultimately wield more clout on the platform) than if you join in a month or two’s time.

Zuckerberg vs Musk

Behind the juggernauts of Meta (comprising Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and now Threads) and Twitter are the larger-than-life personalities of Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk, respectively, who are as unlikeable as each other.

In the hype before the launch of Threads, Musk tweeted, “I’m sure Earth can’t wait to be exclusively under Zuck’s thumb”, then added, “I’m up for a cage match if he is lol.” While there’s been much talk about the two actually fighting, possibly at the Colosseum in Rome, the true fight is over eyeballs and advertising revenues.

Love him or hate him, Musk has a point: if Twitter implodes under the pressure, Meta’s power will be more unchecked than ever, giving it a looser rein to charge higher prices and make its platforms more pay-to-play than ever.

Though no doubt LinkedIn and its owner, Microsoft, and TikTok, mostly owned by a range of global investors through ByteDance, are going to be front-row spectators, hoping both will inflict maximum damage on the other.

The fight is unlikely to be a slam dunk either way. Musk has threatened to sue Meta for stealing trade secrets from Twitter. We might all just need to settle in for a long fight.

Limitations of Threads

While it’s the coolest new thing, Threads is seriously limited in functionality. There’s no way to search Threads yet, so hashtags aren’t yet a thing.

For now, you have to have an Instagram account to start a Threads account. And although you can deactivate a Threads account, you cannot delete it without deleting your Instagram account.

By Tara Turkington, CEO of Flow Communications.

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