Over the past few days, we’ve all been spectators to the unveiling of Threads. In a relatively short time, it has managed to reel in tens of millions of accounts.
The speed of its spread among Instagram and Twitter users has been a popular topic of conversation.
There are insights to glean from their launch, misconceptions to clarify, and future expectations to formulate.
Let’s delve into a bit of history.
Online memory tends to be short.
Threads represent a product revival, one that Meta had previously abandoned. The 2019 iteration of Threads was initially designed for direct messaging with close friends.
It was seen as a direct challenger to Snapchat. After incorporating various successful features from their rivals, Threads intended to deliver the coup de grâce.
Meta had noticed how people shared information with their friends and aimed to simplify the sharing of experiences.
By 2021, Threads was discontinued, joining the graveyard of product ideas launched by Mark Zuckerberg. This decision was supposedly driven by a strategy to consolidate services and core offerings.
With TikTok’s rising popularity and its invention of a new form of social media that attracted many, and Meta reeling from the Metaverse debacle coupled with changes at Twitter and Elon Musk’s significant staff reductions, Meta seized an opportunity.
People talking about Threads comment on its novelty, the user experience and certain absent features already on Twitter.
The app gathered complaints about feeds overflowing with unknown users and high-profile Instagram accounts. This results in a product that contends with Twitter yet lacks some basic features.
Threads’ growth has its fair share of misconceptions.
The comparisons between Threads, Twitter, Netflix, TikTok, and Slack regarding sign-up rates per hour/day aren’t entirely logical.
Threads isn’t a newcomer. Meta is leveraging its brand and the billions of users across its apps. Users have been linking their Instagram accounts for an effortless account setup.
This isn’t a discovery driven by word of mouth or inherent value. Most people had no preconceived expectations upon opening the app.
Curiosity is the core driver of this growth.
On top, one may question, with 100 million users in 4 days and knowing that Meta has billions of users, isn’t it a flop to only attract 1% of your user base?
Is it really what they want?
Moreover, people often equate rapid growth with success, but growth isn’t necessarily a measure of value.
Our fascination with growth often blinds us to the real engine of growth — Retention.
Retention is what maintains a user base.
Growth’s glamour often obscures the importance of a product’s value.
Value brings engagement, which in turn fosters retention. This value can trigger referrals by word of mouth, supporting sustainable growth.
It’s a cycle, as explained by the AARRR framework.
This should be the mission of every creator.
The problem is in a world looking at growth as the ultimate sign of success. This explanation isn’t as clickbait-friendly as a post.
We must probe what value Threads brings to users’ lives. The initial goal was to boost conversation on Instagram, which fell flat because Instagram users didn’t want this.
The problem identified by Meta is easy to identify.
Instagram lacks the level of interaction between users that Twitter offers. While users enjoy liking and sharing images, they spend little time on descriptions and comments, rendering them a virtual no-man’s-land.
The issue lies with Active Engagement.
Active engagement feeds Meta valuable information for their products. It’s a source of data that can be leveraged.
Active Engagement matters for platforms like Youtube, Twitter, Instagram or TikTok.
You can derive a lot of value from it. This is why the constant evolution of the algorithm has only one goal -> Increase Active Engagement.
Threads represent Meta’s strategy to tap into a new user base and diversify its portfolio.
However, we must examine their actions rather than their words.
While some may argue that Threads is a new social media platform, it’s essentially an extension of Instagram.
The distinction between Twitter and Threads can’t be seen much on paper.
I see one major issue that could spell disaster for Threads.
Meta took shortcuts to achieve success. They relied on the network effect to grow. The problem is that this strategy primarily benefits users with a significant Instagram following.
My feed is a chaotic mess. And I am not the only one.
Countless accounts I have no interest in following are hopping on the bandwagon of this new shiny place.
Instagram and Twitter cater to distinct user personas with different behaviours. As much as Meta might wish to entice Twitter users, the honeymoon phase could quickly turn sour.
The recent experience leads to confusion about the type of content to be shared. Is it Instagram content or Twitter content?
FOMO plays a significant role in Threads’ initial growth and appeal.
FOMO is a phenomenon where people are anxious that others are having rewarding experiences from which they’re excluded.
With the launch of Threads, users rushed to join the platform, partly due to a fear of being left out of a potentially transformative social media evolution.
The release of Threads is a classic example of FOMO in the tech industry. Seeing friends and influencers join the platform has created a sense of urgency to sign up, even if people aren’t entirely clear on the value proposition or how they’ll use it.
It’s essential to remember that while FOMO might accelerate growth initially, it doesn’t guarantee long-term success or user retention.
The initial excitement and rush to join can quickly fade if users don’t find real value and meaningful engagement on the platform.
Threads’ current user experience, with its chaotic feeds and confusion about what content to share, is already causing some disillusionment.
If the platform doesn’t address these issues promptly, it risks seeing its user base dwindle as quickly as it grew.
For Threads to truly succeed, Meta must move beyond the FOMO-induced sign-ups. They need to deliver a platform that offers tangible value, encourages authentic engagement, and meets the distinct needs of its user personas.
The first phase of rapid growth fuelled by FOMO has passed.
Now the actual test begins — transforming the fear of missing out into the joy of participating. If Meta can achieve this, they might have a sustainable social media platform in Threads.
But for now, only time will tell.