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Worker with Ladder

Threads: sudden success and future challenges

The world of social media has a new protagonist: Threads, Meta's newborn product, debuted just over a week ago, but has already attracted great attention. After analyzing the context in which Meta launched its text-based social networking app last week, today we'll look at the developments that have occurred since last Friday and what they mean for the near-term future of social media marketing.

The Threads Phenomenon

On the Monday following the public launch, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri confirmed that Threads had surpassed 100 million subscribers in just five days, becoming the fastest-growing consumer product ever. But what contributed to the success of Threads? In addition to the seamless onboarding via Instagram accounts and the convenient sharing tool that allowed content to be spread from Threads to Instagram, there is also the TikTok-like feed algorithm to consider, which ensures new users see content relevant without having to first build a list of followers. Another less cited factor is that many people are tired of Elon Musk's antics and ready to leave the increasingly toxic environment of Twitter.

But, as they say, "Winning is easy; governing is harder." Now that Threads has quickly established itself as an alternative to Twitter with a sizable (and growing) user base, the challenge shifts to keeping these users engaged on Threads as the company tries to profit from them.

The Path to Monetization

With huge user adoption since the beginning and Meta promising to keep Threads a brand-safe platform, brands and marketers are already taking an interest in Threads, although the platform has yet to add support for any advertising products from the vast Meta Business Suite.

According to Ad Age, Meta representatives are talking to ad agencies and brands, some of which, like Netflix and Wendy's, have already gained many followers on Threads organically. Meanwhile, some EU-based Instagram users, including football clubs and media companies, have started posting on Threads, despite Meta not yet launching the platform in the region due to ongoing regulatory negotiations.

On Tuesday, Axios got a first look that Instagram is planning to bring its sponsored content tools, which let businesses and creators add paid partnership labels to their posts, to Threads before integrating with Instagram's advertising products. Half. These tools should give marketers a way to experiment with paid promotion on the app, even if conventional advertising is still out of bounds. And since Meta is applying Instagram's rules on sponsored content to Threads, brands that work with influencers to post sponsored content will likely be required to use these tools on Threads as well.

This is obviously meant as a temporary solution to start monetizing Threads. As a platform with an algorithmic feed — and it's currently the only feed available — Threads will live and die by the quality of its content, so it needs to convince content creators that this is a social platform worthy of investment. Quickly adding tools that allow creators to collaborate with brands to organically insert sponsored content into the feed is certainly an important initial step.

Long-Term Prospects

Related to questions about the monetization of Threads are uncertainties about its durability. Many alternative social platforms have emerged in recent years, such as Gas, Hive Social and BeReal, but none seem to have much longevity. Will Threads be able to keep users engaged in the long run to remain culturally relevant and, more importantly, monetizable? Among the skeptics, Mike Isaac of the New York Times listed uncertainty about Threads' long-term prospects:

“If the history of technology is any guide, size and scope are solid anchors, but ultimately they can only go so far. What comes next is much more difficult. Mr. Zuckerberg needs them to people can find friends and influencers on Threads in a serendipitous and sometimes strange way, as Twitter has managed to do. It needs to make sure that Threads is not full of spam and scammers. It needs people to be patient about the app updates that are in course. In short, it needs users to find Threads fascinating enough to return to it."

The latest report suggests that engagement on Threads has dropped a bit: time spent on the app dropped more than 50% from 20 minutes on July 7 to 8 minutes on Monday, citing data from Similarweb.

Last week, following the launch of Threads, investor and analyst Eugene Wei published an interesting blog post in which he explained how Twitter has unintentionally degraded the user experience for its niche but dedicated user base, mainly by replacing its famous chronological timeline with a TikTok-like algorithmic feed, on a payment model that Elon Musk has been pushing in recent months in hopes of generating some revenue from paid subscriptions.

In comparison, Threads already starts with an algorithmic feed, which, as I mentioned earlier, has contributed greatly to the smooth registration of new users. However, as long as TikTok isn't banned in the US, Threads will be in direct competition with the popular short video app, whose "For You" algorithm is certainly good at serving relevant content to users, regardless of their cultures and languages. Even if Threads' algorithm proves to be equally effective, it remains an open question whether Threads' mostly text-based content can truly compete with TikTok's full-screen short videos in terms of user engagement.

Finally, there's also the lingering question of how Meta plans to adopt the ActivityPub protocol for Threads and how that will affect user experience and monetization. In an article for The New Stack, Richard MacManus explained how ActivityPub aligns with Meta's monetization goals for Threads and highlighted some technical and social challenges that Meta may face in bringing Threads into the fedediverse of decentralized social networks, concluding that perhaps " The biggest challenge in integrating fediverse apps like Mastodon will be the cultural differences between the two communities."

If Threads can overcome these challenges and successfully integrate into the fediverse, it will be a boon to its users and ensure its long-term relevance as an ad-supported user-friendly interface to access all brand-safe content in the fediverse networks . However, reconciling cultural differences is never that simple, and Meta will certainly have a lot of work ahead of him.

Twitter replies

Finally, Threads' long-term prospects also depend on Twitter's reaction. Some might hope that Threads' arrival could be a wake-up call for the "bluebird" app, and to its credit, the company has made two productive moves in response.

First, on Saturday, Twitter quietly rolled back the old and much better version of TweetDeck, apparently restoring access to the legacy API for third-party apps that it had previously discontinued, so that users can once again access content from Twitter from some of the most popular third-party apps. Secondly, Twitter started paying creators on its platform more. TechCrunch reports that it now pays Twitter Blue creators who earned 5 million impressions per month for three months a portion of the revenue from ads alongside replies to their tweets.

Unfortunately, these moves alone may not be enough to make up for the antics of its billionaire owner.

In the last few days, since the beginning of the success of Threads, Elon Musk has threatened to sue Meta for allegedly copying Twitter and having carried out "systematic, intentional and illegal appropriation of Twitter's trade secrets", he has publicly insulted Mark Zuckerberg with a term popular among white supremacists, and challenged Zuckerberg to, incredibly, “a contest of who can last the longest” in a subsequent tweet. As if to distract the public from all the bad news about Twitter's traffic crash and his senseless tweets, Musk suddenly announced last Wednesday that he is forming an artificial intelligence startup called xAI, with the vague goal of "understanding the true nature of the universe." People were quick to point out that the company appears to be staffed only by men, which fuels the long-unresolved problem of gender disparity in technology, and AI development in particular.

So, does this mean Twitter is officially over? Maybe not entirely. Analyst Ben Thompson made the case in a recent post on Stratechery that, to survive this Threads-induced existential crisis, Twitter's best defense may be to get back to the basics of what it does best - real-time news and instant reactions. real time to live events. Sharing Eugene Wei's argument on Twitter's user experience problem, Thompson believes that Twitter's best bet right now is to simply focus on the news and reactions of the people its users follow, leaving user growth and the business of scale through an algorithmic feed to Threads. It will end up with a smaller user base, but that niche user base will still continue to generate a lot of cultural discussion that will keep Twitter relevant.

Of course, brands will play a crucial role in the battle between Threads and Twitter. If Threads delivers on its promise of being a brand-safe gateway into the fedeverse, most brands will have little reason to allocate social marketing budget to Twitter, especially if Musk continues to drag the platform into further controversies that alienate brands and advertisers. But if Twitter can regroup and focus on real-time reactions and memes, maybe there will still be room for some brands on Twitter.

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