17 July 2023

Threads, Unravelled

Nicole O'Neill

The short of it (for those with limited time to spare):

With Threads only being a week old, it’s impossible to have a clearly defined, all-questions-answered strategy. It’s too new of a platform, there are too many missing features still being built, and it’ll be a while before it settles down into something we can articulate and strategise for. For now, the PoA should be to test, test, test; throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks; engage and connect with others; and please, for the love of God, don’t be salesy.

The long(ish) of It:

What a wild time it is to be alive in the world of social media today. If I’ve only ever believed one thing, it’s that the only Zuck vs Musk fight that’ll ever materialise already has: the launch of Threads and what it means for Twitter.

Do I believe that Threads is going to replace Twitter? No, actually. But I think it has staying power. I think that, for brands, it’s filling a gap that has existed since my fellow South African spent way too much money on another toy for him to fiddle with. I’m eager to see the impact it has on our consumption of culture.

Threads is the fastest growing app of all time. More than 10 million people joined the platform in its first 7 hours (though citing this as any truly significant success is questionable considering the platform’s ability to draw on its 2 billion+ community). Though this is, I suppose, a secret weapon: no one likes starting from scratch and Threads makes sure no one does (users can log in with their Instagram handle and import their Instagram bio, photo, and follows with one click).

Instagram has said that they aren’t trying to replace Twitter but instead, “create a public square for communities on Instagram that never really embraced Twitter and for communities on Twitter (and other platforms) that are less interested in angry places for conversation, but not all of Twitter.”

They’ve also said that they aren’t going to do anything to encourage Threads as a platform for politics and hard news. In my opinion, this is the most platform-defining decision Threads has made. There are particular cultural needs that have been borne from Twitter’s existence in the last eight years which Ryan Broderick of Garbage Day puts well:

“Twitter would be [the platform] to go on to gain such jaw-dropping levels of cultural importance that an entire presidency was run on it… The real secret sauce to Twitter’s cultural cachet [was] from 2015-2021. You could watch p*rn. Its hashtags could topple governments. Minorities could put pressure on society’s power structures. Rich people could feel like celebrities and celebrities could feel like artists. And, most importantly, it created a lot of really good memes. Even if everyone was completely miserable.”

Instagram’s disinterest in encouraging these two specific verticals is nothing short of a guillotine-esque exclusion of a very important community. Without journalists, politicians, and hard news outlets, we’re left with celebrities, brands, small businesses, and pop culture news sources, which is not a bad thing at all but it’s certainly a (culture) defining decision. With this knowledge, my best guess is that Threads will be a brand-driven platform that allows us, as creators and creatives, to distill content down to its best, purest part, whether a cleverly written caption or an effective visual-first creative. And as someone who gleefully enjoys the explorative, brand side of today’s social media landscape, I feel hopeful, if not quite excited.

As for what we can do as brands: while Threads is in its infancy, organic reach is going to be high (to incentivise users to participate). Knowing this, brands should:

  1. Create posts that trigger engagement (like memes or engagement prompts).
  2. Reply to and engage with other people and their threads.

And finally: steer away from being salesy. If you focus your energy on experimenting with a wide range of engaging content that remains true to your brand’s personality and tone of voice, then you’re on the right track.

Having a new player in the social media space is always interesting, but our role as brands remains the same. In other words: new platform, same energy. Have fun!