• Jul 06, 2023
  • Insights

Things you need to know about Threads – Meta’s Twitter rival

Written by Megan Buttle and Cole Hogan.

While it is unlikely many Canadians woke up this morning thinking they needed another social media platform, Meta delivered their newest venture – Threads. For several months there has been chatter and pleas from many for Meta or other social networks to help find an alternative to Twitter. In the wake of Elon Musk’s takeover, users have been riding the highs and lows of the platform and seemingly biding their time. While some have tried, none have proven viable – yet. For a few reasons, Threads may just be that option.

While not connected, the timing of the Threads launch this week may be another shock to the political ecosystem among journalists and news junkies following Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez’s announcement on Wednesday. The minister announced the government’s plans to cut off advertising spending on Meta’s platforms, an attempt to deprive revenue from the social media giant in the wake of the passage of Bill C-18, a law that will eventually force social media platforms to compensate Canadian news organizations – which has not been well received by Google and Meta.

All that to say… things move fast when it comes to social media, so here is your Threads primer:

A whole new platform: Meta’s Twitter rival Threads went live with 10 million signups within the first seven hours. (Update: according to a new Thread by CEO Mark Zuckerberg, signups have now exceeded 100 million!). The app is available globally (except in Europe), with the rapid signup pace showing Meta’s unique ability to scale up compared to other Twitter rivals.

Not starting from zero: The app builds off Instagram’s established success and the ability to transfer your followers, carrying over one’s existing usernames and credentials, indicating that Threads has quickly positioned itself as a top contender against Twitter. Other potential rivals to Musk’s platform, like  Mastodon and Bluesky, haven’t yet grown beyond single-digit millions of users.

Big names and big excitement: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jack Black, Jennifer Lopez and Gwen Stefani were some of the first artists and media personalities to join Threads. Republican presidential hopeful Mike Pence, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who previously criticized Twitter under Musk’s leadership, were the first notable U.S. politicians to sign up. “May this platform have good vibes, strong community, excellent humor and less harassment,” she  wrote. The vibes are good, reminiscent of the early days of social media, with fun memes and content without full curation or concern for trolls – it’s still early days, but we’ll take it!

Simple, but effective: While the platform may not look like what you’d typically expect from Facebook or Instagram, with all the bells and whistles, the app’s current status  has been communicated as the starting point – simple, focused on conversation, a 500 character limit, with the ability to attach videos or photos as you’d expect, but leaves something to be desired. The biggest complaint so far appears to be the lack of a chronological, following-only feed, with users stuck looking at whatever content the Threads algorithm pushes their way. Threads also lacks post editing (which Facebook and Instagram both have), hashtags, and account switching. Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri has addressed these  issues, posting on Threads that a following-only feature is “on the list.” Mosseri  said the same about post editing and account switching, and added that hashtags will be tappable “in time.” 

To meme or not to meme: As brands and big names flock to the new platform, the first question most brands or companies will ask is what type of content should we post? At its core, Threads is establishing itself as an alternative to Twitter, focusing on conversations that engage followers on their point of view or value proposition, offering opinions, ideas or contributing to what others have to say on issues of the day. Users can tag one another using the @ symbol, reply to other users and “repost” a thread. Unlike Twitter, the current version of Threads does not have a direct message function at this time

Advertising question marks: Threads is directly  tied to Instagram and built on the same platform, giving advertisers optimism in a potential future ability to use  Meta as a central advertising hub for three major social media platforms. For now, users can enjoy an ad free space to talk with other Threads users as the platform finds it footing.

Putting it all out there: Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, who now helps run Bluesky, directed people to the list of personal data Threads users are being asked to give Instagram access to. This information includes user’s health data, search history, contacts, and browsing history, according to Threads’ profile on Apple’s App Store.

How to manage and what to expect: Since Elon Musk took over Twitter, a concern for companies and brands has been a lack of community moderation, leaving many brands exposed when it comes to negative engagement on Twitter. Meta has stated that  it will  apply the same content guidelines on Threads that it does on Instagram, where hate speech, harassment and content that degrades or shames private individuals is prohibited. The profiles of all users under 16 will be made private by default, it added.

The big take away? Social media moves FAST. The arrival of Threads reminds us of the innovative, bold and fast-moving nature social media leaders must adapt to in order to navigate our digital evolution. Although Threads developers are eager to distinguish it from Twitter, the apps share functional similarities, so find comfort in the similarities and give yourself, your brand and your team the ability to experiment on this platform. It may turn out to be a great alternative for those seeking to replace Twitter or add another communications tool to their toolbox. So, let’s dive in – there’s a whole new world of conversation threads to join.