Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Threads – is it really the Twitter killer?

by Paul Houston, co-owner and director of Catalyst digital marketing agency

Threads, the latest launch from social media company Meta, has become the fastest-ever app to surge past 150 million downloads – with many more on the horizon as it seeks to convert a bigger bite of the 2 billion or so active users on Instagram (the platform which it is powered by).  More so, it already has a quarter of the active users of its direct rival Twitter.

But what does this new social platform really mean for marketing? And is it really the so-called Twitter killer?

On the content side of things, the great news is that Threads offers some exciting new possibilities. Free to download, Threads is a text-based conversation app built by the Instagram team that, according to Meta, is designed to ‘create an option and friendly public space for conversation.” But although it may look a lot like Twitter with features such as likes, retweets and following, it has a lot more functionality. While Twitter has a 240-character limit per post for free users, Threads takes it to 500. It also allows users to share up to 10 photos in a single post – as per Instagram – as opposed to Twitter’s limit of four images, and the video limit is 5 minutes rather than Twitter’s restrictive 2 minutes, 20 seconds.

But it isn’t just about being able to do more either. As Twitter has become more difficult to use since Musk took it over, Threads appears refreshingly new, intuitive and easy to use. Of course too, it also has the big benefit of being part of the Meta family. Hereby, users simply need to sign in to their Instagram to join it and they are able to follow all the accounts they already follow on Instagram on Threads automatically as they join.

New possibilities 

The result is a hive of new possibilities for the modern marketer. Inherently, Twitter has always been a great platform in the SEO world in terms of promoting brands, products and services, sharing content and boosting search rankings. Threads has the potential to play a similar role but without the recent usage limits. 

Another huge benefit is its ability to make paid social campaigns easier. Though it is yet to introduce ads, the reality is that once this happens, in effect, it will offer a ‘one stop shop’ for paid social. This will not only make it possible for marketers to tailor their content for new Threads users based on historical Facebook or Instagram data, but strengthen overall reach and impact through consolidation of delivery across the entire Meta network.

Thread safely

That said though, Threads is still not the finished article and, as with most technological leaps, still surrounds a certain level of scrutiny.

One big concern, for example, is the impact on privacy policies and practices. According to the experts, Threads ability to generate an astonishing range of data – including highly sensitive and personal information – on users raises all sorts of ethical questions. More so, this isn’t made overly clear to users when signing up. In fact, it is not allowed in Europe due to these privacy concerns. Thus, amid growing onus on transparency and accountability it’s important that brands do not step over the line and are seen to ‘do the right thing.’

Also, even in spite of Threads’ huge user count, the reality is that social media fatigue is still happening as some users become overwhelmed with the current rate of social media activity. In this way, it shouldn’t be seen yet another avenue for content churn but another asset to be considered within a wider, strategic digital marketing framework.

A novelty or the next big thing?

Onto whether Threads really does spell the end of Twitter and the reality is that it’s far too early to say. Although Threads holds the record for total downloads and continues to reach new peaks for speed and volume, early indicators also suggest it has already lost a large chunk of active users. Therefore, as it remains to be seen whether Threads is a novelty or really the ‘next big thing’, the recommendation if for businesses to ‘Thread Lightly’ – by paying due diligence to the associated ethical concerns and ensuring any new activity works as part of a wider considered marketing strategy before diving in.