Facebook owner Meta has launched its long-awaited Twitter alternative, Threads. It will, according to Meta’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, offer a “friendly” alternative to the beleaguered social media app, which has faced multiple reputational challenges since being taken over by the controversial tech billionaire Elon Musk last year.
Musk’s moves to monetise various features of Twitter that were previously free to use, as well as to cut huge numbers of its staff and his own provocative posts on the platform, have proven unpopular with consumers and companies alike. Businesses were particularly aggrieved when Musk’s failed revamp of Twitter’s verified membership scheme, Twitter Blue, led to several brands being impersonated.
Meta has, according to the company, more than 30 million users less than a day after it launched. The “text-based conversation app”, as Zuckerberg describes it, allows users to create posts of up to 500 characters in length that can include links, as well as picture or video attachments.
With Threads, Meta has a genuine opportunity to rival Twitter, particularly if it can get businesses on board. So, what do companies really want from the new platform?
1. Make advertising easy
The key to Threads’ success will be its ability to make use of connections brands already have on other platforms. It does offer this, with users able to link their Instagram accounts to find people they are connected with on that platform to follow.
If advertisers can do the same it will help scale the business. Paul Kelly, director of commercial intelligence provider Analytic Partners, believes that if Threads can be a “one-stop shop for advertising”, with firms able to tailor their content for new Threads users from the outset, based on their previous Facebook or Instagram activity, this could give Meta a real edge.
“There’s almost a natural attraction to Threads for advertisers due to the simplification of media buying and analysis versus multiple platforms,” Kelly adds. “It’s like an extension to the ‘walled garden’ that gives brands more freedom to roam and speak to their audience, if available in Meta’s network.”
2. Protect brands
Musk’s disastrous Twitter Blue experiment should serve as a cautionary tale for Meta, says Chloe Platts, senior account director for social and innovation at public relations firm FleishmanHillard. Before Musk’s acquisition, verification (shown by a blue tick) was based on whether an account was deemed ‘worthy’ of verification. It had its problems but did mean it was difficult to impersonate famous people or brands on the site.
Musk’s verification, which kept the blue tick, is based on whether people want to pay. Those who pay get benefits such as prioritised rankings in conversations and search and the ability to bookmark folders.
However, this has alienated average users who either don’t want to or can’t afford to pay. This has made it “inaccessible and unattractive” to many users, Platts points out, as well as a nightmare for brands.
A robust verification process will be key to offering brands reassurance that their identity and integrity will be protected. And so far Threads is offering that. Verification on the site is similar to on Instagram. Those verified on that site are automatically verified on Threads. Those that are not can apply. It does also offer a paid verification system for those that don’t qualify for free verification, although it is currently only available in a small number of countries.
3. Offer better community moderation
Rather than encouraging healthy and friendly debate, Musk’s supposed commitment to “free speech” has lit the touchpaper for explicit posts. A negligibly under-regulated approach to content moderation has led to millions of negative messages, which many brands find it hard to navigate past. Many companies’ posts are bombarded with insults and abuse, but Twitter does little to police those responsible.
Platts hopes that Meta will ensure that Threads clamps down on negativity, suggesting that it could learn from LinkedIn. The professional social media network often rolls our new tools in beta mode via its ‘top voices’ (people it picks based on the value and credibility of the content they share).
“LinkedIn is also receptive to user feedback,” she adds. “Its latest algorithm update was in response to feedback that the feed of content on the homepage was often ‘irrelevant and non-professional’ in nature. Now the platform prioritises content from first-degree contacts and thought leadership posts.”
4. Increase reach and shareability
The rapid growth of Threads so far is encouraging for businesses. More than 30 million users and counting less than a day after launch is a good start, but there is still work to be done. Key will be if those users stick around over the longer term and use the platform regularly.
The ability to connect beyond followers is also important. As yet, Threads does not have a functionality similar to Twitter’s hashtag, which allows users to group together related posts into a single feed.
Aubrey Brooks, a data analyst at influencer marketing agency Buttermilk, believes that being able to filter and categorise content should be a priority. Useful Threads tools for brands, she says, would include ”trending topics, hashtags and [related] content recommendations that will help advertisers amplify their message and increase visibility.”