“A moment of silence for the admin who’s been pitching TikTok ideas for six months, and now needs to explain Threads to management,” British Airways wrote on Meta’s new Twitter clone, Threads, last Thursday.
The company is one of 100 million users that signed up to the app in just five days, making it the fastest-growing consumer app of all time. While we don’t know how many of those accounts belong to brands, many of the world’s largest corporations haven’t been shy to start posting.
Unfortunately, most don’t appear to have the faintest idea what to do with this new communications channel.
“Threads are better with a Swoosh 😉,” read Nike’s first effort. Tesco opted for a photo of a catwalk model wearing a shopping bag, captioned: “When your boss asked you to launch Tesco Threads but you misunderstood the assignment.”
Amazon said simply: “You can buy thread on Amazon.”
It’s not exactly Cannes Lions-winning stuff. To be fair to the harried social media managers at these companies, it’s not their fault. So far, Threads isn’t populated with much beyond influencers, meme accounts and celebrities – many of whom are more used to the image-based Instagram.
As a result, scrolling through the app today is a similar experience to walking into a party only to have thousands of self-promotional flyers thrust into your face.
“What’s one SMALL goal you want to achieve this week?” Dragons’ Den star Steven Bartlett asks. A TV chef enquires about the first thing her followers would do if they woke up billionaires. “You should follow me,” a former Love Island contestant adds.
This kind of engagement-baiting, low-effort content is not what is going to keep people coming back once the novelty wears off.
It’s a world away from Twitter where, despite its flaws, I still found myself glued to tidbits of gossip about BBC presenters and former chancellor’s weddings this weekend. Threads completely lacks that addictive, must-open pull.
Threads’ value for business will take time
But that’s not to say brands should consider Threads dead on arrival.
There’s plenty to like in the plans set out by Mark Zuckerberg’s team to date. Much of it addresses the major issues advertisers had with Twitter after it was acquired by Elon Musk last October. Threads will have a stricter moderation policy, better verification processes and an ad-buying experience that promises to be as seamless as on Meta’s other platforms.
But social networks, to be of any use at all, need to be a place where people actively choose to spend time and not just a forum for advertisers.
Take TikTok. Long before it became the advertising juggernaut it is today – shooting sales of products from bags to mascara to the moon – it created a unique space for teenagers to dance, preen and share. Today’s biggest names on the app started out as ordinary people recording fun videos for their friends. Few were famous before.
Meanwhile, social media works best for businesses when they can riff on an existing conversation and culture. Businesses were universally boring on Twitter until Wendy’s (and others) adopted more confrontational tones – unleashing an era of weird, viral brand posts. The popularity of Ryanair and Duolingo’s chaotic, self-parodying TikTok accounts stems from the fact that their gen Z managers were enthusiastic users of the app first.
My advice to brands? Ignore the ‘experts’ telling you to start posting threads now or get left behind. Chances are, this app might amount to nothing more than another Meta money pit anyway. A full-scale invasion by companies with little to say will only hasten that demise.
True online culture must develop organically. Like every social media platform before it, it will take time for Threads to attract creative, fun and interesting people to produce creative, fun and interesting content.
Until then, businesses should give their social media managers a well-needed break.
Brands who choose to ignore Clara’s sage advice can follow Raconteur on Threads at @raconteur.stories