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Is Twitter hanging by a thread?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last two weeks, you’ll have heard about Threads: a new text-based social network from Facebook-Instagram-WhatsApp powerhouse, Meta.

With Twitter’s recent limitations on tweet views, hard push on paid-for Twitter Blue subscriptions and new API restrictions, it’s certainly a good time to launch a challenger platform.

Meta’s Adam Mosseri has been quite clear that this first iteration is a ‘bare bones’ model on which they’ll flesh out the platform.

The cynical out there might say Meta has rushed the launch to capitalise on Twitter’s current public standing. And that it’s a dangerous situation to have so many popular social networks operated by the same umbrella company.

But the impact of Threads is clear to see: the app launched on Thursday, while I was off on annual leave, and by the time I returned to my desk on Tuesday it had gained over 100 million active users (almost half of Twitter’s 250 million).

According to data experts Chartr, Instagram took two and a half years to reach that same milestone – and even TikTok took nine months to get there.

And this is without any users in the EU, as the app grapples with data laws there. It’s safe to assume the numbers will soar once it opens up to mainland Europe.

What is this Threads thing anyway?

In essence, Threads is very similar to Twitter. Your timeline is filled with ‘threads’ by people you follow, and then some by people you don’t (but the algorithm thinks you might like).

At the moment, Threads is only accessible via the official app – but that hasn’t stopped Twitter website traffic “tanking” according to Cloudflare co-founder Matthew Prince. 

Perhaps ironically, he announced this in a tweet.

How do I get a Threads account?

If you want Threads, you need to have Instagram.

It’s that simple. Simply download the app and log in with your Instagram account. Your username will be the same as your Instagram handle, and you’ll have the option to import across your bio, profile picture, and even the people you follow.

One interesting wrinkle is that if you decide Threads isn’t for you, you can only deactivate your account. To fully delete it, you’ll need to delete your entire Instagram presence too.

Whether this is a way of keeping user numbers high, or just an early release way of connecting things up, remains to be seen.

(It can work to your advantage, though. Usually, on a new social media platform, it can take weeks, months or even years to build a following. As more people investigate Threads, it’s easy to quickly grow your followers.)

What can I post on Threads?

A post on Threads is limited to 500 characters. This is almost double Twitter’s 280 limit.

When Twitter itself doubled its original limit from 140 a few years ago, there was outcry from certain circles that it would remove the immediacy and succinctness of the platform. Time will tell how users embrace Threads’ limits.

You can also attach up to 10 images, videos or GIFs to a Threads post – similar to Instagram, and more than twice Twitter’s four.

Like Twitter, you can like and reshare posts, and also ‘start a thread’ – to encourage conversation. It is a social network, after all. And there’s an option to share your thread to your Instagram Story or feed – linking up the two Meta-owned platforms.

You can even share your thread in a tweet… go figure!

Does Threads support hashtags?

At the moment, hashtags don’t ‘exist’ on Threads – although that’s not to say they won’t in the future. (For that matter, there’s no search function or direct messages yet, either.)

Hashtags are a cornerstone of Instagram (although Meta never really managed to integrate them successfully into Facebook) so it stands to reason that they’re on the horizon.

Interestingly, hashtags originated on Twitter. Users made up the concept as a way to search through posts and find related content. In time, Twitter adopted it as an official part of its platform – and then the whole social networking crowd piled on.

Now they’re almost omnipresent across social media – from Instagram and Twitter to TikTok and LinkedIn.

Across the Fediverse

Multiverses are cropping up everywhere in movies these days. The MCU, Spider-Man and even Oscar-winner Everything Everywhere All At Once have tackled the heady concept head on, with characters from multiple dimensions (or even franchises) interacting with each other.

Soon, social media might look similar.

One of the most interesting things about Threads is that while it’s self contained at the moment, in the future it’ll be able to interact with other social media networks through something called the fediverse.

Simply put, this is a series of interconnected (or ‘federated’) servers that – although independently run – can communicate with each other for file sharing, social networking, web hosting, blogging and more.

When Elon Musk first took over Twitter, some users advocated a move to fediverse-based platforms like Mastodon and BlueSky. But without the Meta juggernaut behind them, they didn’t quite capture public imagination in the same way Threads has.

However, in a forthcoming app update, Threads users will be able to interact with users on those platforms – and others in the fediverse.

It’s new territory for Meta, which in the past has aggressively adopted its competitors’ best features to encourage users to stay on its platforms (see Snapchat and Stories, or TikTok and Reels).

Whether Threads truly takes off or not, seeing the undeniable titan of social media embracing this more collaborative approach social networking may indicate a huge change in the way these platforms will be used and developed in the future.

This is all well and good… but should my company be on Threads?

Good question! And one that maybe doesn’t have a concrete answer just yet.

If you have an Instagram account, it makes sense to hop on over to Threads and claim your username. That way, you’ll be prepared if you do want to dip your toe in the water.

Threads is – by Mark’s Zuckerberg’s insistence – a “friendly” and more authentic social platform than Twitter. So brands may have to think carefully about the type of content they post there. If you find yourself with loads of followers already imported from Instagram, then it’s a no-brainer to start posting there.

But if Twitter’s not your bag in the first place, maybe the text-based Threads model isn’t for you.

Ultimately, with Threads – as with all social media – there’s no one right answer. What works for one brand doesn’t necessarily work for the other, and there’s no magic number of posts per week or necessity to be on every platform (no matter what some people might tell you).

What’s important is being where your customers are, and giving them the content they want – or need.

So, if you fancy exploring Threads for your brand, drop us a line and let’s talk about your social media strategy and how it might fit in.

While we wait for your call, we’re going to start popping corn in preparation to watch that mooted Elon and Zuck MMA cage fight (there’s a sentence we never thought we’d write). We reckon there are a few more scores to settle since it was first announced…

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