Hanging On By A Thread: Will the New Threads Updates Help Combat the Usage Decline?
Shatesha Scales Flanigan, Supervisor, Paid Social
The reviews are in, and after a successful launch of securing 100 million users in five days, did Threads hit its peak already?
The platform is down from its height of 44 million active daily users days after launch to just eight million daily active users as of July 31. If you’re looking at it on a macro scale, then yes, it’s not looking great for the X (formerly known as Twitter) alternative. However, when you compare it to the trajectory of other social platforms, yes, the buzz has died down. Yet, despite the decline, its daily activity alone is still ahead of total users for any of the alternatives in the marketplace, such Mastodon and Bluesky, for now.
TikTok joined the competition and launched its text-based feature in July instead of releasing a stand-alone app. But while it has daily active users to compete with the other competitors, unless they can offer the breaking news real-time feed feature, they’re no closer to being a true X contender than any other app.
Meta’s Done this Before
This isn’t the first time Meta dabbled in launching a new stand-alone clone app of a big competitor. Remember Lasso? If not, you’re not alone. Facebook quietly launched the TikTok ‘copycat’ app in 2018 after all the buzz surrounding TikTok forced them to return to the drawing board to keep up with the competition. Ironically, besides an official tweet around the launch from the product manager, it barely got any publicity from the company. Meta shut it down in July 2020 after it failed to gain momentum. Eventually, the company launched its Reels feature as a placement in addition to feeds and Stories in the already popular Instagram and Facebook apps. Lasso and other similar apps failed because users weren’t interested in a new app when they already had one that worked. But with the uncertain atmosphere of X, Meta capitalized off the moment of turmoil. They launched Threads at the right time, which helped escalate the publicity because users were desperate for something different. However, not all features on Threads were ready with the launch. So while they had the users, Threads left the people in limbo while the team raced to catch up to the unexpected demand.
Can Threads Make the Cut?
Like all social platform launches, usage inevitably declines after the initial launch. And while an 82% decline is steep, Meta has claimed that Threads will be here for the long haul and is willing to wait it out. After all, TikTok launched in the U.S. in 2016 but didn’t take off until 2020, during the critical turning point of a global pandemic and threats of banning.
Meta’s said their focus “will continue to be on improving the consumer experience by building new features, dialing in performance and improving ranking. Some specific features we’re focused on
include improving search (e.g., keywords), launching a more robust experience on web, and adding accessibility features.”
So far Meta seems to be listening to user feedback. They recently released a new batch of features:
- A “following” feed which shows posts only from people you follow with the most recent content showing up first. This is in addition to the existing “for you” feed experience.
- Automatic translations of Threads posts in feed based on the language they’re written in and the language settings of the person viewing it.
- The introduction of new categories in activity feed so you can filter notifications, including Follows, Quotes, and Reposts, and adding the Follow button on your followers list to easily follow back.
- Organic support of a paid partnerships tool—more details on this are coming.
Time will tell whether Threads will make a lasting impact on the social media ecosystem or if it will fail like Meta’s other stand-alone app attempts. If they switch the goal from “the next Twitter replacement” and continue to lean into the age of a decentralized web, they’ll be more likely to survive. The potential is there. Users are patiently waiting around to see what Threads can offer.
And let’s face it; people are still on X because of a lack of alternatives and too many social apps to log into daily. We have already witnessed the fragility of platforms and the frustration of wanting to leave a platform but wanting to retain your followers and community. Content creators will continue to be essential for how we consume information and content, so the ability to follow these users across platforms will be monumental for the industry and brands. Users are ready for a decentralized web, but the options need to be simplified. Threads already possesses the users and platform to connect people to the next wave of social, but the question is, will they?
Whether Threads hits its tipping point and morphs into the next big social platform or gets shut down like other Meta stand-alone apps, brands should continue to seize the moment. Though infrequently, users are still actively seeking fresh content. Now is the time to continue engaging and experimenting in direct conversation with them while the pressure is still low.
How will new social platform behaviors change how sports news is shared?
Content will continue to shift to Threads as ESPN and other outlets try to reach the audience who left X permanently, but X will continue to be the top app for breaking news until Threads creates a breaking news feature or trending topic section on their app. For example, ESPN has 47 million users on X vs. 1.9 million on Threads. We expect to see ESPN consistently post sports news on X since the audience is there. Engagement is down, however. Engagement is higher on Threads based on the followers, but they’re slower to update content—they post on Threads every few days vs. multiple times a day on X. It will be interesting to see how Threads fares during the NFL season and how their content strategy begins to shift as the season progresses. It looks like they’re still growing their audience and testing what content works best on this platform with the current features.
This article is featured in Media Impact Report No. 47. View the full report here.