Will Threads Destroy Twitter?
With Meta’s introduction of the text-based social media app, Threads, questions have arisen regarding Twitter’s place in the social media ecosystem.
Threads gained more than 10 million signups within seven hours of its launch on 5th July, and within a week, that figure had skyrocketed to 100 million, its growth faster than that of ChatGPT.
However, data from Sensor Tower showed that, while the app initially had 44 million daily active users, that number plummeted to a mere 8 million by the end of the month. Does that mean it was a flop?
Not exactly. Mark Zuckerberg has been quoted saying that the app’s rapid growth was far more than he’d expected and that he’s optimistic about its future. In addition, the new web version of Threads has just been released and the company are introducing new features all the time.
As these two titans clash, is Twitter at risk of being overshadowed? Read on to find out my verdict.
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What is Threads?
Bloomberg has quoted Zuckerberg saying, “There should be a public conversations app with 1 billion-plus people on it…Twitter has had the opportunity to do this but hasn’t nailed it. Hopefully we will.”
Threads’ functionality is very similar to Twitter’s. The focus is on text-based posts but unlike Twitter, posts can be up to 500 characters long (on Twitter, users have only 280 characters to get their message across). Posts can include images and videos (up to five minutes long) and there is also a “For You” page with recommended content, and a “Following” page where users can view the posts from accounts they follow.
Users have to have an Instagram account to be able to open a Threads account. This has made it easy for Meta to leverage Instagram’s extensive user base and gain a headstart. Users can also bring their Instagram followers onto Threads, creating an instantaneous community.
According to research by Capterra, 80% of marketers are likely to try Threads and 66% believe the platform will weaken Facebook and Instagram as marketing tools.
Turbulent Times for Twitter
Twitter’s journey post-Elon Musk’s involvement has been nothing short of a roller coaster. Following his acquisition, the platform has experienced:
- Internal upheavals: The firing of significant portions of the team has led to concerns about the platform’s direction and the morale of remaining employees.
- Limited access for free users: Musk introduced a daily read limit for free accounts (this is supposedly temporary), paid verification, and stopped free accounts from being able to use the tweet scheduling tool, TweetDeck.
- Removal of news headlines and text: Recently, it was announced that only the main image from news links will be visible to users, with the headline and text being hidden. This is frustrating for news publishers and it is believed that it’s an attempt to get more users to pay a subscription fee.
When Musk first took over, there was concern about an ‘advertiser exodus’. With advertising being Twitter’s primary revenue stream, this would have been a significant challenge for the platform.
However, far less users jumped ship than expected. 30% of UK-based daily active Threads users are also on Twitter, but only 2.5% of Twitter’s daily active users are also on Threads. The situation is the same in the US – 45% of Threads users are also on Twitter while only 2.8% of Twitter users are on Threads.
User loyalty can shift rapidly these days and if Threads already supported advertising, perhaps Twitter would have already seen its downfall.
Musk Threatens Legal Action
Two days after Threads was launched, Musk was threatening Meta with legal action based on accusations that they had copied Twitter. Meta has been known to copy the features of other apps before – for example, Reels came after TikTok grew in popularity and Stories took inspiration from Snapchat. Threads is the first instance in which the company has released anything resembling Twitter.
Musk claimed that former Twitter employees that had been hired by Meta retained confidential information about their trade secrets and that Meta built Threads on that basis. Twitter’s legal team also gave Meta a warning about scraping data from Twitter.
Meta denies the accusations. While plenty of former Twitter employees are now working for Meta, Meta claims that nobody on their engineering team worked for the rival company.
Is Threads Truly a Threat to Twitter?
Given the backdrop of internal challenges and fierce competition, is Twitter fighting for survival?
Twitter’s strength lies in its unique offering: real-time updates, global conversations, and a platform for voices ranging from the everyday user to global leaders. It’s a space for news, debates, movements, and instant reactions. This uniqueness is its lifeline.
However, with Threads offering a new space for conversations and Meta’s track record of aggressively promoting and integrating its products, Twitter cannot afford complacency.
The risk for Twitter isn’t necessarily Threads as a standalone app. Other similar apps, such as Bluesky and Mastodon, have not put Twitter out of business (although they have seen recent growth). These apps also do not have the huge user base that Instagram has, making them less of a threat.
It’s the combined ecosystem of Meta’s products that threatens Twitter. With Threads, users can have more direct conversations, but they can also jump onto Instagram for broader social interactions.
Of course, Musk has claimed in the past that he intends to recreate Twitter as an “everything app” like China’s WeChat, which would have its own integrated ecosystem. Of course, users would need a good incentive to switch from Meta’s established set of integrated platforms.
With that said, 43% of companies stated they did not pause or suspend ad campaigns on Twitter when Must took over, and while 69% of companies have been experimenting with other platforms, 35% of them have returned to Twitter. So, despite the current unpredictability, it seems that many users are willing to wait and see what happens before abandoning the platform. Again, Capterra research has shown that 70% of marketers would only leave Twitter ads in the past if another platform brought ‘excellent benefits’.
The Future of Twitter and Threads
While it’s premature to predict Twitter’s downfall based solely on Threads’ introduction, the underlying message is clear: adapt or risk obsolescence. Twitter needs to address its internal challenges, stabilise its platform, and perhaps most importantly, reiterate its unique value to its user base.
The battle isn’t merely for user numbers but for user engagement and loyalty. Threads might be the new kid on the block, but Twitter has its legacy and identity. The question is, can it amplify its voice amidst the noise of challenges and competition?
Another key is whether Threads will be able to retain its user base. Will the novelty wear off or will Meta continue to add the essential features that are still missing, such as direct messaging? What additional value will it bring and how will that out-do what Twitter offers? In addition, with Musk being as unpredictable as he is, who knows what tricks he’ll pull out of the bag next.
When Will Threads Launch in the EU?
Threads is yet to launch in the EU due to issues surrounding data privacy laws. This is not the first time Meta has struggled with such laws, and has paid hefty fines on various occasions due to non-compliance with the GDPR.
The EU has not prevented Threads from launching in the region, but Meta decided to hold off for the time being, allegedly due to concerns over legislation due to be introduced next year (to be precise, the Digital Markets Act which seeks to prevent large tech companies from monopolising the market).
The lack of EU users has not stopped Threads from becoming the app with the most downloads in the shortest amount of time in history. Therefore, it wouldn’t be accurate to assume that it’s at a disadvantage against Twitter as a result. At least for now, the EU market remains as Twitter’s territory.
When Will Threads Introduce Advertising?
According to Meta, ads won’t be introduced until the user base reaches a critical mass. Some sources have stated that the company wants to have at least 1 billion users before implementing ads. In the meantime, the app will introduce branded content tools.
Threads and ActivityPub
Furthering the integration capabilities of Threads is ActivityPub, a protocol that enables interoperability between social media platforms. As such, Threads users would be able to access content and communicate with users on platforms outside of Threads, and non-Threads users on platforms that also use the protocol would be able to interact with Threads content and users. This is another strength of Threads and something else that would deter users from leaving the platform.
It’s never easy to predict the future in the tech world. While Threads has the backing of Meta’s prowess and the added advantage of immediate access to Instagram followers, Twitter’s established presence and unique offering still hold considerable sway in the social media domain. That may be why an unexpected number of Twitter users have remained on the platform despite having an alternative.
Time will truly tell if Threads will overshadow Twitter or if the two will find distinct paths. For now, one thing is certain: resting on laurels is not an option for any platform, and Twitter must rise to the challenges ahead.
If you need any help with your social media marketing or any aspect of your digital marketing strategy, don’t hesitate to get in touch – my team and I would be happy to assist.