What is Threads?
Threads is the new social media app launched by Meta on July 5th 2023. It’s a text-based public conversation app, created by the team behind photo-sharing app Instagram.
Threads is a separate app in its own right, but is part of the Instagram platform and you must have an Instagram account to sign up. Your Threads account is tied to your Instagram account and your handle or username will be the same for both platforms.
This is how Meta has described Threads:
Threads is where communities come together to discuss everything from the topics you care about today to what’ll be trending tomorrow. Whatever it is you’re interested in, you can follow and connect directly with your favorite creators and others who love the same things — or build a loyal following of your own to share your ideas, opinions and creativity with the world.
Why Is Threads Proving So Popular?
Threads got off to an incredible start and within one week registered over 100 million users - that's 30% of Twitter's user base in just four days (and represents a sound thrashing of the 500,000 active daily users of Donald Trump’s online cesspool, Truth Social).
But how can the appetite for another social media app be so high? There are a few possible reasons for this:
1. Easy To Sign-Up To Threads
A clear advantage is that it’s incredibly easy to sign up and create an account if you already have an IG account, as the two are connected. A connection to a trusted app that already has a couple of billion active users has a huge head-start in generating sign-ups.
2. Threads Has A Kinder Approach
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Meta, has said he wants to make “kindness” a focus of his company’s new Threads app, in stark contrast to the, erm, less friendly environment that Twitter has devolved into.
But is it true? It remains to be seen if Meta can uphold this approach. According to research from Media Matters, ‘within 24 hours of Threads’ release, rightwing and fringe figures signed up for the platform’, such as white nationalist Richard Spencer, a former Breitbart writer, and white supremacists like Nick Fuentes, an outspoken antisemite.
3. Elon Musk: Chief Twit
No matter your view of Elon Musk, it’s clear that mistakes have been made since his decision to buy Twitter.
- arrogance in straying outside his area of expertise without taking any sensible advice
- not doing his due diligence during the purchase process
- massively overpaying for the app
- creating a less stable infrastructure that has led to a poor user experience
- not having a clear strategy and making quick, badly thought-through decisions (like the verification check mark debacle, and limiting the number of tweets people can view per day)
- generally alienating the Twitter user base
All of these factors combined have created a perfect storm in which millions of Twitter users are fed up with the platform and are more likely to be tempted by an alternative like Threads (even with another unpopular figure like Mark Zuckerberg at the helm). If the new platform gets it right in the crucial first weeks and months after its launch, it could spell serious trouble for Twitter.
How Similar is Threads to Twitter?
Threads doesn’t display trends in the same way Twitter does and doesn’t work for journalists or news outlets in the same way (media often use Twitter for official statements and live updates but Threads doesn’t have keyword searches to enable this functionality yet).
At this early stage, Meta’s new app feels like a familiar mix of features and functions from Instagram and Twitter.
Interestingly, Threads does not have advertisements yet. It’s not clear yet how it will incorporate or make use of advertising.
How Are Online Brands Using Threads So Far?
Brands have already started to take a different tone of voice on Threads and are interacting differently with their audience. For example if you look at Gymshark’s Threads account you'll see a very different approach from their Instagram feed (mainly buff people in the gym). It’s clearly a confident brand jumping straight into the new online space and boldly trying something completely different.
If you're a brand and don't already have an account, we'd recommend doing the following right now:
- Create and verify your account
- Migrate your Instagram followers to the new app
- Get started with outputting content and engaging with others (similar to Twitter)
It’s worth noting that Threads accounts can’t be deleted unless you also delete your Instagram. (If this is a concern to you, you could sign up with a fresh profile until you are sure you want to continue using it.)
A number of settings such as blocking, restricting users, and hiding words are synced between the two platforms. However, if a user decides they don’t like Threads, they can only deactivate the account, not delete it. Deleting Threads requires deleting the associated Instagram account as well.
There is also no way to privately message others on Threads yet.
Users are shown content from the accounts they follow on both Instagram and Threads, as well as recommended content. There are also plans to let users choose to see only the accounts they follow.
Though Threads is still in its early days, Meta plans to make it compatible with the open social networking protocol ActivityPub, so that Threads could possibly work with other platforms such as the decentralised social media site Mastodon and website-builder WordPress.
Using Threads For Shopify Brands
While it’s likely that the platform will be in a state of change in the coming months, here are our initial thoughts on using Threads.
From a practical point of view, when posting a single image, you have the option to post in any aspect ratio and it will appear in the feed in that way. If you post it in a carousel, the image will be slightly cropped but you can click into it so the image will expand to be viewed as intended. It’s also possible to mix portrait aspect ratio with landscape. It’s basically easier to chuck stuff out there without having to worry too much about getting the perfect crop or layout.
It’s easy to tap to follow directly from the feed - you’ll see people you don’t follow popping up in your feed and you can tap the ‘+’ to follow instantly.
At the top of Threads you can tap straight into other people’s Instagram accounts which is a good way to build your own Instagram account.
Instagram posts on Threads can link between the two platforms.
From a UX point of view, when you repost someone else’s content, you can explore the reposted thread seamlessly, without having to tap into it like you do on Twitter. This makes it easier to share things that interest you and give them visibility.
Interestingly, at launch there is no view count on videos, and the follower number is not as prominent as on other platforms. It’s possible Meta has taken on board the commentary from the past few years about mental health and reduced the prominence of those kinds of stats. (Or maybe they just haven’t got round to implementing it yet.)
So why would you use Instagram now? Lots of users are moving over to Threads and so far, feedback seems to be that they prefer the new interface. We’ll have to monitor active user stats but it could be that we see a migration from Instagram to Threads over time, or the two could co-exist and fulfill different needs.
So far, it feels like Threads is off to a positive start and could be a good way to connect with people in a meaningful way - and there’s every reason this could apply to brands as well to enrich connections with their audience.