One week after its launch, Meta’s new text-based app Threads has already surpassed 100 million users.
The comparison with Twitter is inevitable, mostly because of very similar functionalities and timing. Threads was officially launched on 5 July, four days after Twitter CEO Elon Musk announced a cap on users’ tweet views.
Digital media consultant Matt Navarra said Threads’ main strength currently lies in the mass engagement generated by Meta’s own magnitude and attention gathering around the platform as a Twitter alternative.
"There isn't anything standout that separates it from Twitter at the moment. The main differential is it's not run by Elon Musk, and that there is a better base level standard of content moderation and community standards in terms of what's permitted on the platform," Navarra said.
Threads’ current features seem to target a Twitter-based audience. The basic functions such as stacked-up posts, repost and reply are all elements which marked the success of Twitter communication.
However, the platform still lacks some functionalities which are essential to media professionals. These include accessibility features and news-friendly functions such as a chronological timeline or hashtags to search and follow topics.
The reason might be that Threads is not designed for hard news and politics content. Instagram head Adam Mosseri explained in a thread discussion that the platform does not want to replace Twitter or encourage posts about politics and hard news.
"It makes sense they would say that," Matt Navarra commented, "given Meta has spent the last couple of years trying to distance itself from the news industry. News content is always going to bring about problems to do with content moderation and the sorts of quite fiery discussions that kick off on Twitter surrounding that kind of content."
But, he warned, "for Threads to achieve the status of new digital town square, as equivalent to Twitter, it needs journalists and news publishers to be present on the platform."
News professionals are interested in Threads. Gemma Farrell, social media editor at the Telegraph, said it represents "a fascinating opportunity" for social media teams pivoting away from a Twitter-centred strategy.
"Threads is providing the ability to experiment with an Instagram/Twitter hybrid," Farrell said.
Rather than fully reproducing the Twitter experience, success on the new platform seems to depend on leveraging outlets’ existing Instagram following.
"The opportunity for fresh strategy has seen established news outlets adopt a more informal tone already on the platform. Like Instagram, Threads already feels like a place for a more visual-first strategy, which we can also see many publishers trying out, focusing on standalone images, picture galleries and graphics," Farrell explained.
Much of the platform’s future, she added, "hinges first on the changes Meta makes to its development, and second, the innovative ways social media teams can harness it."
This is especially true for independent media platforms and freelancers. Suswati Basu, editor and the host of the How To Be… Books Podcast, said she found her Instagram audience crucial for the podcast’s successful move to Threads.
"The Bookstagram community completely transferred over from one platform to the other, hence in a day I had over 1,000 followers. It allows me now to directly interact with each of the followers rather than just send comments below images," Basu said.
Pete Carvill is a freelance editor, writer and reporter based in Germany, where Threads has yet to become available. However, he is determined not to miss out on the opportunity to expand his platform for professional self-branding.
"Reporters and writers have to be their own brands nowadays. We can’t rely on a title to market us. I see it as a somewhat unfortunate but intrinsic part of the job," Carvill said.
It is unlikely that news publishers and freelancers will desert Twitter for Threads anytime soon. They certainly perceive it as an opportunity to expand and build up audiences.