by Rachael Winner & Matthew Snodgrass

Meta’s Threads app recently launched to much fanfare and has been referred to by some social media circles as the “Twitter Killer.” This app blew up with millions of new users in its first day, so we’re here to share some key information about it.

What Is Threads?
Threads, whose interface looks similar to Twitter, lets users post messages and images, reply to other users, and like, comment, or repost messages. Threads app allows people to have real-time, public conversations with one another. Those interested in signing up for the new app are required to have an Instagram account for now. A user’s Instagram handle must also be their Threads username. The app’s main feed shows posts from accounts you follow, along with accounts recommended by Instagram’s algorithm. Typically, users have been making use of the feature to import all of the Instagram people you follow as Threads users – even those Instagram friends who have not yet activated their Threads account.

It’s early yet, but the posts on Threads are being referred to as a “post,” “thread,” or a “stitch.” You can also repost something with your own commentary, and replies are featured prominently in the main feed. There is no feed of only people you follow, although you can prioritize your “First threads” from people you follow (or from everyone). One key area to watch is that Instagram is pledging to make Threads interoperable with other social networks via the decentralized ActivityPub protocol, which is supported by other federated networks, such as Mastodon. Of note, Threads won't be rolled out in the European Union because of strict data privacy rules.

What are the differences between Threads and Twitter?
Threads allows for more information per post with a 500-character limit vs. Twitter’s 280. However, at launch, posts, keywords, or hashtags are not searchable. In fact, Threads does not make use of hypertext hashtags. There also isn’t a paid verification scheme that unlocks additional functionality, though Instagram’s blue checks will port over to Threads accounts. And you could pay for Meta’s system-wide (Facebook & Instagram) Meta Verified, which would then carry through to Threads.

One immediate advantage Threads has over other would-be Twitter rivals is the potential to convert Instagram's existing 2.3B user base to new Threads accounts, since people are required to have an Instagram account. Threads users will also be able to switch between the text-based Threads app and photo-based Instagram. Posts on Threads can be shared on a user's Instagram Story or feed.

At launch, Threads doesn’t have the full feature set of other social platforms, but we would expect that to be coming over time. For example, Twitter's homepage allows users to view what's trending and other topics they may be interested in. For now, the only way to explore what's on Threads is by scrolling through the home feed. Another difference is that on Threads, users cannot see another profile’s likes. Threads also didn't launch with direct messaging, which can pose a problem for journalists, who often receive messages from potential sources, or, for brands, which can offer customer service through social media direct messaging. There is no way to delete your Threads account without deleting your Instagram account, although you can temporarily deactivate your Threads profile.  

Why are so many people using this platform, so quickly?
Other would-be Twitter competitors like Mastodon, Discord, and BlueSky were at a disadvantage in that they had to start their user bases from zero. Threads, however, already has more than 30M sign-ups in its first morning. In short, Threads has the advantage of a built-in potential user base of nearly 170 million Instagram users in the U.S. Instagram also wants to make it easy for Threads to operate seamlessly with other platforms, which could appeal to creators and influencers, so they do not have to start from scratch on each app. Celebs already spotted on the app include Shaquille O'Neal, Oprah, Karlie Kloss, Tony Robbins, Dana White, Gordon Ramsay, Ellie Goulding, Jack Black, Russell Wilson, and Brazilian pop star Anitta.

For Twitter’s sake, this could not have come at a worse time. Twitter advertising continues to suffer, its attempts at charging users for services is not taking off, hate speech has spiked since Musk’s acquisition, and it just recently throttled access to readable Tweets to 600 per day.

It’s still early, but Threads has already been criticized for being buggy and lacking basic features:

  • Every new follower needs to be approved via request, similar to the method of a private Instagram account
  • The app would occasionally crash when users attempted to upload images with their posts
  • Lack of a keyword search function
  • No “Top Threads” or a curated feed of Threads

Ironically, much of the discussion about Threads has been happening on Twitter, with the hashtag “Threads” trending on Twitter Wednesday and Thursday.

Should brands be active on Threads?
As expected, many of the more trendy brands made their presence known on Threads with humorous posts that exemplify the brand -- Netflix, Warner Bros., Star Wars, Marvel, Boston Red Sox, Adidas, American Eagle, Discovery’s Shark Week, Animal Planet, and HGTV. Even the recently-cheeky Wendy’s account took a Threads jab at their rival with the post, “mid donald.”

For brands considering Threads, the short answer is, if you already have an Instagram account, create your Threads account. Even if you don’t yet have a content plan for it, you can create the account and make it private, for now. If you currently have a content strategy for both Instagram Twitter, you could quickly adapt the two into a Threads content strategy. This would effectively provide you a more friendly text-based platform but with the built-in user base of Instagram. Internal protocols regarding monitoring, responding to tags and (eventual) direct messages can be easily applied to Threads. Company monitoring and issues management protocols will also need to account for the existence of Threads and for the potential reality that large social conversations and movements may soon be split across the two platforms.  

And while there is no immediate advertising functionality, we all know that is inevitable. And with Threads being on the Meta platform, adding in advertising capabilities with promoted Threads will be an easy implementation for Meta. Ana Milicevic, founder of consultancy Sparrow Advisers said, “The paperwork is there, the payment pipes are there – and I’d imagine you’ll [brands will] be getting a good pitch this week from the Meta/Instagram team on why they should convert their Twitter budget into a Threads test budget in Q3.”

In terms of brand content so far, it’s been similar to that of Threads users … safe, friendly, and on-brand. Many brands’ first posts have been to simply say “hi” to the Threads community – a safe move, while they figure out their Threads strategy. Most have been posting humorous content that’s definitely on-brand for them:

  • @americaneagle: prolly a good time to remind y’all: i am not an intern. i have no clue where your order is.
  • @adidas: drop a pic of your favorite adi fit you’ve worn
  • @nba: Victor Wembanyama, Brandon Miller, Scoot Henderson and more make their NBA 2K24 Summer League debuts tomorrow!
  • @redsox: First Bello line on threads.
  • @verge: Is this a tweet?
  • @starwars: This is where the fun begins.
  • @wimbledon: Drop your Andy Murray vs Stefanos Tsitsipas predictions here

Top pharma companies on Threads:

  • @gileadsciences: (Threads channel created but no posts yet)
  • @gsk: (Threads channel created but no posts yet)
  • @genentech: (Threads channel created but no posts yet)
  • @mercklifescience: (Threads channel created but no posts yet)
  • @amgenbiotech: (Threads channel created but no posts yet)
  • @bayerus: (Threads channel created but no posts yet)
  • @boehringerus: (Threads channel created but no posts yet)
  • @regeneron: (Threads channel created but no posts yet)

So where is the opportunity?
Other social platforms have tried capitalizing on Twitter’s turmoil in recent months. But Threads has a leg up, backed by Meta’s deep pockets and Instagram’s enormous user base. It’s also natively based on the Instagram platform and not (yet and solely) built on the fediverse, like Mastodon and Discord. According to the head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, Twitter’s “volatility” and “unpredictability” under Musk provided the opening to compete. Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino tweeted, “We’re often imitated — but the Twitter community can never be duplicated.” Quite a bold statement from a social platform on the ropes.

We truly believe there’s an opportunity for brands to use Threads to their advantage. It will require a specialized strategy plan, however. You have a text-based platform, like Twitter, which has been used more for serious posts, news, or B2B communications, but you have an inherent audience of your Instagram followers, which has been much more B2C in nature.

We encourage you to contact us, so that we can help develop your Threads plan right away.

About the Author:

Matthew Snodgrass is a lead in Digital & Social Strategy at Syneos Health in New York. He has more than twenty years of experience in digital marketing with a concentration in health and pharmaceuticals. Matt helps bring digital marketing campaigns to life while shepherding them through MLR review teams with numerous pharmaceutical companies. He has also helped to develop policy and training for employees and brand communicators in the area of social media.