In today's digital landscape where we see personalities fight virtual battles in the digital realm that often spill over the real world, there’s one rivalry that has become the biggest story everyone is talking about right now. We are not talking about the influencers-turned-fist fighters Logan and Jake Paul, we are witnessing a heated billionaire beef between Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and tech mogulElon Musk blowing up right in front of us.
So what does it have to do with a new social media platform launch?
Well, it all started when Musk challenged Zuckerberg to a 'cage match.' Everyone on social media became even more fixated on a potential uber-rich celebrity fight that was expected to happen especially when Zuckerberg posted the potential fight location on Instagram. And Musk even hinted at having it at the Colosseum in Rome where ancient gladiators used to fight to the death. It even captured the interest of UFC President Dana White himself. Being the matchmaker that he is, White was so keen to make it happen with Las Vegas touted to host this bizarre spectacle.
And then the first punch happened out of the blue when Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, launched Threads as a direct competitor to the more-established Twitter. Even before Musk acquired the social media for $44 billion in late October 2022, Meta engineers were already busy starting on the text-focused app under wraps as ‘Project 92.’ Since then, Twitter has laid off thousands of employees while also changing the platform's content rules including the reinstatement of previously-banned accounts with the likes of ex-President Donald Trump, controversial influencer Andrew Tate, and rapper Kanye West. Musk even proclaimed that the company is in dire financial shape so he wanted to make the platform profitable by making as much money as possible with the controversial launch of Twitter Blue that saw many legacy users stripped of their blue check verification badge.
Aside from Threads, some former Twitter employees have started projects aimed to become the next Twitter. At the same time, other startups, like Mastodon, Hive Social, and Post, are poised to become even more popular microblogging platforms as they aim to take a big chunk of Twitter’s market share.
With a huge opportunity right in front of them, we can see why Meta took the first shot at Musk. According to New York University professor Scott Galloway, “The toxicity that surrounds Twitter and some of the behavior of the new ownership led me to believe there’s an enormous opportunity for a microblogging platform with a different business model.” In fact, Zuckerberg repeatedly posted updates on the new platform as if he was taunting Musk by showing how Threads got new users away from Twitter. It has over 30 million users in the first 18 hours since it went live with MrBeast becoming the first user to reach 1 million followers.
But we all know, Musk won’t back off without firing back. A letter was sent to Zuckerberg accusing Meta of engaging in “systematic, willful and unlawful misappropriation of Twitter’s trade secrets and other intellectual property.” With many ex-Twitter employees curiously employed under Meta payroll, the legal fight between Meta and X Corp. (Twitter’s parent company) has intensified further. Both Zuckerberg and Musk have already traded punches even before their supposed cage fight, should it happen at all. Threads has already gained a lot of momentum with early adopters, bandwagon followers, and disaffected Twitter users getting on the platform.
The question is, will businesses and brands follow suit and put their all marketing effort and resources into this new platform?
That remains to be seen. Developing a highly-active and engaged community in a new social media environment takes a lot of time and effort. Success is not guaranteed. That is why Twitter itself has struggled to achieve profitability. There are many cautionary tales that saw erstwhile popular social media platforms rise and fall - Google Plus, Friendster, Vine, and Myspace to name a few.
The embattled Twitter may still be the king of microblogging for now but for how long?
What Is Threads?
Built by the Instagram team, Threads resembles a lot like the aforementioned platform. It even looks and feels like an Instagram Lite of some sort with similar iconography and user interface minus the more visual components. In fact, Threads can only be accessed and deactivated with an existing Instagram account. You can post up to 500 characters long, which includes links, photos, and five-minute videos. Your feed includes threads posted by people you follow and recommended content from new creators you haven’t discovered yet. You have greater control to filter words from your feed and restrict who can see your posts and mention you in their feeds. More importantly, you can unfollow, report, block, or restrict a profile. It also includes screen reader support and AI-generated image descriptions.
When you launch your account, your Instagram username will be ported over but you can further customize your profile. Verified Instagram accounts are automatically verified. Users under 18 years old will receive a default private profile. By the time you create your first 'thread,' you can select who's able to view it from just your followers to everyone on the platform. However, you can’t send a private message to another user just like on Twitter.
For now, you can only view Threads on the web browser at threads.net as you can't log in yet. A QR code is provided so that users can download it on iOS and Android. It is important to note that there is an existing Threads platform at threads.com, which is a Slack replacement for makers.
Ultimately, Instagram's goal is to have Threads work across multiple apps thereby making it easier to operate seamlessly with other platforms. Users, who buildup a significant following, take their followers with them to other platforms built on the same ecosystem.
Tale of the Tape
While moving to Threads may be going away from the clutches of Twitter’s increasingly changing environment, many users have weighed the pros and cons of staying on Twitter, moving to Threads, or using both platforms.
Though the troubled platform remains the undisputed leader in the microblogging arena, Musk has alienated much of the user base, especially those who are actual-paying subscribers. Many brands and companies have remained on the platform to advertise their products and services and engage and communicate with their customers. However, Threads has leveraged the existing Facebook and Instagram user base to make the transition to their platform seamless. Instagram users have the option to port their accounts to Thread easily.
Twitter may have shot itself in the foot as it capped the number of daily posts for all users which will severely curtail further engagement from heavy to casual users alike, there is still a lot of work to do before Threads can seriously challenge Twitter in the long term. Its default feed is still a mess as posts from a mix of accounts users actually follow and those chosen by the algorithm and not chronologically. Users may not be able to utilize hashtags, keep track of trending topics, and measure key metrics and performance indicators.
Whether it’s ordinary users or prominent personalities, moving to a new platform can be difficult especially if you spent a long time building a significant following on Twitter. Verified users will find it difficult to gain the reach that they’re used to elsewhere as they’re facing a much smaller audience.
Data sharing and privacy concerns, especially in the European Union, are the main sticking points for both platforms but more so on Threads. When it comes to sharing your information, Threads is expected to gather more data about you, particularly your health, financial, and sensitive personal information, than Twitter.
The issue of ads comes into play as brands and companies are looking to monetize content in a platform that has yet to unveil that feature. On the other hand, Meta will have its hand full preventing spam, harassment, fake news, and other questionable content on the platform especially when they recently laid off 20,000 employees last November 2022.
Is it a ‘Twitter-Killer’?
Even if there are trends pointing toward Twitter’s eventual demise, it doesn’t have to go the way experts want it to. Just like any passing fad, there is always that bandwagon effect as the fear of missing out grips everyone but when all the dust settles, people will end up making up their minds. Even Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri admits that the biggest roadblock to Threads’ success is how it intends to keep people engaged in the long run.
The truth of the matter is, some brands and companies are jumping on Threads to be the first ones to build their presence on the platform. As far as using it as a long-term digital marketing channel is concerned, Threads may not be the platform that will deliver greater reach, engagement, and traffic. A lot of features have yet to come into play to transform it into a powerful marketing tool anyone can leverage.
Mentioning Threads as a ‘Twitter-killer’ is a stretch as other successful competitors have not killed Twitter either. The decentralized Mastodon may have seen a surge of new users initially but it soon leveled up as interest waned with active monthly users hovering at 1.7 million as of July 2023. Bluesky may have gotten greater attention than the former but it’s only open to new users. Spill and Post have not emerged on top as well even as Twitter continues to fumble.
Another thing to point out is that Meta has never been successful in completely shutting down its direct competitors. Take the case ofInstagram’s Reels and Stories, which were completely copied to compete with TikTok and Snapchat. Even by cannibalizing their features and integrating intoInstagram, both have remained their strongest competitors. The metaverse did not pan out as much as Zuckerberg wanted it to either. So goes for other ambitious projects like Super (a Cameo clone), Facebook Live Shopping, and Neighborhoods (a NextDoor clone).
Threads' success ultimately depends on its ability to gain widespread adoption. It must overcome the hurdle of Twitter's entrenched user base and ensure that the platform remains user-friendly for new and existing users. Additionally, the platform needs to actively address concerns related to privacy and moderation to create a safe and inclusive environment for users.
While the platform has the potential to disrupt the social media landscape, it remains to be seen whether it will become a passing fad or a true challenger to Twitter's dominance.
At the end of the day, is Threads the fresh new start away from the dark and gloomy world of Twitter?
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