Is Threads Unraveling? Did X Miss The Spot?
Ford and Chevy. The Beatles and The Stones. Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk. Competition breeds imitation, invention, and innovation.
When Meta’s Threads launched out of nowhere to take on then-named Twitter on July 5th, it quickly became the lead story on every news network, driving countless individuals and brands to scramble to get in on the hottest trend around. Within 5 days, it became the fastest-growing app in history to reach the coveted 100M app downloads goalpost, something that the previous record-holder, Chat GPT, took 60 days to obtain.
One of the drawbacks to this kind of immediate, overnight success and media attention is that the normal cadence of a slow rollout, with careful attention to user preferences and needs, must be ignored. This is what is happening now with Threads. The bandwagon continues rolling on as people are jumping off. The latest data indicates that Threads has lost up to 80% of its active daily users. (Business Insider)
Some of that is attributed to necessary algorithm adjustments based on user data they just didn’t have available at launch, leading to complaints that the only posts users saw on their feed were posts from verified accounts they didn’t follow, as opposed to their own friends and brands they’re most interested in. Others were disappointed in their inability to publish high-quality images and videos readily viewable and sharable on other, more seasoned platforms. Until this week, there was no web-based version and no third-party app for the platform, which forces brands to publish posts from someone’s personal mobile device. (CNN) There are still no metrics or analytics. No hashtags. No ads.
Mark Zuckerberg has been sharing publicly, via the Instagram app, new features being rolled out now and in the immediate future. They’re addressing many of those issues, including six new rollouts this month, with more to come. Most are designed to keep people actively using the platform, such as algorithm changes, messaging between Instagram and Threads, and a tab to see and review which posts you’ve liked.
It’s still up in the air what the future of Threads will be or how valuable it can be for users and brands.
Meanwhile, a mere three weeks later, Thread’s competition, Twitter, ditched their iconic “Larry T Bird” logo and was no longer named Twitter, rebranding the company in minutes after nearly two decades of brand recognition. Owner and Chief Technology Officer, Elon Musk, has always had an affinity for the third-to-last letter, utilizing it for his space program (Space X), his electric car company (Model X), and his recently launched AI platform (xAI). And thus, Twitter became “X”.
But why rebrand?
Like him or loathe him, Elon is an innovator and a disruptor. He’s been quoted as saying that he wants Twitter to become the “everything app” that people can use for everything from communicating, to shopping, to banking, to media consumption. In truth, he’s not wrong. Twitter users are simply no longer solely interested in quick, text-based updates of 140 characters. Over the last few years, character counts doubled, users have expressed a greater interest in imagery and videos, and people wanted to do more than just text quick comments. Twitter was old social tech, and Elon is all about new tech.
Twitter has never been profitable, and while necessary changes were being made for survival, there has not been a significant positive impact. Its value is now estimated at a third of the 44 billion Musk paid for it, and June’s ad sales were reportedly down 59% year over year. (Search Engine Land) The platform was going to need real change, and the launch of Threads likely pushed the rebrand to sooner than later.
Last month, X rolled out its Creator Ad Revenue Sharing program, where verified accounts and brands would receive a share of ad revenue from advertisements served in their posts. The signups for the program were so immense that X initially failed to send out payments the last week of July until they could review the program. Payments have begun going out, and they’re bigger than expected despite the platform’s ad revenue shortfalls.
They’re testing a job listing feature. They’ve added a Direct Messaging setting to reduce the number of spam messages. They’ve introduced video downloads for verified (paid) users. There have been hints and rumors and Xs (formerly referred to as “Tweets”) indicating that you’ll be able to make voice calls through the platform. While they continue to innovate features for platform users, they’re also working on bringing back advertisers.
It’s not particularly easy to balance “free speech” with advertisers frightened by their ads running next to conspiracy theories, hate speech, and angry political vitriol on a platform where nearly anything goes. To counter that, X published on the official website blog details of testing and planned rollout of new features designed to tackle this issue by allowing marketers the ability to choose the sensitivity of the content their ads appear in. (Search Engine Land)
Many people are rooting for Threads and Mark Zuckerberg or cheering for X and Elon Musk for a multitude of reasons. While product launches, rebrandings, and innovations are newsworthy and exciting, I’m not sure either team is currently making great strides toward better functionality, beneficial technology, and instrumental changes that will bring brands, marketers, and consumers together. As a digital marketer with a great interest in social media, I’m excited for both platforms to continue to generate interest, growth, and success while innovating in this vertical. And having Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk directly competing with each other benefits us all. But time will ultimately tell, and we’ll be watching for the opportunity to ride the next great wave in digital marketing.