On Wednesday, Meta released their first public version of their text-based extension of Instagram, Threads.
The internet went pretty wild – I think in large part to two key aspects of the Threads launch strategy:
- It defaulted to automatically connect you to your existing Instagram followers/following
- It defaulted to sending all of the push notifications
In case you didn't experience this, let me expand on #1. When you sign up with Threads, it asks if you want to automatically follow the people you already follow on Instagram (with "yes" as a default choice).
We know the power of default choices. Famously, an experiment was run on organ donation. They tested whether having a default opt-in vs. opt-out choice changed the rate at which people opted to become an organ donor:
In countries such as Austria, laws make organ donation the default option at the time of death, and so people must explicitly “opt out” of organ donation. In these so-called opt-out countries, more than 90% of people register to donate their organs. Yet in countries such as U.S. and Germany, people must explicitly “opt in” if they want to donate their organs when they die. In these opt-in countries,fewer than 15% of people register.
So to automatically opt-in people to follow the same accounts on Threads that they do on Instagram, most people go with that choice.
When you join Threads, you're likely to VERY quickly see a lot of new followers – people on Threads who already follow you on Instagram and opted to follow the same accounts.
The result was a much more exciting initial experience than other Twitter competitors (Bluesky, Mastadon) that required you to build from ground zero. It feels like your effort to join the platform is instantly rewarded.
So I've been using Threads for several days now and wanted to capture my thoughts about the app, the opportunity, and how I see it fitting into my personal content strategy.
What is Threads?
The lazy answer here is that Threads is a Twitter clone. In a lot of ways, that's true – but Threads is actually missing several core pieces of Twitter functionality:
- Direct Messages
- A Following feed
- Built-in gifs
- Web app
...just to name a few.
I think the more accurate answer is that Threads is a text-based extension of Instagram. Not only is it officially named "Threads, an Instagram app" on the app store, but the two apps are literally linked:
This link serves to help cultivate your initial following and feed but it also results in some interesting cross-pollination – I've gotten new followers on Instagram as well through this linkage.
From a pure user experience perspective, it feels like a merger of Twitter and Instagram. The same basic layout of Twitter + some of the clean, Instagram UI.
How big is this opportunity?
When a new social platform comes along, creators all have the same question:
Is this my opportunity to hop on the train early and blow up?
We saw this with social platforms in the past – there were early adopter advantages to being early to Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, etc. So every time a new platform comes around, we wonder if this is our chance.
I don't think Threads offers much of an early adopter advantage.
Here's the thing – those other platforms that had an advantage for early adopters were building their social network from scratch. People joining Twitter had to find people to follow on Twitter. So when new users joined Twitter, Twitter recommended ALL new users to follow certain profiles (like Mark Hoppus, Ali Spagnola, or Michael Ian Black). That created an incredible advantage for those early adopters.
Threads isn't like that.
The advantage of Threads is that you don't need to build your network from scratch – it comes from Instagram. So the opportunity actually seems biggest for users who already built a large following on Instagram.
As a result, I don't see new Threads users clamoring to find new platforms to follow – in fact, it seems that most users' biggest complaint so far is that Threads is showing them too many accounts they don't follow in their feed.
So while I think it might be easier to build from zero on Threads vs. existing platforms, I don't think there's an outsized opportunity.
That marginal difference may be significant, though, if you're truly just getting started. Threads may offer a faster route to your first 100 or 1000 followers than Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, or TikTok currently.
As a new platform, what we don't know yet is what kind of content or formats will really perform well. And by performing well, I mean compel people to share that content and therefore spread it.
This is the time to play around with innovative uses of the platform.
The biggest winners will be those who leverage their experimentality and find a format that spreads.
The risk of course is that the excitement dies down and fades into once-upon-a-time hype. I am actually more optimistic than that though, which I'll touch on in the "Will Threads succeed?" section below.
Who should use Threads?
That does not mean everyone. But anyone who is compelled to give it a shot should go ahead and do so – I see no reason that Threads would be inherently useless to any particular creator.
How am I using Threads?
What I love about Threads is that it combines two things I love:
- Short-form writing
- The Instagram crowd
I like the vibe of Instagram. Broadly speaking, the crowd is less intense and more fun than Twitter.
However, I've never been very well-suited for Instagram because I'm horrible at using an iPhone for photos and videos.
But with Threads, I can combine my writing ability with the Instagram audience – which, to me, is an exciting prospect.
My Threads strategy
The temptation would be to copy/paste what I'm already publishing on Twitter or LinkedIn to Threads.
But...if you've spent any time on Threads at all, you've probably seen just how much that tone sticks out (and not in a good way).
Threads feels like an opportunity to show a different side of yourself. I don't think there's any "right" voice or tone for Threads yet, but I don't think it should mirror the tone of other platforms.
I'm approaching Threads much more as a place to share unpolished thoughts and real-time experiences – less declarative statements and platitudes.
But there's an important idea to remember...
Your content on Threads (or anywhere else) needs to provide some form of value to the reader.
Humans are inherently self-interested. That's why it appeals to you to publish unpolished, self-interested posts on Threads!
But for the same reason it's exciting for you to talk about yourself and every thought going through your head...it's potentially uninteresting to anyone else.
Your unrefined thoughts are usually not helpful (therefore not interesting) to others.
Effect on my overall strategy
For the last several days, I've actually published more on Threads than anywhere else. And not because I'm chasing an opportunity – because it was more fun for me!
So I actually wasn't tempted to copy/paste Twitter and LinkedIn over to Threads – my temptation was the opposite:
It's more likely that I copy/paste from Threads over to Twitter or LinkedIn!
Here's the thing – whatever platform you publish most to, that's where you're getting the highest volume of data about what ideas resonate most with your core audience.
If you post 3x/day on Twitter, you'll know which post was most successful – so it makes sense to take your best idea and cross-publish it (or a version of it) to other platforms.
I think both Twitter and LinkedIn are stale and ripe for innovative content themselves.
So, for me, Threads is now playing the role of the tip of the spear. I've been a little bit bored with the templated content I see on Twitter and LinkedIn, so not only does Threads seem like a good opportunity to innovate, but that gives me new ideas to try on Twitter and LinkedIn too.
What I don't have is any type of goal or quote for posts/day on Threads. I'm going with the flow because it feels easy – and instead of trying to create routine and pattern, I'm allowing myself to enjoy the feeling of something feeling fun and easy.
I have not seen diminishing returns to pretty frequent posting (in contrast to Twitter/LinkedIn where it feels like multiple posts/day cannibalize each other).
Should everyone use Threads that way?
I'm not at all trying to be prescriptive with this post. Again, I think YOU should be innovating and trying your own experiments on the platform to try and gain whatever advantage there is to be had.
I think where I'm failing on Threads right now is that:
- I'm not consuming as much as I could (to become a student of what other people are trying)
- I'm not engaging as much as I could (to build new/strengthen existing relationships)
If you really want to push hard into this new platform, I think you need to really study the experiments of others, be a SOCIAL person, and innovate.
Anything goes right now. You won't be judged for trying new things.
Take advantage of it!
Will Threads succeed?
I have no idea.
But look, say what you want about Mark Zuckerberg – the guy is a shark. He has an incredible track record of making smart moves and I think the timing and launch strategy here are both really, really good.
What I do have conviction about is that Threads just may prove fatal to other Twitter competitors. The network advantage Meta brings to the table with literally billions of users online already is unmatched.
But will Threads ultimately have staying power? Hard to say. We may be looking at another BeReal or Google Plus.
There are already lawsuits from Twitter coming – but I don't think they will slow the platform in any significant way.
So if you're looking for my opinion, I am optimistic that this has staying power. The timing is right, the initial experience of starting with your existing Instagram audience is a first for new social platforms.
For now, I'm going to be taking it pretty seriously.
This is early days. It's hard to tell what's real vs. hype.
But we've seen hype before – usually hype over new platforms has been based on hope and a dream that you can build from scratch (quickly).
We've never seen something like Threads that basically immediately ports over an existing audience. We're not talking about an upstart company with a small team or limited resources.
If Meta takes this seriously, they can put a LOT into it. Fast.
I don't think we have an apples-to-apples comparison here. The closest may be Google Plus, but Google wasn't a social media company – they were a search company.
A social media company creating a new social media app is new...and I see an opportunity for creators.
What do YOU think? Let me know down in the comments if you're optimistic or pessimistic about Threads.
And if you enjoyed this, connect with me over there! I'm @jayclouse on both Threads and Instagram.