Culture
5 minute read

To Thread or Not to Thread? A Look at Meta's New Social Media Platform

To Thread or Not to Thread? A Look at Meta's New Social Media Platform
Written by
Aaron Marco Arias
Published on
July 20, 2023
TL;DR
  • Meta's Threads is a mobile-only social media platform and leading Twitter alternative.
  • Threads is connected to Instagram, requiring an Instagram account to use the platform.
  • It offers a better UI than Twitter, with clean design and integrated experiences.
  • Threads provides higher character, video, and image limits compared to Twitter.
  • However, Threads has downsides, such as being mobile-only and poor content discoverability.
  • Deleting a Threads account also deletes the associated Instagram account.
  • Consider joining Threads to secure your username and explore the platform early.
  • But investing resources into Threads may not be ideal due to content visibility and platform uncertainty.

On July 5, 2023, at Twitter's weakest point, Meta launched Threads. This mobile-only social media platform may be Twitter's strongest competitor to date. But we’ve tried it out, and it still feels a bit green.

In this post, we'll dive into:

  • What Threads is
  • Whether Threads is better than other Twitter alternatives
  • Threads' pros, cons & limitations
  • Some tips that will help you move forward

Ready? Let's get started!

What Is Instagram Threads?

Threads is a microblogging platform that's connected to Instagram. Each Threads account is linked to an Instagram account, and you can't delete your Threads presence without getting rid of your Instagram profile too.

As of this writing, the platform has over 100 million users. 

Is Instagram Threads Better than Other Twitter Alternatives?

After Elon Musk's first controversial moves as Twitter's new owner, some users began to wonder where they could migrate to if the platform tanked. Major alternatives included Bluesky, Mastodon, and an abundance of small platforms targeting specific political sectors.

Twitter vs. Bluesky

Bluesky is a Web3 alternative to Twitter, founded by Jack Dorsey. It’s currently in an invite-only beta and its waitlist far outnumbers its current userbase. So, if you’re trying to grow a community or continue developing your brand, Bluesky may not be the platform for you. It’s an exclusive club you’re not invited to - and chances are your target audience isn’t invited either.

Twitter vs. Mastodon

Mastodon is a fully decentralized, open-source Twitter alternative. It operates as a federation of communities/instances that run Mastodon under their own rules. Members of different instances can communicate with each other. 

After confusing news from Elon Musk’s Twitter began to spread, Mastodon went from 380k users to over 2.5M. But user acquisition and activity dropped in the following months. 

A graph showing Mastodon user's surge

Most users point out that Mastodon is full of friction. And most friction comes from what makes Mastodon unique, its federation system.

Interacting with user profiles or content from a different server can be slow and counterintuitive. As CNET’s Stephen Shankland reported

“Many times, when I locate someone, I can't follow them easily. I have to copy their username, go back to my home server, search for that username, and then follow. That's a big hassle for one of the most basic operations of social media. I get the same problem often when favoriting or boosting a post, the Mastodon equivalent of liking and retweeting, respectively.”

Additionally, the onboarding process requires choosing an instance that your account will belong to. This is a decision that non-technical people may not feel equipped to make, and that will totally influence their experience on the platform. 

Twitter vs. alt-tech platforms

Twitter’s been shunned as a censorious website for years. Even if real moderation initiatives aren’t more strict than on other social media platforms.

This has led to a rise in niche social media that aim to target an audience with specific political inclinations. This sector is often referred to as “alt-tech”. While there may be some genuinely insightful people and valuable brands among alt-tech users, it’s worth noting that these platforms aren’t really fit for doing business. 

On these websites, everything’s centered around politics. Their motivation is to gather members of certain political groups and organize their activism. And considering that these users feel that they’ve been unfairly pushed out of the mainstream, their culture may not be welcoming to outsiders at all. If you find Twitter’s level of hostility to be stressful and you don’t run a political brand, alt-tech isn’t the place to be.

Instagram Threads’ Pros

Should Instagram Threads be your Twitter alternative of choice?

Consider that:

  • Threads has a better UI than Twitter
  • It offers an integrated experience and plans to double-down
  • It has higher character, video, and image limits

Let’s take a closer look.

Better UI

Threads’ UI is clean, modern, and full of pretty little details, which results in a beautiful reading experience that feels a lot cleaner than Twitter’s.

If you take a moment to really analyze the interfaces side-by-side, you’ll notice that this huge difference between crowded and clean is the consequence of:

  • Hiding a couple of stats
  • Different rules for grouping elements
  • Certain differences in element scale and spacing
  • Differences in which elements are highlighted and which aren’t

The fact that such easy-to-overlook details make such a huge difference can drive you a little mad. 

A screenshot from Webflow's Twitter profile showing a thread
A screenshot from Webflow's Twitter profile showing a thread

An integrated experience

Your Threads account is connected to your Instagram account, allowing you to quickly switch between platforms and distribute your content. In the future, Thread will also integrate with other platforms, such as WordPress, through the ActivityPub protocol.

ActivityPub aims to simplify multiplatform content distribution, allowing creators to truly own their audience. 

More generous character, video & image limits

Free-tier Twitter users can publish tweets of up to 280 characters, including up to 4 and 2:20 of video. Thread users, on the other hand, have:

  • A text limit of 500 characters
  • An image limit of 10 per post
  • The ability to upload up to 5 minutes of video content per post

These generous limits allow Thread users to:

  • Provide more value in each post
  • Spend less time trimming and over-curating their content for the platform

Instagram Threads’ Cons

No platform is perfect. And Threads surely isn’t.

So far, the platform has three major downsides:

  • It’s mobile-only
  • Its content discoverability is absolutely terrible
  • An integrated experience

Let’s dive deeper.

Mobile-only

As of this writing, you can only publish and reply to threads through the mobile app. This can be a dealbreaker to some users. But, does Threads need a web client to establish itself as a serious Twitter alternative? Not necessarily, 80% of Twitter users prefer to access the platform through a mobile device. 

Content discoverability

Threads’ biggest deal-breaker at the moment may be its content discoverability. Some users feel that their Threads feed is full of trending but irrelevant content. And that’s only made worse by the inability to separate algorithmic recommendations from the content of the creators they follow. 

Want to search for a keyword on Threads? You’ll only find profiles that target that keyword, not content that organically includes it. 

The platform’s Instagram integration should spare users the work of “taming” the algorithm. But so far, it’s failing to do so.

An integrated account

You can’t delete your Threads account without getting rid of your Instagram account too. So, you’ve got two options: You can either engage with the platform or preserve an inactive account. 

Should You Join Threads? Should Your Startup?

Threads’ concept is great, and the platform looks amazing. However, it’s still very green. So, is it a good idea to start investing in it? Let’s compare some pros and cons.

Why you should join Threads

Consider joining Threads to:

  • Secure your username
  • Start experimenting with the platform early

Why you shouldn’t join Threads

It’s probably not the best moment to invest resources into your Threads presence. Consider that:

  • Your content may get lost in the noise - especially if you don’t have a large existing audience
  • The platform’s format’s not unique enough to help you deliver unique, platform-specific value

And, even more importantly: We don’t know if the platform’s going to stick around yet. And according to SimilarWeb, Threads’ active userbase has halved since its peak in early July.

A graph showing Threads engagement in the first few days.

Platforms Come and Go, Your Website Is Forever

In this post, we briefly analyzed Threads, Meta’s alternative to Twitter. Whether you decide to join Threads or not, something’s for certain: If you want a platform to invest most of your time on, which helps you grow your audience, and always works in your favor, look no further than your website.

At Postdigitalist, we help some of the world’s most innovative B2B startups to turn their website into a lead acquisition engine.

Curious? Book a demo today.

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