Brandon Doerrer
Aug 20, 2023

The honeymoon phase is over for Threads — here are the features that could bring brands back

As user count has declined, so has brand interest.

Getty Images
Getty Images

A bit over one month after its launch, the dust has settled around Threads, and after a burst of initial hype, brands are no longer flocking to the new platform.

Meta’s X (formerly known as Twitter) lookalike continues to bleed daily active users (DAUs), and despite CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s efforts to regularly roll out updates, the social media platform hasn’t been able to staunch the flow.

In the U.S., Threads peaked at 576,000 Android DAUs on August 7, down 79% from its best day on July 7, when it saw 2.3 million DAUs, according to Similarweb

“If that user base is dropping, that definitely is a signal to focus in on places where we’re seeing stronger engagement, not just in numbers but in sentiment and communities,” said Holly Stair, group director of social strategy at Giant Spoon.

Stair added that clients who expressed interest in Threads initially looked for synergy between their X and Instagram strategies, but most haven’t included Threads in any briefs or listed any deliverables for the platform. The decline in DAUs has only solidified their decision to keep attention on video platforms such as TikTok, she said.

In mid-July, Wendy’s, one of the larger brands on Threads with 279,000 followers, told Campaign US that it was keeping an eye on metrics such as its follower count, which it doesn’t closely track on other platforms. The brand had 268,000 Threads followers as of July 20, meaning that it’s gained just a little over 10,000 in almost four weeks. 

And Wendy’s isn’t posting on the platform as frequently, with its past two posts more than two weeks apart.

Inactivity causes lower engagement, in turn encouraging more inactivity.

On August 8, WebsitePlanet released data from a study tracking 30 brands making identical posts on Threads and X or making different posts simultaneously on both platforms. Looking at those posts for brands such as McDonald’s, Netflix and Oreo, the analysis found that all 30 collectively got almost 30,000 fewer likes and 16,000 fewer replies in August compared to July.

It also identified 24 brands that made the same post on Threads and X, finding that only seven 24 got more likes on Threads in August than in July. They also collectively got 45,000 likes on X compared to 13,000 on Threads this month, compared to 26,000 likes on X and 41,000 on Threads last month.

Brands and their agency partners still see potential in Threads as a safer alternative to X, where brands can quickly participate in trends. Stair is optimistic that Threads’ user base will climb once the right features are implemented.

Meta has been rolling out feature updates for Threads. Last week, Zuckerberg posted that Threads would allow users to directly share posts in Instagram direct messages, more easily mention accounts in posts and create alt-text for photos and videos. 

While Stair called the ability to share content between Threads and Instagram “huge,” there are still key features brands and consumers want, such as hashtags and “fediverse” integration — features they’ve wanted for weeks

“Hashtags are a utility item in a campaign that connects the different pieces, whether that’s your official content or your community talking about it,” said Lee Benecke, digital strategy director at Manifest. “When someone searches for a campaign, they’ll see it all in one place. If this were a Threads only world, you’d have to be following the brand.”

He added that a lack of hashtags is just as frustrating for consumers as it is for brands.

“The ability to recognize something’s happening in the world, quickly go to Twitter, and then click on a hashtag and see the reaction or commentary — these are all the reasons why people keep going back to Twitter,” he said. 

Brands are also awaiting Threads to implement ActivityPub, a decentralized social networking protocol, to connect to servers on other decentralized platforms such as Mastodon.

“I do wonder whether there’s something quite interesting to explore in terms of the growth of the platform by migrating communities into Threads,” said Harvey Cossell, chief strategy officer at We Are Social.

Connecting with other servers would be another step towards grouping users by interests and communities for advertisers to target, as Mastodon breaks up its servers by topics.

Brands are also still waiting to see what the platform’s ad model looks like.

“We’re very keen to understand what the future of that looks like and I think that will unlock a lot of potential for the app,” said Giant Spoon’s Stair.

Campaign US

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