The new Threads app, which was launched by Instagram in July as another competitor to Twitter, attracted masses of followers almost overnight.
As seen with the photo-sharing app BeReal, which had a short shelf life, it is easy to pique the interest of social media users, but extremely difficult to retain.
The BBC reports that Zuckerberg recently admitted that Threads, which gained almost 100 million users a few days after its launch, has already lost almost half again.
Although he describes this as “normal” for a new app, it must be taken into account that other smaller platforms such as Mastodon, Bluesky and Substack Notes have also emerged as potential competitors for Twitter in the past few years.
Even TikTok, the social media giant known for its addictive video content, announced this month that it will add an additional offering for text posts.
No competitor has so far been able to dethrone Twitter, which is called X these days, but experts believe that Meta’s Threads could potentially offer a strong alternative.
How do these two similar platforms’ features compare and how secure is Zuckerberg’s latest addition to his growing Meta family?
Threads maybe more fun than political?
According to social media expert Magriet Groenewald, Threads brings a fresh approach to social media networks by placing less emphasis on news and politics – something for which many users on Twitter have started to reach a saturation point.
Users can also easily activate Threads through their existing Instagram profiles and its user platform is similar to that of Twitter.
“Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta discovered that by sharing less politics and news, they could improve the user experience and increase revenue. Threads shifts the focus from intense debates and controversial news to things users enjoy, such as celebrities, influencers and personal contact, and also includes photos and chat options with friends and family.”
She believes Meta’s ultimate goal is to develop Threads into a platform that users can enjoy, without getting involved in arguments or being criticized for their opinions.
“So if Threads manages to effectively reduce negativity, users can look forward to an enriching and enjoyable online atmosphere. While news and politics take a back seat on this app, Threads offers a wide variety of content to enjoy, such as posts from favorite influencers, hilarious memes, jokes and light-hearted chats.”
Although Threads’ emphasis is currently different from Twitter’s, this does not mean that it will necessarily remain unchanged as more Twitter users migrate to this platform.
“Algorithms play a huge role in shaping our experience on social media, and Meta is aware of this. For example, Facebook has made a deliberate choice to put posts from friends and family before news, which has proven to keep users engaged and satisfied.
“In contrast, Twitter’s strength lies in its emphasis on politics and current affairs. Despite Meta’s efforts to refine the Threads algorithm, experts such as Alex Stamos, former chief security officer at Facebook, believe that as more Twitter users switch to Threads, it may eventually adopt a similar dynamic,” explains Groenewald.
How secure is Zuckerberg’s new platform?
Rianette Leibowitz, a cyber safety and digital parenting expert and founder of SaveTNet Cyber Safety, says it is important to stay informed of both the opportunities and dangers that new digital platforms offer.
“Since 2016, Meta has invested more than $16 billion (approximately R284 billion) in building the teams and technologies needed to protect users, and they remain focused on advancing industry-leading integrity efforts and investments to protect the online community. Meta also announced that they built Threads specifically with tools to enable positive, productive conversations.”
According to her, thanks to Threads’ association with Instagram, there are already some impressive steps that can be taken to protect yourself or your child against cybercrime or inappropriate content.
“It’s convenient that your Instagram profile links directly to your Threads profile, and therefore also the same shared connections or friends you have on both platforms. The age limit for Threads is 12 and children under 16 (or under 18 in certain countries) will automatically get a private profile when they join Threads,” she explains.
Like other platforms, Threads shows messages posted by people you follow, as well as content from new people or profiles you haven’t discovered yet, but according to algorithms may pique your interest.
With this, however, according to Leibowitz, there is the same risk that users may get exposure to people and content that they did not necessarily ask for.
“If we look at the bigger picture, then Meta obtains information from everyone who uses their platforms and in most cases one person uses them all: Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and now Threads. They collect a lot of data that is used for various purposes, and that’s something to keep in mind when looking at the type of content that the algorithms show you.”
Fortunately, like on Instagram, you can add hidden words to filter out responses to your posts that contain specific words, Leibowitz says.
“You can leave a profile on Threads (unfollow), block, restrict or report by tapping the three-dot link, and any accounts you’ve blocked on Instagram will automatically be blocked on Threads.”
She explains that consumers also have control over who they ‘call’ (mention) and who can reply to their posts in Threads.
Should businesses jump to creating Threads profiles?
According to Groenwald, Threads is going to revolutionize how businesses communicate with customers and incorporate humanity into their branding.
“Currently, you cannot place paid ads on Threads, but there is a strong possibility that this feature will be added in the near future, as already on Facebook and Instagram. Trust me, it’s definitely something to look forward to,” she notes.
Groenewald points out that Threads is still a young platform, but comes from an established social media family.
“Meta, the driving force behind this project and its predecessors, has already proven itself to be great at helping businesses achieve a positive return on advertising spend (return on ad spend) and attract new users.”
According to her, Threads is the next big opportunity for small businesses to attract new customers’ attention and keep them engaged. “Now is the time to jump in and experience first-hand the incredible benefits Threads can offer your business.”
Who will win the social media battle?
According to Groenewald, Threads and Twitter will most likely, just like political parties, have to learn to live with each other.
“Threads is not promising at this point to necessarily take us to new places, but rather to take us back to a happier virtual home as we’ve known it in the past.”
Still, according to her, Threads is “a breath of fresh air in the world of social media and a welcome alternative to Twitter”.
Leibowitz agrees, saying that Twitter may be a better platform for certain business conversations, while Threads may be more applicable for lifestyle content.
“A new era of diverse and interconnected networks is part of long-term conversations. It will be interesting to see how these types of platforms become directly integrated with other networks.”
As usual, she reminds consumers to stay in control of their digital habits and choose carefully what they spend their time on online.
“Our attention, time and money are used by the networks and platforms – be aware and choose carefully what is important. It is also important to help children to be responsible digital citizens by setting a good example of balance and control.”