For over a decade, Twitter has served as a global 280-character stage for countless conversations in all realms of life, including brand marketing. However, the social media app has seen a drastic downturn since tech billionaire Elon Musk acquired it in 2022. Now renamed “X”, Twitter has lost a significant amount of traffic, ad sales, and value in the past months. In March 2023, it had a 7.3% year-over-year decline in worldwide traffic. In July 2023, Musk revealed Twitter’s ad revenue was down 50%.
It was precisely in July, in the midst of chaos, that Meta’s Threads made its entrance. Threads is a text-based social media platform created by a team at Instagram where members can share comments and engage in conversation–a clear competitor of Twitter/X. Within 24 hours after its launch, Threads already had 30 million users, making it the fastest-growing platform in history. Musk even threatened legal action against Meta after Thread’s successful launch.
With so much information out there, you must be wondering: Why did Threads grow so quickly? Will its success last? Will Threads replace Twitter? What’s on the horizon for the two platforms? Let’s dive a little deeper into the Threads vs. Twitter digital battle.
Threads’ Early Success
Meta officially launched Threads on July 5, 2023, but Instagram had previously launched the original version of the app in October 2019. However, this version was completely different from the Threads we know now. If you hadn’t heard of this previous version before, that’s probably because it stayed pretty much under the radar. It had a minimal user base that never managed to grow. In fact, they discontinued it entirely in October 2021.
Everyone continued with their lives for another year until Elon Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion in October 2022, and that’s when chaos ensued. From thousands of layoffs to controversial feature changes within the app, Musk’s decisions have resulted in a significant user exodus.
By November 2022, Meta was already discussing an alternative to Instagram Notes that could potentially be a Twitter rival–and they quickly got down to work. They launched Threads on July 5, 2023; it had 30 million users within 24 hours and 49 million within 48 hours, and by August 2023, its user base was up to 150 million.
The Fall of Twitter (and Threads, Apparently)
Based on all of this, you would think Threads was bound to take over Twitter completely, but that’s not exactly what has happened since. From July to August, active Threads users actually declined by 80%. According to Android, the average daily minutes of use peaked right after they launched to be around 20 minutes per user, but then dropped to about 5 minutes per user in only two weeks.
It seems users hopped on to see what this shiny new toy was about and quickly felt it just wasn’t unique enough. Ultimately, Threads didn’t have a strong enough differentiator that set it apart from other platforms. There were also several privacy concerns about all of the different data that Threads was collecting from users. In fact, the European Commission hasn’t approved Threads’ launch in the European Union due to these privacy issues.
What’s interesting is that Twitter/X is still declining as well. According to a tweet from Elon Musk himself, its ad revenue is down 50%. Traffic has also declined steadily since January 2023, and the tweet volume from the most active users has decreased by 25%. Moreover, 60% of U.S. adult users say they’ve taken a break from the platform since the Musk acquisition.
So, if people are running both from Twitter and Threads, where are they going? Well, on one hand, Instagram’s average usage has increased from 12 hours a month in 2022 to 14.5 hours a month in 2023. There was also an increase in traffic reported from Massadon and Blue Sky Social, two much lesser-known Twitter alternatives. In the end, what we’re seeing is people are simply spending time on other platforms they already like, and they might just be giving up on the idea of Twitter entirely.
Will Threads Replace Twitter?
This is very largely dependent on what Musk does next. He has mentioned that “X is going to be the future state of unlimited interactivity centered in audio, video messaging, payments, and creating a global marketplace for ideas, goods, services, and opportunities.”
As of today, these are some pros and cons of using Threads instead of Twitter:
The Pros of Threads
- One of Threads’ biggest strengths is its tie to Instagram. This makes it very easy and fast to set up an account, because users can migrate their Instagram accounts over to Threads.
- Threads allows users to organize related ideas into a single, structured conversation, making it easier for others to follow along and engage with the content.
- It offers a more focused space for discussions, allowing users to dive deeper into specific topics without as much noise as Twitter.
The Cons of Threads
- The platform doesn’t have a direct messaging option, so users can’t send a thread to their friends. This takes away the whole “social” aspect of a social platform.
- Users can’t search for a topic–if you go to the search bar in the Threads app right now, you can only search for other people. This is especially problematic because younger generations are turning to platforms like TikTok and Instagram for search purposes instead of Google.
- Threads lacks efficient reporting and scheduling options. If you want to post something, you have to do it manually and eyeball the engagement to see how it’s doing.
Potentially, Threads could lean into the strength of being tied to Instagram even more. However, right now its advantages aren’t solid enough to make users want to spend significant amounts of time in the app. And although Twitter’s traffic since Threads launched has continued to decline, it doesn’t seem like all those users are running to Threads, either. Long story short, it’s too early to tell if Threads will fully replace Twitter.
Should Brands Be Using Threads?
To prepare for future monetization methods that will likely be available on the Threads app (traditional in-feed advertising, banner ads, and monetization opportunities for creators), we recommend brands have an established profile and presence on Threads with regular posts and varying content types.
We recommend having a complete profile (this will be very easy if you already have an established Instagram account) and posting 3 to 4 of your top posts from other platforms on Threads.
If your brand has benefitted from an intensive Twitter strategy in the past, it could also potentially benefit from Threads. So if you’re already creating posts for Twitter, it’s worth copying them over to Threads. You should experiment with different content types and watch your engagement to see what content is working better.
Ultimately, the future of Threads is uncertain, but it may depend on where X is headed. The best thing we can do right now is adapt and be open to change.