“The night that Threads launched was an exciting time for social media managers…It was like the first day of school, when you’re trying to find your friends and decide where you’re going to sit at lunch.”
Like many other community managers, Drew Balis sat at the ready when Threads dropped on July 5. In fact, Balis authored Wix’s first-ever thread, joining the 30 millions of others who signed up for the app in the first 24 hours—and the 150 million downloads amassed in the first week (already achieving one-fifth of X's [formerly Twitter] weekly active user base, according to TechCrunch).
Its entrance into the world was unlike any app before it, and though the buzz has cooled since its launch, Threads marks a significant event in social media history. But what, exactly, is Threads? Why does the world still seem to be pinning their hopes on Threads as a potential replacement for the bird app?
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What is Threads?
Threads is Instagram’s new sibling. It’s a new social networking app developed by the Instagram team that mimics some of X's finest qualities—but, albeit, is much simpler in its current form. Much like X, Threads promotes sharing short text-based posts to participate in public discourse.
“We are working toward making Threads compatible with the open, interoperable social networks that we believe can shape the future of the internet,” writes Meta, alluding to Threads’ unique connection with Instagram. Threads’ integration with Instagram may seem like a minor detail, or simply a logical move for two apps invented by the same parent company. In reality, this signifies a revolutionary shift in how social platforms are designed from the jump.
The ‘dopamine’ effect
Threads’ explosive debut was hardly an accident. For one, it was well-timed, says Balis. It entered at a time when people have become disillusioned with X.
“I got the impression that when [X] ran into issues with bad press, Threads said, ‘Okay now is the time’ and jumped on the excitement, instead of waiting for a perfect product,” muses Balis.
At such a volatile time for X users, Threads not only presented a more positive, controversy-free environment—but also provided a very easy way to get started. It opened the door, as Harvard Business Review reports, for unified social media identities.
“Today’s top social media applications such as [X], Facebook, and LinkedIn are designed as ‘walled gardens’—self-contained ecosystems that lock users’ data inside the platform, and tightly control access,” notes HBR. “All of this helps social media platforms entrench their market dominance. Because it’s a pain to move to a competitor, users stick around even when their experience degrades.“
By contrast, signing up for Threads is as simple as a click of a button for Instagram users. Instagram followers are instantly added as Threads followers, giving early adopters a solid follower base to start out with.
“It gave people a way to reconnect with old Instagram friends. In the initial hours of using Threads, it was a pleasant surprise to see names that I hadn't engaged with in years. I experienced that 'dopamine effect' that most of us have come to expect with social media.” - Drew Balis, social media manager at Wix
Moreover, Threads’ association with Instagram had the power to dispel the usual doubts around safety when a new app is launched.
"Being associated with Meta is a big reason that I've taken Threads seriously," shares Balis, whose typical day entails managing Wix’s X account. "When a company like Meta shows enthusiasm for a project, they tend to put their best foot forward and give it a real shot."
While Threads' daily usage has dropped since its launch and questions about Threads’ user retention is circulating the web, Threads arguably remains a strong contender given its tie-in with Instagram, plus the rate at which it's being developed. Just two weeks after its launch, Instagram announced several highly requested features, including a "Following" tab and translations. Many suspect that once Threads adds more sought-after functionality, it stands to regain traction, especially amongst X users who feel alienated from the X platform.
How do you sign up for Threads?
If you’re also thinking of adding Threads to your marketing strategy, here’s a quick overview of how to get started. As noted earlier, getting started is simple, requiring just a few steps:
Create an Instagram business account if you don’t have one already.
Download the Threads app, which is available for Android and iOS.
Open the Threads app and log in using your Instagram credentials. (If you have multiple Instagram accounts, you can switch between them and choose which one to use for Threads.)
Once logged in, you can create your profile, which includes the standard social media account elements (profile photo, bio, links, etc.). You can import your exact bio and associated elements from Instagram or customize your profile for Threads. Note: you can’t change your username in Threads.
Set your profile to public or private. Anyone on Threads can see public accounts, but private accounts are only viewable to approved followers.
(Optional) Select your followers. You can select all of your followers from Instagram, or handpick a few. If you choose to follow any Instagram followers who aren’t yet on Threads, their status will appear as "pending" until they've joined.
Can you delete your Threads account?
It’s important to note that if you delete your Threads account, you will be required to delete your linked Instagram account, too. That said, you can always deactivate your Threads account without disturbing your Instagram activity.
Alternatively, if you have second thoughts about Threads, you can make your Threads account private. Hopefully Meta will sever the dependency between the two apps at some point, the way they do with Facebook and Instagram, but we’re not there yet.
Threads vs. X (formerly Twitter): how the two stack up
The source of hot debate right now: Is Threads truly an alternative to X? It’s too soon to say, says Balis. Threads still has a ways to go before it can unseat X—and X itself is still reeling from an advertiser exodus and other, put lightly, changes.
However, billionaire mismanagement aside, both platforms have their merits. Here are some of the biggest differences and similarities to date:
Core functionality: Both X and Threads allow users to share short updates that include text, images and video. They're like an online town square where you can post your thoughts and interact with others through reposts or likes.
Timeline/feeds: X offers several different ways to track new content (e.g.,the algorithmic "For You" and the chronological "Following” feed). And as of July, Threads offers both an algorithmic feed (that, anecdotally, liberally shows branded content) and a "Following" feed.
Character limits: X allows non-premium users to write tweets that are up to 280 characters long (meanwhile, X Blue users with paid subscriptions can post up to 25,000 characters). Threads gives all users up to 500 characters for each post.
Video limits: On X, non-premium users can post videos up to two minutes and 20 seconds long, while X Blue subscribers can post videos up to two hours long. Threads allows all users to post videos up to five minutes long.
Desktop and mobile versions: X offers both desktop and mobile interfaces—a useful perk for social media managers—while Threads only offers a mobile experience.
Searchability: X has a robust search feature that allows you to search tweets for specific words, phrases or hashtags. You can filter search results by various criteria like date range or language. Currently, Threads has no search function, which means that it doesn't support hashtags.
Account creation: X offers a standard account creation process, whereas Threads offers a more instant experience, provided that you already have an Instagram account.
Account deactivation and deletion: You can deactivate your account at any time on either platform. However, should you decide to delete your Threads account, you'll also have to delete your Instagram account. With X, you can deactivate your account, and it will be permanently deleted after 30 days if you don't reactivate it by logging in.
Community: X's greatest strength is arguably its mature community, with active engagement around pop culture events (like the Grammys), news and interests (like SEO). By nature of being a new platform, Threads has yet to develop that level of community.
So, is Threads worth your time?
Despite its infancy, Threads is not something to be ignored. If you’ve already got an Instagram marketing strategy, then Threads could be a welcome addition.
“I wouldn't recommend neglecting one platform for another,” says Balis to businesses that have an existing X account. "But if you're a young company without an established [X] account, then I'd argue it's more beneficial to focus on Threads. Strive to make an impact and establish yourself as a leader there, rather than trying to build from zero to 500 on [X] where it’s noisy."
Balis additionally recommends factoring in your audience: If you're a B2B company whose appeal is discussing hot-button issues and engaging in those conversations, X might be a better fit because of its mature community and search capabilities.
On the other hand, if you're a B2C company aiming to reach end customers with a physical product, Balis suggests leaning towards Threads. In these early days, it’s easier to stand out on Threads—with brands even attesting to receiving eight times more likes on Threads than they would on X.
And, if this is the direction you choose to go, you can (and should) start simple. Repurpose your top-performing content from other platforms rather than creating Threads content from scratch. Combine your standout text posts and one-liners from X with your most engaging photos from Instagram.
“Test, learn and have fun,” encourages Balis. “I think the best way to learn any social platform is to simply use it. Think of it like learning chess in your spare time. You can read about strategies all you want, but you won't truly understand them until you try them out in a game.”
Examples of early Threads adopters
It’s no surprise that celebrities and brands like Wendy's are already making their presence known on Threads. For inspiration, here are a few of our favorite Threads so far.
Wendy's response to an ego battle between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg involving their presence on Threads received over 23,000 likes and 900 replies within three days of posting. True to its reputation, Wendy’s fills its feed with witty, humorous posts.
American retailer Anthropologie used a popular social media marketing strategy to gain new Threads followers and engagement—a giveaway. They promised to give out gift cards to users with the best Threads-inspired puns, which yielded some delightful banter.
One of Balis’ personal favorites—the legendary quarterback posted a video of his mic-drop chant “We’re still here” to celebrate Threads’ three-day anniversary. The post seems to express what many of us are wondering in the back of our minds: Will Threads come out victorious? Or, will the hype fade in the likes of BeReal and Google+?
What’s next for Threads?
By any measure of digital achievement, Threads is impressive. (Consider that the 100 million sign-ups Threads received in just five days took X two years to reach.)
In Balis’ eyes, Threads has the potential to last. One month in, it’s not so much a matter of if Threads will replace X, but how the two will coexist.
“It doesn’t have to be—and likely won’t be—a knockout fight. They can both be prominent players. But many people will likely gravitate towards Threads to escape things that they don’t like about [X]. Threads just needs to be ready and invest its time into building a community that rivals that of [X]'s.”