Has Threads Replaced Twitter? The Rise and Stagnation of Threads

Has Threads Replaced Twitter?

Meta’s Threads is still trying to gain traction as a viable social media channel, while X (formerly Twitter) continues to pose difficult questions for users and advertisers. 

**Updated November 20, 2023**

The launch of Meta’s Threads app in July 2023 arrived with much fanfare, as the new social media channel quickly amassed 44 million daily active users. This initial engagement proved short-lived, however, with the daily active user base dwindling to just 8 million by August.

Meta claimed recently that Threads had 100 million monthly users—a notable figure considering the app is not yet available in Europe. But the daily active user count is a more salient number to measure its success.

Additionally, Threads’ users spend an average of three minutes daily on the platform, which is relatively low compared to the time spent on other social media channels.

Meta clearly wants Threads to succeed, as evidenced by the notifications that appear in Instagram and Facebook encouraging users to switch over to Threads:

Instagram promoting Threads

In July, my advice was to delegate a social media team member to dive into Threads, keep tabs on the platform’s evolution, and watch competitors closely. The platform was new and, as with anything in its infancy, subject to rapid change.

But what about now, four months later?

What’s New with Threads?

In my view, Threads is still a pale imitation of what Twitter once was:

  • The search functionality is still basic.
  • It also lacks hashtags, and a discovery page, making it a challenge to track or follow trending topics.
  • The app still lacks Direct Messaging capabilities, a key feature of most other social channels.
  • New features such as polls and GIFs have been introduced.
  • Users can’t track engagement rate, impressions, or watch times—only simple metrics such as post likes, replies and comments, which limits the analytics capabilities.
  • Meta launched a desktop version in August, but their total users didn’t change (and my experience with the desktop version is that it is a lesser product than the app, especially when it comes to search)
  • Meta announced just this week that users will be able to delete their Threads accounts without losing their Instagram profiles.

Even if Threads adopts the features that make other social media channels popular and engaging, it appears Meta doesn’t have much appetite for making it a home for covering and talking about news the way Twitter was. Adam Mosseri, Meta’s lead for Threads, has taken a stance on news content by saying Threads is not “anti-news” but it “won’t actively amplify news.”

So, if Threads isn’t trying to become the new public town square (as Elon Musk has called Twitter), what’s the point of being on the channel, either as an individual or as a business? Threads hasn’t adequately answered this question yet.

What About X (The App Formerly Known as Twitter)?

X, especially in the wake of Musk’s takeover of the channel, continues to suffer self-inflicted wound after self-inflicted wound.

Misinformation, especially surrounding the conflict between Israel and Hamas, has run riot on X in recent months. A BBC journalist, who covers disinformation, asserted: “The volume of misinformation on Twitter [X] was beyond anything I’ve ever seen.” And the Verge recently reported that the biggest super-spreaders of misinformation are X users who have paid for blue checks. That’s because, in addition to the appearance of credibility from a blue check, those users’ posts are algorithmically boosted by X. The users also can profit from higher engagement, which offers a perverse incentive for them to post enraging content, which often drives interaction.

Daily X users are down about 16%, per the Wall Street Journal. And, according to Bloomberg, “many of X’s top advertisers, such as Mondelez International, Coca-Cola, IBM and HBO, are spending less than they were before Musk took over, largely because of policies he’s implemented that have made the service more chaotic and unpredictable. Collectively, X’s top five advertisers are spending 67% less on ads than they did before the acquisition.” Even more major advertisers—including IBM, Apple, and Paramount Global—stopped spending on X in the last week, after more controversial posts from Musk. 

All this has led to a drop in the app’s value in the last year. The company for which Musk paid $44B is now worth $19B.

Alternatives like Mastodon and BlueSky have emerged, offering different takes on the social media model. Mastodon is an open-source, microblogging platform that is made up of a network of servers. Its decentralized nature leads to fragmentation, making it difficult to build virtual communities or followers. BlueSky, like Mastodon, is a decentralized and open-source social media channel. These platforms have not yet achieved significant traction, however, limited by the more mainstream appeal of X and Threads and their own peculiarities.

What Are Brands and High-Profile Users Doing?

Some reporters are actively trying to rebuild their followings on Threads (and, with far less success, on Mastodon and BlueSky), including big names like CNN’s Jake Tapper. But Tapper, for one, is posting on both—and he still has many times more followers on X (3.1M) than Threads (210,000). He seems to be hedging his bets.

And many businesses are following the same playbook: simply posting similar—or sometimes identical—content on Threads and X at the same time. Samsung Mobile, for example, posts more often on X, but publishes a subset of their content on Threads. Honda, by contrast, appears to be moving in the opposite direction: posting more on Threads than on X

In sum, there appears not to be a clear winner in the Threads vs. X cage match.

What About LinkedIn? Yes, LinkedIn…

Amidst all this online churn, LinkedIn has been quietly growing, now boasting a community of 1 billion members, suggesting that while some social media channels make a lot of noise, other, more staid ones continue to grow.

In fact, a recent article in Slate argues that businesses and professionals should look to LinkedIn as a replacement for X/Twitter: “LinkedIn was once a mess of self-righteous business-speak, but its convergence with Twitter has made it the obvious replacement for the Musk-run app. We can pretend it’s too lame for our social media purposes or embrace the inevitable: All communication is professional and LinkedIn is all that we deserve.”

So, What Should You?

With the social media landscape in flux, it is vital for professionals to focus clearly on where their audiences are online.

  • PR professionals should determine whether the reporters they need to reach have transitioned away from X to newer spaces like Threads or even niche options like Mastodon or BlueSky.
  • Marketers should pinpoint where their potential and current clients are most active and consider if Threads offers a better channel to reach them. Or, as Slate argues, is LinkedIn the best place for online communication for your brand and your subject matter experts? And for B2C brands, give Pinterest another look. 

In sum, the keys for navigating the volatile social media landscape are awareness and flexibility. Be aware of the behavior of your audiences and remain nimble enough to pivot to where they are.

If you’d like Pierpont to help evaluate your social media strategy and offer guidance, contact us today.

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