The OMR Threads dossier: Everything you need to know about Meta's rival to X
To mark the official launch of Threads in Europe, we're taking a closer look at the platform—how it works, current users, major brand accounts and its potential for marketing
Nearly six months after the global Threads launch, Meta is rolling out its Twitter competitor for Europe. To mark the European start, there is no shortage of interest in the new platfor—or questions in need of clearing up: How does Threads work? What potential does it have for marketers? Who are the first-movers and major players that have already established themselves on the fledgling platform? OMR's new dossier on Threads is here to offer some answers and guidance on these basic questions.
"A New Way to Share with Text." That was the slogan under which Meta announced the launch of Threads in early July 2023. According to the Washington Post (€), the decision to create the platform was made just seven months earlier in a phone call between Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg and Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri. Zuckerberg had sensed weakness in Twitter following the takeover by Elon Musk and wanted to act. Shortly after the call, a small team began working on the project, which Reuters first reported on in March.
EU lawmakers put Threads on ice
When Threads was released to the world in July, users in Europe were left out in the cold unable to access Threads. Meta closed technical loopholes, which had prevented the launch in Europe, after a short time. Why was Meta forced to lock European users out of Threads? "Outstanding regulatory issues," according to the company (article in German).
The core of the problem may have been the integration of Threads with Instagram: Threads requires users to register via an existing Instagram account. The linking of personal data between two different services, both of which are operated by a "gatekeeper" of Meta's magnitude, is prohibited under the European Union's Digital Markets Act, which was enacted in November 2022.
Access exclusively for IG users: An overview of the Threads sign up process (Graphic: Meta)
However, Meta is apparently in the process of loosening the links between threads and Instagram. For starters, users can use threads and access content on the platform without a user account, albeit without the ability to post or interact with content. More recently, Threads users have been able to delete their accounts without losing their Instagram account—a feature not available until last month.
How Threads works?
As of mid-December, Threads can also be used from Europe. If you are not entirely new to social media, there is hardly anything revolutionary about the UX. The core functions at a glance:
The Threads UX is reminiscent of a mix of Twitter and Instagram
- Profiles can be either private or public
- Threads (the platform parlance for posts on the platform) may contain...
- up to 500 characters of text
- up to ten images
- videos up to 5 minutes long
- Voice messages
- Threads can be embedded in Instagram stories
- No Hashtags, only "Topics"; users may only tag a single Topic for each Thread
- Interaction and engagement types
- "I like"
- Threads can be consumed via two Feeds:
- "For you": a mix of Threads from accounts that users follow and suggested Threads
- "Following": a chronological feed of Threads from all the accounts users follow
Threads designed with the "Fediverse" in mind
A special feature of Threads: The platform is to be the first from Meta to connect to the so-called "Fediverse," which according to Wikipedia is "an ensemble of social networks which can communicate with each other, while remaining independent platforms." By using the "ActivityPub" protocol, content published on Threads can also be viewed, accessed and engaged with via other platforms (such as Mastodon).
Meta announced as much when Threads was launched. According to Mark Zuckerberg, an initial test is now set to begin. However, this is apparently on a fairly small scale: The threads of a few Meta employee accounts will be accessible on Mastodon.
Threads shows stronger growth than ChatGPT—at first
Threads was extremely successful right from the start in July. This presumably was due in large part to the fact that as it is Instagram-based it could tap into a, for all intents and purposes, existing user base of 2 billion people. According to The Verge, 24 hours after its launch, Threads already had 30 million signups, 95 million posts and 190 million likes. Mark Zuckerberg went on record as saying that Threads is set to reach 100 million users after just five days—faster than ChatGPT did, the fastest-growing app up to that point.
It is hardly surprising that many brands and companies have set up their own accounts on Threads—especially as some of them previously left X due to Elon Musk's controversial statements. In addition, at least initially, Threads attracted a higher engagement rate (and therefore potentially a greater reach): According to a study by "Website Planet," brands are said to have collected significantly more likes and replies on Threads than on X—even though they often published the same content on both platforms.
Staying power or passing fad?
But initial euphoria quickly subsided. In the second week after the launch, the number of Daily Active Users (DAU) was reported to have fallen by 20 percent and session durations 50 percent, according to Sensor Tower. A week later, the number of DAUs then dropped by 70 percent to 13 million and the time spent on the site plummeted from 19 to four minutes, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. The New York Post then reported that several brand accounts had significantly reduced the frequency of their posts on the new platform.
The Threads app is currently being downloaded at a higher frequency than X (Graphic: Appfigures)
In recent weeks, Threads has seen growth return—apparently fueled in part by paid ads that promote the app online, as app statistics service Appfigures told Techcrunch. In addition, Meta is apparently promoting Threads more strongly within Instagram in order to boost usage (link in German).
141 million registered users
According to Appfigures, Threads has recently been able to pull away from X in terms of download figures. According to estimates by Quiver Quant, Threads currently has 141 million registered users. By opening up to around half a billion European users, the platform is likely to receive a further growth spike.
Growth has somewhat stagnated in recent weeks (Graphic: Quiver Quant)
Companies that are active on Threads also have a vested interest in this coming to fruition. The brands with the highest reach include many that have also built up high subscriber numbers on Instagram—above all Instagram itself. Netflix made it into the top 50 with three accounts.
The largest brand accounts on Threads
Brands that want to make it into the "For You" feed of threads probably have the best chance of doing so with posts that also work well on X, are humorous and entertaining and piggyback on current memes and pop culture phenomena. One example of this is the account of the US fast food chain Wendy's, which likes to poke fun at its competitors. Despite "only" 314,000 followers, the company has managed to generate responses in the high four-digit range and likes in the five-digit range with individual threads.
By taking jabs at the competition, US fast-food chain Wendy's had a Thread go viral notching several thousand likes.
How often Threads users will actually return to the Threads app in the future after installing it and how much the reach built up by brands there will be worth in the long term will only become clear in the coming months. Until then, companies can benefit from the current attention peak on Threads, at least in the short term.