The recent success of Threads, a new social network owned by Elon Musk’s Twitter, has raised eyebrows and sparked speculation about its potential clash with the established giant, Twitter. However, history has taught us that mere size and scale are not guarantees of success in the ever-fickle world of social media.
Back in 2011, Google launched its social network, Google+, with the ambition of challenging Facebook’s dominance. Leveraging its existing user base and products, Google+ quickly amassed over 90 million users within its first year. But by 2018, Google+ had become a forgotten relic as users continued flocking to Facebook, Instagram, and other social apps.
The lesson here is that big tech companies often rely on their scale as an advantage, but it’s not enough to win over the capricious social media market. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, faces a similar challenge as he aims to topple Twitter with Threads and establish it as the go-to app for real-time, public conversations.
Zuckerberg needs to replicate the serendipitous and unconventional ways in which Twitter connects people, ensuring that Threads becomes a platform where users can find friends and influencers. It’s crucial to prevent spam and fraudulent activities from infiltrating the app. Additionally, users must be patient as updates are rolled out and the app evolves.
In essence, Zuckerberg needs to make Threads compelling enough for users to keep coming back. Launching an app with limited features or gimmicks could backfire, leading to user churn and disappointment. Eric Seufert, an independent mobile analyst who closely monitors Meta’s apps, warns against such a strategy.
Threads seems to have experienced instant success, with 10 million sign-ups within hours of its introduction and 100 million users by the following Monday. This rapid growth is unparalleled, even surpassing the numbers achieved by ChatGPT, a chatbot that gained 100 million users within two months of release.
Elon Musk, the owner of Twitter, appears concerned about Threads’ momentum. With 100 million users, Threads is rapidly approaching Twitter’s last publicly disclosed user numbers. Twitter reported 237.8 million daily users in July 2022, four months before Musk took the company private.
Musk has taken action, threatening to sue Meta over Threads and engaging in a public spat with Zuckerberg on Twitter. Despite Musk’s efforts, Zuckerberg holds the advantage in terms of audience size. More than 3 billion users regularly visit Zuckerberg’s suite of apps, including Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger.
Zuckerberg has successfully nudged users from one app to another within his ecosystem before. In 2014, he forced users to download the Messenger app by removing Facebook’s private messaging service from the main app. Threads is now tightly integrated with Instagram, requiring users to have an Instagram account to sign up and allowing them to import their following list with a single tap.
However, some users have questioned why Threads lacks basic features found in Instagram, such as a search function for trending hashtags. It’s possible that this deliberate omission was meant to maintain brand safety and avoid controversy at the outset. Nonetheless, this raises concerns about the long-term appeal of the network.
Only time will tell if Threads can overcome the challenges it faces and establish itself as a viable competitor to Twitter. While Meta’s vast audience provides a solid foundation, capturing users’ interest and keeping them engaged is the real test. Whether Threads will crash or succeed hinges on its ability to deliver a compelling experience that keeps users coming back for more.