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Will Threads ever take over from Twitter?

Stats tell a mixed story as to how well Threads is performing - although it has 23.6 million active users, engagement metrics plunged 50% in one week. It has a long way to go before it catches up with Twitter, which generated $4.4 billion revenue in 2022, although this is expected to drop considerably in 2023 due to a loss of advertising revenue. In such unstable times, it is far too early to declare either platform an invaluable tool for PR people in the long term, as the future is a mystery - especially with the unpredictable actions of Twitter ruler Elon Musk. Here PR pundits give their verdict on how well Threads is performing and its future prospects.

Threads needs to entice influencers

Joe Murgatroyd, partner and creative director at PR agency Brandnation: “As Elon Musk’s finger hovers over the Twitter self-destruct button, there’s never been a better time from Threads to capitalise on the ensuing chaos and steal a march on its rivals.

“Early sign-up numbers have been encouraging, but this only tells half the story. The trick is keeping users there and keeping them active. Threads can’t just rely on Twitter being its own worst enemy - it needs to find a way of enticing celebrities, influencers and key opinion leaders to the platform which will be a catalyst for others to follow.

“It’s too early to call for an either/or - neither platform is going away anytime soon. For PRs, lessons can be learnt from previous social channel launches - adopting early as a brand can set you up for success in the long-term. So, experiment with Threads, and don’t go cancelling Twitter, or X, just yet.”

Threads has Instagram, but Twitter has Europe

Jennifer Wright, head of group marketing at comms, marketing and PR agency BlueSky PR/BlueSky Education: “Personally, I’m enjoying the chaos over on Threads right now. No one yet knows what works and how they should be using it, so it feels fresh and fun. But for PR, and international PR in particular, not being accessible in Europe puts Threads at a distinct disadvantage right now. There’s also the matter of where the journalists are - and for the most part that’s still Twitter (or X) - with those that are leaving pointing us to find them on Facebook, LinkedIn or one of the many recent Twitter competitors like Mastodon, Bluesky or T2. Threads doesn’t want to be the place for cutting-edge news and politics that Twitter is, which means it is too soon to tell whether it will become one against its will. The advantage it does have though, over all the other ‘Twitter killers’, is the ease and familiarity it garners from its connection to Instagram.”

Threads needs to evolve quickly

Tinni Guha Roy, director, head of digital and social at comms agency Lexington: “Threads’ best asset is also its Achilles heel - it is linked to Instagram. Whilst for some it is great that you can automatically follow everyone from your Instagram feed and your handle is already secured, most people tend to use the various social platforms differently. Social strategists have spent YEARS telling clients that different platforms have different audiences and never has that been more true than for Twitter vs Instagram. While I’m sure all the bells and whistles are coming on Threads imminently, the biggest issue is how Meta makes it easy for people to import their Twitter community without having to manually find everyone all over again. It’s like changing venues when you’re on a night out - you’ll always lose the crowd if you’re not quick and easy. If they can’t do that, I just don’t see people building their communities again in a separate place.“

People miss ‘Old Twitter’

Neil Kleiner, managing partner at comms agency MSL: “Threads is so exciting because it transposes your existing Instagram connections, so your connections are already there. It’s a genius move that we think will make Threads swim where other new platforms have sunk. But beyond that, Threads will do well because I think a lot of people miss “old Twitter”. Old-school Twitter was mostly about the power of written words. Comedy thrived. News thrived. And brands, as we know, can say a lot with brilliant copywriting. Twitter was the most Darwinian of all social platforms - it was the survival of the funniest, most interesting, and most relevant - and in many ways, I welcome that back.”

Threads offers a great opportunity, but be quick!

Rick Hollister, account director at agency PR Agency One: “There can be huge benefits to being an early adopter of a new social media platform, and Threads is no different. Being amongst the first to sign up allows people and brands to carve out an online presence and establish a unique identity before the platform becomes saturated with users. Organisations and people can create a cult following, become influencers or respected voices within their chosen niches before the platform’s algorithm is altered, and organic reach is inevitably cut. There are countless examples of people, clothing brands and musicians making it big by being among the first to understand social networks and platforms, Gymshark, Joe Wicks, Post Malone, Khalid, Lily Allen and Steven Bartlett to name a few.”

Threads is not fit for purpose for PRs

Tom Chivers, freelance digital PR: “If Threads is ever going to take off as “the new Twitter” for PRs, it needs to hurry up and release a hashtag function before it loses all momentum.

“Like many PRs, I downloaded Threads the day it was released, took one look around and realised it wasn’t fit for purpose when it comes to doing our jobs. Though, thanks to Elon Musk now rebranding Twitter as X, there is a strong appetite for the app to get it right as many are chomping at the bit to leave Twitter/X/whatever.

“Without #journorequests, Threads will never match the same usefulness of Twitter in its heyday and that's without mentioning the lack of basic functionality like web browsers and a dashboard akin to Tweetdeck - another great idea Elon Musk has totalled.

“Threads has a long way to go, but I suspect plenty are hoping it eventually gets it right.”

Twitter can’t be beaten for social listening

Bryan Armit, senior social media manager at integrated marketing agency tigerbond: “Threads shows potential and Musk is making it easier for the platform to succeed by implementing many impulsive, hard-to-understand changes over at X (Twitter?).

“However, Threads isn’t quite as useful as Twitter for PR because it’s missing one major feature - content search. Currently users can only search for other users and can’t search for content using terms or keywords. In an industry where we’re constantly looking for stories, experts and opinions, the ability to search keywords and terms in content is crucial. Because of that, we are still finding Twitter to be more useful than Threads.

“Over the past 10 years Twitter has proven itself to be the most valuable of all social platforms when it comes to social listening. Its loose API limitations and of-the-moment culture make it the ideal place to gauge public opinion and find the content that is most valuable to us, our clients and press.”

You never know, Threads may still take off…

Jessica Pardoe, account manager at agency Source PR said: “I think at this stage the best thing to do is protect your brand’s handle and just keep a keen eye on new platforms such as Threads. Engagement is down by 70 per cent already compared to the beginning of July, as many people will flock to a new platform but quickly cease to find place for it in their daily social media routines. That being said, however, people thought the same about Reels, and now it’s arguably an even better platform for brands than its main competitor TikTok. Right now, I don’t see Threads taking off in the same way, as Instagram has always been a visual platform, but with that being said we might have nowhere else to go if Twitter goes into a demise. So… Keep an eye on it PRs!”

Threads could displace Twitter

Darryl Sparey, co-founder and managing director at marketing and comms agency Hard Numbers: "After the initial rush of excitement for a new platform and the dopamine hit of watching my follower count increase quickly, things have settled down rather a lot on Threads. So far, it doesn’t have quite enough engagement, from quite enough people, to make the newsfeed a destination for users to spend as much time as Twitter. Trending topics and hashtags are missing from the platform, which are key for discovery. For brands, the lack of paid options and analytics really prevent this being used for anything other than organic social. However, if there is one platform that has a chance to displace Twitter, it’s Threads. The ease of on-boarding new users, the 3bn user-base it can easily tap into, the 52,000+ data points Meta platforms capture about you, and the 90+ targeting options it can offer mean that this can be an incredibly successful platform in the future, once it adds more functionality Twitter users expect."

All platforms have their failings

Michael Phillips, communications director at agency Havas Media Network UK:“Over the years Twitter’s been a go-to tool to help PRs hop onto journalists’ #journorequests, understand what they’re writing about, learn about what makes them tick, build connection and rapport, keep up with the news, and more. Some PR professionals might’ve got to know journalists more by following them on Twitter than from time in person. No other platform bridges the personal and professional so well and as seamlessly as Twitter, which is especially important in B2B.

“TikTok (despite its text-based launch) profiles the person but not the journalist. LinkedIn profiles the journalist, but not the person (especially as new algorithms will suppress personal posts). The same principle can be made for PR professionals and their clients. If Threads fails to build and retain a similar loyal and active following and with X seemingly marking the spot into which its forebear will disappear, there doesn’t appear to be an alternative out there. Journalists, PRs and their clients alike might have to meet up F2F again. No bad thing, you get to know people better that way anyway.”

Like me, you are probably using both Twitter and Threads right now, as well as many other social media platforms. All, as Michael Phillips says above, have their pros and cons. So hands up who wants to start a brand-new perfect platform for PRs?!

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