- Meta has launched a new Twitter alternative, Threads.
- At its core, Threads is a microblogging platform—like Twitter—but does a few things differently, some of which give it a slight edge over Twitter.
- However, Threads isn’t a Twitter killer as many suggest, at least not in its current state. It’s, at best, a competitor that can co-exist and compete with Twitter, that too, if it does the following things.
Twitter’s ownership change has got people divided over its future as a social media platform. While some feel positive about Musk’s ownership, owing to changes like making the algorithm open-source, others are skeptical due to some of the company’s decisions in the past few months.
Amidst this chaos, several new platforms have emerged online, touting as viable Twitter alternatives. The newest platform joining the list is Threads. Threads, for the uninitiated, is Meta’s take on Twitter, and it arrives at a time when Twitter is finding itself in a bit of turmoil.
As such, many people are beginning to call Threads a “Twitter killer.” Part of the reason for this has to do with the app (itself), which looks nice and has a lot of things going in its favor, and the ridiculous number of users it has amassed since its launch.
However, I believe Threads is far from being a Twitter killer. In my opinion, Threads, at best, is a Twitter alternative killer that will co-exist (and) compete with Twitter. But this, too, won’t be a walk in the park for Meta, and the company will have to make a host of changes to Threads to offer users incentives to switch over and, in turn, stand a chance of competing with Twitter.
Let’s take a look at some of the things Threads needs to do to take on Twitter.
Table of Contents
Better Recommendation Algorithm
Twitter uses a reverse chronological feed, which is undoubtedly the best way to catch up on the feed updates you missed while you were away from the platform. Recently, it has also introduced an algorithmic feed, For You. But the algorithm for it is open-source, and it mostly recommends content that has been interacted with by the people you follow.
On the contrary, Threads is using an algorithmic feed. It’s a closed-sourced algorithm, meaning there’s no way to tell what exactly is happening behind the scene. But from the looks of it, the algorithm seems to heavily favor posts from celebrities, influencers, and big brands, which explains why your feed is filled with these people.
In my time on the platform so far, I noticed that more than 70% of the content on my feed is from accounts and people I don’t follow, know, or have interacted with on the platform. Since the algorithm reserves a small percentage of recommendations to show content from people you follow, I’ve missed posts from a lot of the people I’ve been following since day one. This, in my opinion, defeats the purpose of following someone in the first place.
Clearly, Threads’ intention here seems to be to give an advantage to popular names on Instagram, and in some ways, it also makes business sense for the company. But at the risk of sounding contentious, I’d say most of the content I’ve seen from these big names circles around captioning photos and low-ball engagement questions.
In the long run, this isn’t good for a platform like Threads, given its ultimate objective of competing with Twitter. And going forward, Meta seriously needs to address this by tweaking its algorithm to suggest more relevant content. Else, people might soon start moving back to Twitter (or one of its alternatives) after the honeymoon period is over.
A good starting point to do this is to show more content from accounts users follow. Another thing Meta can consider doing to improve its feed is using metrics like comments and likes to recommend content, similar to Twitter. This would allow the company to show new content still, but this time content that people in their network are interacting with via means of likes, replies, or reshares.
A Following Tab
Although improving the recommendation algorithm would be the ideal solution to fixing the Threads feed, an alternative way that would work for both the company and its users is adding a Following tab.
A Following tab, for the unaware, is essentially a feed that shows posts only from the accounts and people you follow. Since Meta reintroduced the Following feed on Instagram soon after abandoning it post the backlash from its users, it seems likely that it will bring the tab to Threads as well.
If reports are to be believed, a Following tab is one of the features the company is currently working on and expected to introduce soon.
Aside from showing users more relevant content, one area where Threads can go all in and make Twitter rethink some of its recent decisions is the feature set.
An edit button is the first thing that comes to mind in this regard when talking about a microblogging platform. While its rival, Twitter, already introduced the much-asked-for Edit button last year, it comes at a cost (literally), as only Twitter Blue subscribers get to use the feature to edit their tweets.
Meta can take advantage of the fact that it’s paid and introduce an edit option in Threads for free. This gives people an incentive to consider switching to Threads. Plus, given you can write 500-character posts on the platform, it makes a lot of sense to include the edit functionality to ease off the pressure and help users post more frequently.
Hashtags are at the core of Twitter, and they make the whole experience a lot more engaging and useful for people. Users can take advantage of hashtags to increase their reach, and brands can utilize them to gain an identity online and promote themselves more effectively.
Considering Threads already has a large user base with a lot of brands and influencers, it absolutely needs hashtags. In fact, it’s essential for the platform to succeed and take on Twitter since doing so will allow users to explore topics they are interested in and join the latest conversations on the platform.
Meta already offers support for hashtags on Instagram, though they aren’t as effective as they used to be once. But considering Threads is a text-based platform aimed at offering a public conversation space, bringing hashtags to Threads is a very reasonable move, and I think its implementation is a matter of when and not if.
Of course, implementing hashtags is just half the effort, and Meta will need to ensure it keeps the feature relevant and useful to users as the platform matures. For, a change in the content prioritization measures down the line—like in the case of Instagram—would do no good for Threads and its users.
Related Read: 20 Best Twitter Alternatives
Just like hashtags, a full-fledged search is another meaningful feature missing on Meta’s Threads. While the platform does give you a search tab on its Android and iOS apps, it’s only useful for finding people; you can’t use it to search posts and conversations on the platform.
Meanwhile, Twitter has a really powerful search, with support for advanced search operators, that makes finding tweets and hashtags super easy. And if Meta manages to bring something similar to Threads, it can be a game changer—for you don’t want people to keep writing threads but not have a search feature capable enough to help users get to such threads.
As a platform meant to help users engage with the community and build their identity and brand, Threads needs an analytics tool. Analytics can help brands and influencers determine their current reach, the type of audience their content is catering to, and the amount of engagement their posts are getting on average, among other things, and then, based on that information, devise a strategy to maximize their reach and grow bigger on the platform.
Access to such data also means brands can use it to run more targeted campaigns and, in turn, yield better conversions. In fact, even average users can take advantage of basic analytics to see how their content performs on the platform and take inspiration to post content more frequently and grow more.
Twitter Analytics is a great example of analytics on a text-based social media platform, which is doing most things right and giving you insights, such as impressions, profile visits, mentions, and more, to help you achieve your goal with the platform.
Direct messages are useful in so many ways, and therefore you’ll find them on almost all social media platforms. However, Meta’s Threads is an exception to this. Clearly, there seems no valid justification for the company not to offer a feature as basic as DM on their platform.
Sure, users can use other platforms to share content they come across and find interesting on Threads. In fact, that’s what Instagram’s head suggests doing. But let’s be real, that’s a little too much effort, and for a lot of us, it may simply discourage us from sharing things in the first place.
Likewise, not having a way to reach out to someone privately means you have to resort to conversing in public, i.e., @ posting them. Again, this isn’t desirable in so many situations, and it’s only going to prevent people from getting in touch with others, which isn’t desirable for a social media platform.
A Web Version
For many people, writing long posts and threads on a smartphone screen isn’t very practical. And for a platform like Threads, which supports long-form posts, not having a web version is really surprising. Although Meta has created a website for Threads, it’s meant only to serve download links to apps on Android and iOS.
On the contrary, Twitter has a web version, which allows complete access to all Twitter features. It makes checking out the latest updates super easy since you’re now viewing content on a larger display, and it also makes it easy to create threads, schedule them, and reply to comments on your tweets.
By releasing a web version of Threads, Meta can make the experience more comfortable for users and eliminate the need for them to pick up their phones to write/reply to threads while sitting at their desks.
Threads’ Audience Can Prove Consequential for the Platform’s Future
Ask anyone who has used Threads from day one, and you’ll find many users complaining about the content on the platform. Sure, it has managed to get more than 100 million users in a matter of just a few days. But it’s important to note that a large contributing factor towards this number comes from Instagram, which is a media-oriented platform at its core. Hence, the content.
Meanwhile, Twitter users didn’t get such leeway, and therefore anyone who has managed to gain a large following on the platform today has done so through their content. Content that resonates with others or helps the community. For example, I follow a bunch of accounts on Twitter for their retro-tech content. These accounts have massive follower bases, and they continue to post quality content to draw in more users. We need something similar to happen on Threads as well. Of course, whether this happens or not is totally dependent on the platform’s user base.
In my opinion, by including the features discussed previously, Threads can give some incentives to Twitter users to move away from their existing platform onto something new. Of course, more community-focused features are welcome, and they will go on to make the platform more engaging and useful for the masses. But failing to do so—and having a user base from Instagram alone—won’t be enough for Threads to compete with Twitter.
Having said that, Threads privacy practices are a nightmare, which is another reason many people haven’t signed up for a Threads account yet. And considering Meta, it’s highly unlikely to see a change; it’s pretty much the same for Facebook, too, and we can see how that bodes with people’s ideas about the platform. All things considered, Threads has a pretty rough path to tread, and only time will tell how the platform lives on and ages.