Every social media marketer woke up on Wednesday, July 5th, with the same thought: should I stay or should I go?
This is a classic case of the false dilemma fallacy. You don't have to leave Twitter and you don't have to create a new Threads strategy – just yet.
D'Amore-McKim Associate Professor of Marketing Bruce Clark imparts his knowledge on how marketers can move forward and the risk and rewards of choosing certain paths.
Thinking with theory
But let's start at the beginning, why do consumers switch from their tried and true products and services? Consumers switch products or services when the perceived value of switching is greater than the perceived value of staying. In this situation, Twitter's perceived value has been going down. However, the move to switch is not made in isolation. Retention and defection are both social. If the accounts we mainly follow and or interact with stay on the platform and don't move to another, chances are we won't make the move. If the majority of our community decides to make a switch, so will we.
Threads move: launch now adapt later
Meta supposedly had plans to launch Threads later on this month but decided to roll out the platform after the big holiday weekend. This was likely an opportunistic decision made by Meta to capitalize on the heavy critiques following Twitter's new decision to put a ceiling on the amount of tweets its users could view a day. The move to cap viewable content to 600 tweets per day left Twitter users feeling confused, frustrated, and controlled. To make matters worse, this decision follows on the heels of the new verification program that many users have also criticized.
Instagram has given Threads an immense benefit compared to previous Twitter alternatives: the ability for users to easily transfer their following from Instagram to the platform. A major reason why users don't want to add another social networking profile to their portfolio is because of the work it takes to build and manage a following. This is especially true for brands, users in the influencing space, or users that make a living off of their social media presence. The Instagram connection cuts out at least some of the need to build a following and the anxiety to do so quickly.
It's all in (mod)eration
Threads is also being branded as a “kind,” “nice,” and “wholesome” space. Right now it is littered with puppy photos, scenic vacation spots, and motivational quotes. But is a democratic online utopia for judgment free discourse and spirited debate possible? Probably not. Clark says, “technology is not bad, but people are.” There will always be internet “trolls” that purposefully instigate negative discourse and toxic interactions. In fact, Instagram head Adam Mosseri has indicated they would like Threads to not be about politics and news the way we currently find Twitter.
When it comes to creating a safe space for discourse, it's about moderation. Considering that it has had problems, Meta already has a moderation infrastructure in place, which will allow them the capabilities to do this. However, when it comes to moderation between Meta's Threads and Twitter, it may be a matter of imperfect moderation vs worse moderation. The argument Meta will make is, “at least we are trying.”
Meta's decision for an early rollout was reactionary and risky. Threads is now in its Beta phase which means that it is not a fully realized platform for an optimal user experience. Notably, the feed is very limited and at present you cannot delete your Threads account without deleting your Instagram account. However, Meta has made intentional steps to position the new text-based platform as a user-centric space. The move to not monetize out of the gate has allowed organic, user-generated content to comprise the site's feeds. At the moment, there are no ads. But the tides will eventually turn as Meta has plans to monetize the platform (likely through ads) once it is more mature. Mark Zuckerberg has indicated this will occur once Threads is on “a clear path to 1 billion people.” This is hardly a timeline—what's a “clear path?” Moreover, advertisers concerned about the safety of their brands on Twitter will then have a different media option. And even without paid advertising, organic and influencer social media can commence sooner.
So why wouldn't you use threads?
If Twitter gets “better,” whatever your definition is of that, it is hard to see why you need Threads. And the Threads experience at present is a work in progress. There are lots of sign-ups, but we know very little about engagement. Google Plus also had fast sign-up momentum for its time, but eventually failed for lack of interaction. A recent report suggests there has already been some drop off in daily active use of Threads after the initial burst of enthusiasm. Is Threads going to be any fun?
In order for Threads to rise above Twitter, the perceived value of moving to Threads must be greater than the perceived value of staying on Twitter. For that to happen, Twitter needs to continue down a road of self-inflicted financial and user experience wounds. (Elon Musk has publicly admitted to financial issues at the platform). Meanwhile Threads has to improve its user experience and produce the kind of engagement that will prove attractive to users and advertisers. Ten days in, it's simply too hard to tell how badly Twitter will fall and how much Threads will rise.
The good news is that you don't have to choose between Twitter and Threads. Clark makes a vacation home analogy to explain the option that lies between two options. Lots of brands and individuals seem to be setting up “second homes” on Threads. If you have an Instagram account, this is an easy option, and brands in particular should open accounts to reserve the right to be active there if Threads develops positively. So think of Threads like a vacation home. It's summer, take a few weekend trips, check it out, and see if you like it. No social media manager should feel they have to have a strategy for a platform that is ten days old. You can drop in when you want but you don't have to move there full-time. You always have the option of going back to your Twitter home.
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