This week, we take a look at the launch of Threads, the way brands are approaching the buzzy new platform and the future of text-based social media in a TikTok-dominated world. Scroll down to use Glossy+ Comments, giving the Glossy+ community the opportunity to join discussions around industry topics.
Elon Musk’s chaotic reign over Twitter has caused much division among its user base. Reports that the platform’s ad revenue has dropped almost 60% since last year indicate that brands and users alike are hungry for something new. At the same time, Reddit, another hub of online discussion, has been having its own problems after a widely unpopular API change caused mass protests from the site’s users and moderators, leading to a valuation cut for the company. So when Meta launched its Twitter competitior, Threads, on Wednesday, the internet took notice.
Within 12 hours of being open to the public, Threads had more than 30 million members. Fashion brands including Cider, Fashionphile and Alice + Olivia, among many others, created Threads accounts within the first day and began posting regularly. Twitter reportedly felt so threatened by Threads’ rapid growth that it threatened legal action against Meta over the allegation that Meta poached fired Twitter employees to build the app, which Meta denies.
Other Twitter alternatives like Mastodon, Post and Bluesky have emerged in recent months, but none have experienced major adoption by users, including brands. Mastodon has around 10 million users and Bluesky, which is still invite-only, has less than 1 million. However, several are still in a closed beta stage, limiting their adoption. For its part, Threads immediately saw adoption by brands and big influencers, thanks to the option to easily create a Threads profile from an Instagram account.
It’s still early days for Threads, but marketing professionals seem excited over its massive user base and brand-friendly environment.
“Meta practically wrote the book on social media advertising, and we would be naive not to think that the business will be adapting Twitter’s model to maximize the advertising potential for brands and creators,” said Jolyon Varley, founder of digital agency OK Cool, which has worked with brands including Mr Porter and Tag Heuer. “Twitter’s interface was notoriously less user-friendly than the likes of Meta for business, and so I imagine that if Threads is successful, it will have a business manager model that is super easy to navigate and therefore incredibly appealing to many different businesses, regardless of scale.”
Desiree Natali, director of social media and community at the sexual wellness brand The Honey Pot Company, said Twitter was once an essential platform for the brand. Viral Twitter conversations related to the brand being featured in a Super Bowl ad in 2020 helped introduce it to a huge swathe of new customers, Natali said. But the toxic environment on Twitter, particularly for a brand founded by a woman of color, along with Honey Pot Company’s unwillingness to give any money to Twitter’s verification scheme, have led to the brand completely dropping its Twitter presence.
The Honey Pot was one of the early adopters of Threads, amassing over 5,000 followers in the first four hours.
“It’s a shame,” Natali said. “Twitter was really big for us, but it’s not a safe space for Black and brown humans anymore. I believe microblogging and text platforms are really valuable as hubs for thought leaders and policymakers. It will be interesting if Threads can become what Twitter used to be.”
It’s a tumultuous time for text-based social media platforms. Meanwhile, video- and image-based platforms including TikTok and Instagram are ascendant, with Instagram growing to more than 2 billion active users as of 2021 and TikTok surpassing 800 million users earlier this year. Both have successfully captured the attention of many fashion brands, with fashion being one of the largest categories on Instagram. With Twitter and Reddit floundering, is there any hope for text-based platforms to court fashion brands’ interests?
Traditionally, fashion and beauty brands have experienced more engagement and sales success on Instagram and TikTok, compared to Twitter and Reddit, said Samantha Shainess, group director of fashion at the digital agency Power Digital.
“While Twitter does offer unique tools like ‘communities‘ and advanced targeting — such as the ability to target users who follow specific fashion accounts — we’ve seen fashion brands drive more incremental revenue on visual-first channels like TikTok and Meta,” Shainess said. “Twitter’s text-first nature isn’t as conducive to fashion creative, as shoppers tend to gravitate and convert better with visual or video storytelling.”
Twitter has implemented multiple unpopular changes including lifting restrictions on hateful content, charging money for verification in a messy process that alienated many celebrities and brands, and briefly limiting the number of tweets that all users could see in one day — a baffling decision that Musk said was to limit data scrapers.
Meanwhile, Reddit has always been a difficult nut for brands to crack. Reddit users are notoriously skeptical of advertising efforts and particularly critical of low-quality content repurposed from other platforms.
But both agencies and fashion brands interviewed for this story said that text-based platforms like Twitter and Reddit do offer value.
“While social media apps come and go, we will always see the coexistence of text-based platforms and image- and video-based platforms, as consumer demand will keep these afloat,” said Varley.
“The two serve different purposes for audiences, so I wouldn’t say that either is more valuable for brands. It very much depends on the brand, the service and the niche,” Varley said. “Any brand can harness advertising power on a text-based social media platform. The challenge isn’t in the format, but in finding your niche on the platform by ensuring you’re targeting a hyper-engaged community aligned to your brand or product and tailoring your communications for the platform to cut through the noise.”
Lauren Leger, director of brand marketing at handbag resale platform Fashionphile, said the key to making the best use of different social media formats is understanding what the users on each platform are looking for. On Instagram, for example, Fashionphile focuses on putting the handbags it sells on display, since it’s a visually appealing product, she said. But on platforms like Reddit and Facebook, users are often in research mode. Fashionphile, therefore, leads with education.
All the text-based content that Fashionphile posts on social platforms comes from its version of the OG text-based digital marketing tool: the blog. Fashionphile launched a blog five years ago. and Leger said it leads the company’s digital strategy. The brand marketing team starts with a blog post, then breaks off individual pieces of that post — including text snippets and images — for use in shorter Facebook or Instagram posts or as inspirations for TikToks.
“Everything [we post] on a text-based social platform has already been pre-approved for a blog post; the team has carte blanche to take pieces from the blog post and use it however they want,” Leger said. She called the blog “the most robust and information-rich source of content” that Fashionphile has.
Threads doesn’t have ads yet, but Natali said that when it does introduce a monetization feature, it will likely be fully integrated into Meta’s existing ad infrastructure that incorporates both Instagram and Facebook. She said The Honey Pot Company will likely let Meta’s system automatically place ads on the three platforms as the brand does now, rather than come up with a separate content strategy for Threads.
For now, and until those ad systems are introduced, brands will likely be in primarily testing mode on Threads.
“The key to social media marketing is to cater each platform to what the audience there is looking for,” Leger said. “We are not going to assume that Threads users want the same thing as Twitter users, because it’s a different platform. And we’re also not going to assume that someone on Instagram is looking for the same thing on Threads, even if it’s the same user.”