Threads attracting more lurkers than creators

By Ruby Derrick | 8 August 2023
Frederik Von Briel.

Meta’s microblogging platform Threads, the so-called Twitter killer, took off fast but has since settled back with more users sitting back to watch than actively engaging.  

Threads usage peaked immediately after its launch, on July 7, with more than 49 million daily active users on Android alone. That’s more than a third of Twitter’s audience on that platform. 

By July 23, that had fallen to 12.6 million daily active users, or about 12% of Twitter’s audience. 

However, Meta won't be offering advertising on Threads in the first year of operation. The aim is to build the user experience first, say Meta insiders. 

Frederik Von Briel, senior lecturer in Strategy and Entrepreneurship and the program leader of the Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Queensland Business School, told AdNews that most users are merely lurkers.  

Many users signed up simply because they were curious and wanted to take a look at what everyone was talking about. This is what made user numbers skyrocket,” said Von Briel. 

But most users are lurkers (not only on Threads but most social media platforms in general)—they browse content but do not necessarily create or engage with it. 

According to Von Briel, this creates a chicken and egg problem because if there are not enough users who engage with content, content creators do not continue to create content or don’even join in the first place.  

He notes that if there is not enough interesting content for users, they might come back once or twice (if at all) to check again but that’s it.  

Threads has so far not managed to mirror the breadth, depth, and discoverability of content and engagement that X has, which is why many X users checked it out but then went back to X where there is still more activity relevant to them going on,” he said. 

Many users just aren't engaging with the platform, a considerable consequence of the dwindling numbers.  

Von Briel believes that there is no added value from Threads compared to X that would make users want to migrate.  

For content creators there is the added hurdle of having to build a new follower base if they were to switch from X to Threads, said Von Briel. 

“There are currently little to no incentives for investing the time and effort this would require.” 

Meta plans to launch AI Chatbots with unique personalities, aimed at driving quirky conversations with users. The chatbots are set to roll out in September this year; a potential revitalisation of the suffering networking service.  

For Von Briel, these chatbots might drive short-term engagement, but he doubts that they will help to keep users active in the long-term. 

“We do not know too much about these chatbots and what goal Meta pursues with them,” he said. 

Because after all, the key idea of social media is to engage with real people and the content they create, not some AI powered chatbots.” 

Meta may or may not have plans to transform Threads into something different in the long-term, notes Von Briel, such as a super-app’. 

“Think WeChat or Grab or Elon Musk’s vision for X - where the social networking aspect is not the key value proposition. Then these chatbots could become quite valuable,” he said. 

The rapid rise of Threads came down to it amassing millions of downloads just hours after its launchwith brands and influencers also taking advantage of the latest social media offering.  

If Threads continues trying to compete heads on with Twitter, the chances are high that it will go nowhere, said Von Briel. 

Think Google+ which tried to take on Facebook. Similarly to Meta, Google leveraged its large user based to increase Google+ user numbers but ultimately failed to keep users active once they had signed up because there was simply not enough going on,” he said. 

Von Briel said that assuming Elon Musk does not drive X into the ground, Threads will need to innovate and carve out a distinct value proposition that users care about to get them join and stay active on the platform.  

This might then not necessarily be X users but could potentially be a new type of user based on the type of value proposition they come up with. 

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