You may have heard about Threads, the new social network recently launched by Meta.
It appears to be doing well so far: it’s currently the top free app on the Google Play Store, and has over 70 million signups according to Mark Zuckerberg.
I’m a fan of Threads. The app is simple and easy to use. The community is friendly – most people reply to you even if they have lots of followers. In contrast, I find Twitter to be an echo chamber. That’s my own experience, but it appears to be a consistent view with the people I’ve chatted with so far.
We can learn a few things from Threads for sure.
Timing is key
Threads has launched following a very turbulent period for Twitter. From Elon Musk taking over, through heavy layoffs and mass resignations, to the recent controversial decision to limit how many tweets you can read per day – well, it’s an understatement to say this has rocked the boat a bit.
While this is purely anecdotal – as an outside commenter, it’s hard to measure user happiness in a large social media site – the many twists and turns have likely led to a lot of user dissatisfaction.
As a result, Threads has launched at a good time – maybe the best possible time. People have the appetite for a new site.
Twitter’s response is to kick off a lawsuit. While that could cause trouble for Threads, it doesn’t change the fact that the new app has tapped into a hunger for something else. A lawsuit isn’t going to make people suddenly like Twitter again. It should be a wake-up call.
You don’t need every feature on day 1
Many users have bemoaned the lack of key features in Threads.
Whether that’s hashtags, direct messages, or a way to use it in your desktop browser, there are clearly some gaps to be filled. Notably, there is a lack of key accessibility features.
But missing features doesn’t mean Threads is a failed launch.
If Meta had held back the product until they had more features, who knows when they would have launched? Take too long, and you might miss the window of opportunity.
Users are fickle. People already unhappy with Twitter were already trying out other sites, such as Mastodon. But they wouldn’t sit waiting for a better product forever. They may have found other apps – decided to go back to Twitter – or simply stopped bothering with social networks.
By launching sooner, you can start to get feedback on the product. Feedback is essential to building a product that users love.
If you build too many things in a vacuum, when users finally get their hands on your product, you may find out that nobody likes it. Sure, you can tweak and fix small things – but if your product is fundamentally not working for people, they’re not going to use it.
The built-in userbase is a big help
Threads launched in about 100 countries – for anyone who has an Instagram account.
That’s a pretty huge group of potential users right there.
Threads was therefore the fastest app to reach 1 million users.
How many other apps had an existing network to leverage?
Unless you work for one of the biggest software companies in the world, your product is unlikely to be able to replicate this success. Don’t compare your product to Threads.
Focus on the right metrics
Mark Zuckerberg has mentioned the quick uptake of users, and quoted several numbers – the latest I saw was 70 million.
This is great – however, it is a brand new app from a company with an existing network – so there is an element of newness that may be contributing to the initial success.
Focusing on signups is a nice way to measure the launch, but it isn’t the long-term metric Meta will be looking at. Daily active users is the one that counts here.
Look at Facebook. There are only so many people in the world who could use it. If you get as many of those people on Facebook as possible, what’s next?
Daily active users.
OK, I get it. Launching a new social network with maximum impact appears to be the goal.
But the declaration that “we’ll worry about revenue later” (paraphrased) is a risky strategy, for two key reasons:
Meta has recently made lots of layoffs due to the poor performance of the Metaverse. That may not affect other products such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, or now Threads. But it may mean the company is less keen to run Threads for a long time without a sustainable revenue model.
2. Twitter’s financial woes
Lawsuits or not, Threads has similarities with Twitter. It’s sufficiently different that I think it can be its own thing, and hopefully avoid the heavy fines – or even a cease and desist – that Twitter may be planning. But Meta should be hyper-aware that Twitter has run into difficulties for the very reason it lacks a proper revenue model. This is not down to Musk – it pre-dates his purchase of the company.
Meta may come up with a better approach – and they may already have one that they will reveal in time. But the way to build a sustainable product is to have a revenue model. “We’ll worry about revenue later” isn’t a revenue model.
What do you think?
Those are my views – I’d be interested to know if you’ve used Threads, or if you have any alternative views on the launch. If you’re on Threads, follow me – my username is @benbarden.