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Mark Zuckerberg’s Threads Faces True Rivalry in TikTok, Not Former Twitter

14-08-2023 : Threads, the minimalist text-oriented social network devised by Meta-owned Facebook, burst onto the scene amidst a tumultuous period for its then-competitor, Twitter. Its meteoric rise saw an impressive 100 million sign-ups, a feat of grand proportions for a newcomer in the digital realm. It was swiftly christened a “Twitter killer.” However, by the second week, the initial surge began to taper off. Presently, as of August 7, the daily users of Threads have dwindled to approximately 10 million on Android devices, a significant drop from the 49 million at its month-ago launch, according to research firm SimilarWeb.

The sustainability of Mark Zuckerberg’s latest venture raises questions of its enduring impact. The determining factor hinges on its capacity to stand up against its most formidable adversary, and it isn’t the former Twitter; it’s TikTok. The odds, it appears, aren’t stacked in Threads’ favor.

Insider Intelligence analyst Jasmine Enberg emphasized that Meta’s true battle isn’t with Twitter’s predecessor but with TikTok. Enberg pointed out that although Twitter once held the mantle as the digital town square and trendsetter, TikTok has now seized that role. The current purveyors of trends primarily hail from the TikTok generation, including Gen Z and even younger demographics. The evolving landscape is evident, as Twitter usage among teenagers is also on the decline, as evidenced by data from the Pew Research Centre.

Consequently, the appeal of text-based social media platforms might not resonate with the TikTok generation. This demographic thrives on visual mediums, favoring videos to convey dances, makeup tips, eccentric recipes, and the unconventional concept of “de-influencers.”

Irrespective of format, the primary challenge facing Threads lies in carving out a unique identity that transcends being perceived as merely a Twitter alternative or an Instagram expansion. As of now, that distinctiveness remains uncertain. Threads garnered an extensive initial user base, encompassing celebrities and renowned brands, by capitalizing on its integration with Instagram. A prerequisite for joining Threads is an active Instagram account, and navigation between the two platforms is seamless. Considering Instagram’s colossal user base, which may be nearing 2 billion, Threads leveraged notifications to attract users to the platform.

However, the pivotal question is how Threads can retain users once they are on board. Currently, Threads’ user base mirrors that of Instagram, populated primarily by celebrities, politicians, news outlets, influencers, and analogous accounts. It’s notably challenging to locate original content from regular individuals unless your imported Instagram connections are particularly communicative. For users who register without importing a well-used Instagram account, the experience may feel impersonal, steering them towards following well-established accounts that are common among the masses.

Although numerous internet celebrities eagerly embraced Threads and amassed substantial followings, the sustainability of their engagement remains uncertain. Popular YouTuber MrBeast (Jimmy Donaldson) boasts 5 million followers on the app. Yet, he hasn’t posted in two weeks, despite maintaining an active presence on platforms like TikTok, Twitter (now known as X), and YouTube.

Zuckerberg, in a recent conference call, expressed his optimism for Threads while acknowledging the substantial work required to unleash its full potential. He articulated the industry’s oddity that a public discussion app with over a billion users hasn’t yet materialized and noted the need for such a platform. However, it remains unclear if Threads is that platform.

Zuckerberg also conceded that Meta has introduced several standalone experiences but has had limited success beyond its flagship Facebook. While Instagram and WhatsApp became triumphs post-acquisition, Messenger was nurtured within Facebook before becoming an autonomous app.

Zuckerberg’s optimism regarding Threads is tempered by the recognition of the lengthy road ahead. The venture might be brimming with promise, but the journey towards realizing its full potential is bound to be an arduous one.