Give The People — And Your Clients — What They Want!

by Nathan Miller

Jul 7, 2023

Posted in Industry

Nathan Miller sits on a countertop in the corner of a room. His arms are crossed over his left knee as he smiles at the camera.

Twitter. Bluesky. Mastodon. Threads. It’s All Too Much, Really. 

The last thing I need in my life is more social media. Maybe I’m just in my touching grass era, but honestly, the thought of downloading another app and curating another content feed to spend too much time on sounds terrible to me. Awful. But also probable. Perhaps inevitable. 

You see, I have a confession to make: I love Twitter. Or, I used to love Twitter. I’ve been on the platform for close to a decade now. There was really nothing else quite like it. I could get breaking, real-time news from all over the world while also getting served some of the most bizarre, hilarious content I’ve ever seen, and incredible insight on social and cultural topics that I cared about. 

But that site doesn’t really exist anymore. (For a lot of reasons, including its new ownership.) Over the course of the last year, several new apps have hit the market, each promising to fill the Twitter-shaped hole people had in their hearts. Most recently (as in yesterday, as of this writing), the newest “Twitter killer,” Threads, hit the marketplace. 

In the last few days since its release, it’s been downloaded 70 million times. I was one of those downloads. My reaction to Threads? Close. But not quite. Not yet, anyway. 

I Contain Multitudes

Here’s the thing: The way I consume content on social media is very app-specific. For me, Twitter is news, comedy, and culture. Instagram is art, photography, and friends. Facebook is…for family, I guess? (I’m not on Snapchat. TikTok’s algorithm is too strong for me. We should all know our limitations, folks.)

Since Threads is an Instagram product, it leverages for your Following/Followers into a feed that looks like Twitter and kinda functions like Twitter but with way more branded ads and fish out of water users. The joke has probably already been made, but it’s like pushing Barbie into Oppenheimer. The tones don’t match. 

It’s just gonna take some time for Threads to develop its own personality. I mean, to be fair, we’re literally days into this launch, and it isn’t realistic for me to expect the sort of instant gratification that I’m seeking. I think that’s what a lot of people who love Twitter are thinking. On the other hand, I’m seeing a lot of people on Threads who are really enjoying it. 

Maybe Threads will just eventually fade away. But I’m not so sure of that. When Twitter was created, I don’t think Jack Dorsey really knew what it was at the time. He saw the potential, but couldn’t have predicted the actual outcome.  

It’s the same for any social media, really. The users are actually the ones creating what’s special about these apps. The companies create the framework and the users create the value — not to mention the ad revenue. 

I don’t think Musk had a clear vision for Twitter when he purchased it. It’s not clear what Zuckerberg’s is with Threads is in terms of community — the business move is pretty obvious.

Twitter has been repeatedly putting itself in a weak position, and while Twitter alternatives like Bluesky and Mastodon have emerged, none have the power to dominate the space like Threads does. 

The Businessman vs. The Business, Man

And my cynical side thinks that’s why Zuckerberg/Meta decided to release Threads now. Twitter is hemorrhaging advertisers looking for a place to spend their ad dollars. Meta has a built-in infrastructure and user base already in place. Seems like a no-brainer, right?

Due to Twitter’s general volatility, advertisers who weren’t even spending their dollars there in the first place might actually consider running ads on Threads because there’s a new, zeitgeisty, and possibly safer place to spend. Maybe good for them, but for the average user, it doesn’t improve the experience in a tangible way. 

When you download threads, you’re either starting from scratch, which is a slog, especially if you’re a years-long Twitter user who has spent considerable time developing your feed, or you’re selecting who you follow on Instagram, which, as I stated earlier, doesn’t feel quite right. 

Either way, it’s an ad-filled feed that doesn’t scratch the itch most people are looking for. The timeline isn’t chronological. You can’t search posts or see trending topics or use hashtags. Heck, you can’t even delete your profile without also deleting your Instagram.  

In terms of the experience, it’s just not quite there, but in fairness to the Threads team, many of these features are coming in the next few updates, and presumably the app was launched early to capitalize on yet another mishap with the Twitter app. 

From what I’m seeing, there are a lot of people who used to love Twitter who are looking for a fully realized app to replace an already existing app with a fervently passionate user base. Those are tough, if not impossible, shoes to fill. 

Love him or hate him, Mark Zuckerberg saw an opportunity and he took it, and at least in the court of public opinion, it appears to be working for him. 

Threads Is Attempting To Solve An All-New Sort of Problem

Typically, businesses exist because they solve a problem. This is a vast generalization.  I’m sure y’all can think of countless examples of businesses that either don’t solve any real problems or solve completely made up problems, but where I’m going with this is that many of the best businesses out there are those that approach everything from a customer-first perspective. 

What do our customers want? What do our customers need? If those wants and needs are in conflict, how do we give them the best of both worlds? How do we do all this while also doing what’s best for our own businesses? It’s a highwire act, but it’s far from impossible to achieve. 

Quite frequently, in our weekly Brand Strategy discussions, our team will ask what I think is one of the most valuable questions we can consider: “Who is this for?” 

If we’re building a proposal deck or ad campaign or any marketing asset for that matter, is the language about us and our goals and why we’re so good at what we do, or is it about what’s in it for them. If it’s the former, then back to the drawing board. And if it’s the latter — if we’ve effectively addressed their needs, their goals, and their desires as a business — then we’ve already told them what they need to know about us. 

That’s what’s so interesting about what’s happening with Threads. What problem is it trying to solve? Most social media creates its communities organically based on what’s unique about its framework, be it imagery, video, or short-form content. Typically, one app owns its respective space. That’s not really what Threads is doing. 

What they, Bluesky, Mastodon and others are doing is creating a Twitter alternative, which in any other industry wouldn’t be that unusual, but in the social media realm, it’s still unique. And with Meta’s “scale first, monetize later” approach — one they can financially support in a way the others can’t — they probably have the biggest advantage in taking significant market share away from Twitter. 

The likeliest outcome with all of this? Instead of a single dominant force in the microblogging space, we’ll continue down the path of media fragmentation that we’ve been on over the last few decades. Something altogether different will emerge. 

New ways to entertain, educate, and express will usher in yet another layer in the media landscape. Musk and Zuckerberg’s children will face off in their annual MMA tournament, hosted live via satellite on Jeff Bezos’s Mars-roving resort and luxury octagon.

I will be much older, asking my grandchildren to show me how to play Beatles songs on my new hologram phone. I will never actually learn now. This is how it is meant to be. Time marches on. 


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