Threads is one, and it may be the best social media platform you’re still not using

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Threads, the social media platform from Meta I didn’t know I wanted or needed, is officially one year old – and I’m still using it. That’s quite an accomplishment.

Threads arrived on July 5, 2023, like an amiable social media savior. It didn’t do a lot, and owed much of its early success to Instagram, which helped seed membership by the millions. There was no desktop app, no GIFs, and not much sense to the organization of your feed (or control). But Threads was also clean, clear, and full of so much positive sentiment that it could feel almost Pollyannaish.

As I wrote last year, it was the light to X’s (formerly Twitter) increasing darkness.

I have not stopped using X (Twitter). If asked how I devote my social media time, I’d say it’s about 60% Threads and 40% X. I know many who have exited the latter of over what they see as owner (and former CEO) Elon Musk’s insane opinions and support of trolls and truly hateful people and ideas. I go there because there’s still an undercurrent of real-time news and sentiment. It’s what Threads lacked at launch and, for the most part, still lacks today. 

Sure, Threads introduced hashtags, but good luck finding hashtags that are trending. Instead, they serve as an easy way to ensure that your Thread is part of a trend and that it can be found in search, but there’s no ‘trending hashtags’ button (and no ‘Trending’ column at all).

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Threads has not replaced X for me. I wish it had because the feeling I get when I spend 10 minutes on that platform is one of dread.

Threads still doesn’t understand how to keep what’s new and relevant visible at the same time. Mostly, it shows what the algorithm thinks is relevant to you. Finding what everyone else is talking about can be hard on Threads.

Engagement, which was a sore point in the early Threads, has improved. I’ve posted Threads that have attracted hundreds of likes and reposts; not many, but some, and it makes Threads feel more alive and, because I still need that validation, more attractive to me.

A year in, though, I still can’t tell if Threads shares X’s ability to drive eyeballs from the social platform to other places. I’m a writer, and will promote my wares on multiple platforms, including X. Even in its diminished state, X can still drive measurable traffic to other sites. People engage and consume on Threads, but it’s not clear if anyone follows a link to anywhere. Is this a problem or a shortcoming for Threads? Not for most people, but for me it does make it slightly less attractive as a marketing platform.

One feature Threads did add is an API for developers that will allow sites to add Threads links in their apps and on their sites, and which will make posting stories from various websites to the platform that much easier. Will that change this equation? I don’t know, at least not yet.

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Growth bomb

Threads grew at a breakneck pace out of the gate, and within days had over 100 million users. A year later it has, according to Mark Zuckerberg, 175 million active monthly users. That’s not bad growth, but it’s also an indication that the pace has slowed way down.

Those numbers are nowhere near in the range of the Meta-owned Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp. Each of those platforms boasts billions of users, and have strong advertising businesses to show for it. Threads is surely a loss-leader for Meta. Can Zuck and Adam Mosseri, CEO of Instagram and Threads, hold out long enough to make it a viable revenue generator? Neither exec appears to be in any rush to add advertising or monetization to the platform, and for that I’m grateful; I’ll enjoy the ad-free experience for as long as it lasts.

Threads has not replaced X for me. I wish it had, because the feeling I get when I spend 10 minutes on that platform is one of dread. There are light moments, but when it gets dark, the posts feel dire and sinister. Threads has bad news on it too, but the sentiments are still so much lighter.

This may be because Mosseri and company still refuse to prioritize news on the platform. In doing so, they may be avoiding the landmine of strongly stated and incendiary opinions. Those exist on Threads too, but the algorithm doesn’t show them much light.

Threads gets it

It’s nice to see Threads grow with new features like the desktop app, GIFs, Polls, Tags, Search, post insights, and voice threads. Not every one of these features is all that useful, but I do think that Meta cares about and is paying attention to Threads. Part of that has to do with the constant presence of Zuckerberg and Mosseri on the platform. Mosseri in particular, will share updates, and field complaints and comments.

And Threads is self-aware, as it now celebrates its one-year anniversary with custom icons that it will deliver and let you use throughout its celebration period. I join in celebrating this Threads milestone, and I’m happy to ride along as Meta slowly builds out features and rides the fine line between supporting voices while not fanning the flames of disagreement.

Threads will probably never replace X / Twitter, but then there’s a solid chance it won’t have to as that dumpster fire of a platform burns itself to death.

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