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New social media platform Threads ‘looks promising,’ says expert

Crystal Graham
threads app on phone Twitter background
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A new social media platform from Meta has registered more than 100 million users within five days, officially making it Twitter’s biggest rival.

Threads, the newest venture from Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, is poised for success, according to a social media expert from Virginia Tech.

The financial woes of Twitter, under the ownership of Elon Musk, have made the company vulnerable to competition. In November, Musk said the platform has nearly 260 million active users.

“Threads has often been discussed as the app that could kill Twitter, but there are certain things that will need to fall into place if the app is to continue to be a challenger to other social media platforms in the future,” said Mike Horning, associate professor of multimedia journalism at Virginia Tech’s School of Communication.

First, Horning said, it has to fill a new niche for users.

“Any new app introduced into social media faces a number of challenges, but when they take off, it’s usually because they first fill a new niche that is appealing to certain types of users or certain demographics,” he said. “Instagram was about photo sharing. TikTok was about music sharing. If Threads wants to replace Twitter in particular, it will likely need to articulate how it fills a new niche or how it attracts a new demographic.

The second challenge, he said, is to establish a critical mass of users.

“All new social media apps need to quickly establish a critical mass of adopters that make the platform a fun and interesting place to go, Horning said. “Threads is off to a good start with the number of people who have recently adopted it.

“However, it will now need to encourage interactions with those individuals. If it doesn’t, if users don’t find anything interesting there, or if their friends don’t go there, then it’s likely to fail. The number of individuals adopting Threads in the last few days looks promising, but it doesn’t mean that adoption rate will necessarily continue.”

The third challenge is to attract advertisers so the app is profitable for Meta.

“All social media apps rely on advertising, and if Meta can articulate to advertisers how this app provides added value to them, then they will likely invest in the app,” Horning said. “If that isn’t clear to advertisers, then the app will be short lived.”

Horning said that Threads does have some advantages in its favor including being a part of the Meta environment so the existing social platforms can encourage users to download the new app.

“In addition, the app is supposed to interact with other apps, which means users may be able to use Threads without leaving their other social media accounts,” Horning said. “That may be something that makes this app unique.”

For example, Instagram users are able to easily add followers to the new Threads app with one click.

“Although Threads has positioned itself as an alternative to Twitter, the new platform has been less specific about how it will regulate privacy and free speech concerns,” Horning said. “Twitter, meanwhile, has described itself as more open to free speech. It will remain to be seen whether users find one approach more appealing than others.”

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.

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