The state of “Threads” in the outdoor industry
No, we’re not talking about Merino wool or GORE-TEX threads here…we’re talking about the latest social media offering from the great social overlords at Meta. Threads was launched in early July 2023 to much fanfare and hype. But now that we are several months into the platform, we figured it was time to revisit some of our initial thoughts and see how the platform has matured and evolved.
Overall, the story of Threads is an interesting one. It was the fastest social media platform to hit 100 million users—a feat that only took four days to achieve. It had a value proposition of being a space like Twitter, primarily text-based, but with “Meta” functionality and community guidelines.
As it turns out, the user adoption numbers are completely fake. Remember when Google announced the astronomical user adoption of “Google+”, when really all it turned out to be was that anyone with a Google account who had logged in technically had a Google+ account? The Threads adoption is a slightly less misrepresentative, but a very similar scenario. Instagram is currently filled with CTA’s encouraging users to download Threads, making the barrier to download for all 2+ billion Instagram users very low. There remains an issue in signing up for the platform, where you are greeted with the option to automatically follow everyone you are following on Instagram. This is really handy for brands as you don’t have to put any thought into curating your community. For users, however, this feature means that you end up following the exact same social community as is in your Instagram, further creating redundancy between the two apps.
Speaking of redundancy, we are still really struggling to understand why this is a standalone app. Why Meta chose to incorporate Reels into Instagram, asking users to navigate between two apps is beyond me. The resultant effects that this is creating, 3 months into the platform’s launch, is that the image and video sharing on Threads has become prevalent, and we’re seeing it cannibalize Instagram’s intended purpose.
When the platform first launched, it was impossible to search for specific topics or places. You could not simply type “Whistler” into the search field in the app to view all content related to Whistler. Instead, all you got was everyone whose usernames contained Whistler. They have since changed this, and the search functionality actually appears to be centred around per-post SEO. When you search for posts the results now appear to be based on keywords within the post text rather than hashtags like on other platforms. Stay tuned for an “SEO for Threads” guide coming to a social media blog near you.
The last thing we should evaluate is the actual activity currently happening on the platform. Currently, the platform is filled with brands and social media managers interacting with each other. I have yet to see a valuable interaction with a consumer occur with a brand, especially to the level that we still see on TikTok and Instagram. There are some brands that stand out above the rest in terms of their Threads feeds (looking at you, @backcountry, @F1, @arcteryx), but closer inspection reveals that it is really just a reposting ground for effective content from other channels.
What is going to change that? At a recent MMGY social team meeting, a very good point was raised that all it will take is one feature to be released on the platform that creates some viral promotion, and it will take off. What relationship status originally did to Facebook, or Stories did to Instagram. These types of features are designed to garner user engagement, and Threads is not yet at a point where it has any feature of great value to offer to users.
So, what are we doing with Threads for now? Setting up accounts and maintaining the status quo. We aren’t suggesting that anyone pour a ton of time or energy into managing their Threads communities. We are, however, standing by and paying close attention to when that catalyst feature turns up. That is when we will likely see meaningful user stats, and platform engagement that makes it worth our time to engage.