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Instagram Threads: What It Is and How Brands Are Using It

There is A LOT to unpack when it comes to Instagram Threads, Meta’s new text-based social media app. The launch announcement was made on July 4 and in just 5 days, Threads garnered 100 million sign-ups.1

“Threads takes what Instagram does best and expands that to text, creating a positive and creative space to express your ideas,2 CEO Mark Zuckerberg explains. Whether you’re a creator or a casual poster, Threads offers a new, separate space for real-time updates and public conversations.2

Sounds familiar right? 

 

Threads v Twitter

Aesthetically and functionally, it’s hard not to compare it to rival Twitter. Threads is eerily similar, but has some key differences. 

Threads has a different vibe – at least right now.

Users are appreciating the more positive vibe on Threads and some say it’s refreshing when compared to the climate of Twitter. Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, says “politics and hard news are inevitably going to show up on Threads, but we’re not going to do anything to encourage those verticals”.3

Threads has a longer character limit. 

Instagram thread posts can be up to 500 characters long and include links, photos, and videos up to 5 minutes in length.2 Twitter’s maximum Tweet length has grown to 280 characters and also include links and photos, with a maximum video length of 2 minutes and 20 seconds.4

Threads does not currently have advertisements or monetization features. 

This is a huge differentiator from Twitter, but we suspect it’s only a matter of time before that changes. For brands, being able to reach more people and reach the right people is important. 

I polled my colleagues, and as consumers, results were 50/50 on whether they preferred to see ads in-feed. Some people find ads valuable and helpful in their lives. Others feel like it’s a breath of fresh air and like the control they have over their timeline. 

Threads does not have a chronological feed. 

Threads’ feed is built from an algorithmic timeline, similar to those of Facebook and Instagram. Currently, there is no option to display posts chronologically like Twitter. 

Other differences: 

  • Threads does not have a hashtag or advanced search option. 
  • Threads does not have a direct messaging chat feature.
  • Threads does not have a desktop version. 

 

How Brands Are Showing Up

Most brands are still in a testing phase and determining how best to activate on Threads. Oreo, Subway, and Popeyes have created accounts, but have only posted a few times so far with relatively generic content. 

To provide a quick snapshot, nine out of the top 10 retailers (according to the National Retail Federation) have all activated their accounts on Threads, but of the top five most popular consumer brands (M&M, Band-Aid, Ziploc, Dawn, Reese’s, according to YouGov.com), only Reese’s has activated their Threads account.5

Funny & Cool

Some brands like Wendy’s and Pop-Tarts are here for the humor. So far, the general theme is that it’s not a place to be too stuffy or serious. Wendy’s is leaning heavily into meme culture, poking fun at rival McDonalds, and making jokes about Twitter – posting things like “how much do blue check marks cost on this one?” and “mid donald.” 

Building Their Base 

Some brands are focusing on building their following and finding ways to directly engage users. For example, Anthropologie is giving away gift cards to users who engage with its first posts, while SlimJim is offering follow-for-follow to its first 100,000 followers.6  Wingstop posted “just found some gift cards, share this thread to your IG story and tag us…we might hook you up.”

Getting User Feedback 

Social media is a great tool to get real-time feedback from customers, and Threads is no different. One of Taco Bell’s top-performing posts asks “The taco bell menu item i’ve ordered the most is….” Red Bull asks things like ‘‘What’s the best time of day to have your red bull?” and “What’s your go-to red bull?” 

Promoting Products 

Naturally, brands are going to post about their products, but on Threads, we’re seeing posts that are much more casual and less advertise-y. 

Whataburger promoted one of their top menu items by posting “When life gives you lemons, say wth I wanted a patty melt” and “You okay babe? You didn’t whatasize your fries.” Sonic posted similar things like “physically, I’m at a desk sipping an ocean water. Mentally, I’m on a beach.” 

More Features To Come 

This statement was taken from Instagram’s blog:2

In addition to working toward making Threads compatible with the ActivityPub protocol, soon we’ll be adding a number of new features to help you continue to discover threads and creators you’re interested in, including improved recommendations in feed and a more robust search function that makes it easier to follow topics and trends in real-time.

From a marketing perspective, it’s hard to tell where Twitter and Threads will rank in the text-based app wars, but one thing we do know is that brands want to meet consumers where they are. If there is an audience on Threads, brands want to be there. 

From a consumer perspective, people naturally gravitate towards where their community is. If their favorite influencers, brands, and artists are on Threads, they’ll be more likely to engage. 

Will Threads rise to the occasion and take over or will Twitter continue to reign king? Or is there space for both? 

To be continued….
 
 

Sources

1. https://www.instagram.com/p/CuhQCORgruN/
2. https://about.instagram.com/blog/announcements/threads-instagram-text-feature
3. https://www.threads.net/@mosseri/post/CuZ3LjhNl0m?igshid=MzRlODBiNWFlZA%3D%3D
4. https://help.twitter.com/en/using-twitter/twitter-videos#:~:text=You’ll%20be%20prompted%20if,share%20your%20Tweet%20and%20video
5. ​​​​https://www.forbes.com/sites/richardkestenbaum/2023/07/07/how-brands-and-retailers-are-reacting-to-threads/
6. https://digiday.com/marketing/as-users-marketers-undertake-threads-pre-ad-experimentation/

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