Meta’s Threads app has been on a roller-coaster ride of user engagement. It rocketed to a stunning total of 100 million downloads in five days. Predictably, perhaps, many of the early users deserted the app in the ensuing weeks. According to digital data tracker Similarweb, the number of active users dropped 80% from July 7 to August 7.
X, formerly Twitter, has ten times as many daily users — 100 million. Significantly, the time spent using the app also differs greatly — 25 minutes daily for X vs. just three minutes for Threads.
Is Threads In Trouble?
It is a mistake to assume that Threads is on a path to failure. By any measure an app that’s a little over a month old and has ten million daily users is doing something right. A decline in usage was inevitable after the initial rush to claim profiles and see what the app looked like.
At the same time, three minutes a day of use shows that many users are committing minimal effort to participating on Threads. Improving this metric is critical for Threads’ long term success.
How A Web Version Will Help
A web version of Threads is imminent. Mark Zuckerberg posted an image of himself on Threads showing, “Actual footage of me building Threads for web.” It seems unlikely the Meta CEO is actually coding the new feature, but the post indicates the importance he’s assigning to the project.
Many of the most active social media users interact primarily via desktop. I tend to spend time daily on LinkedIn, X, Facebook, and Instagram. During office hours, this interaction is all on my desktop via browser, where it’s easy to share content and switch between apps.
For me, at least, Threads has been an afterthought – I forget to open my phone to check it. Or, I don’t bother posting an interesting article because I’d have to find it on the phone, copy the link, and then share it.
Simply put, there’s currently a lot more friction in sharing content on Threads vs. the other apps that are easily accessible in different browser tabs.
The ability to have a Threads tab open in one’s browser will inevitably increase use by those who intend to participate there. Users will be able to instantly share content they found or created in another tab.
We all know multitasking is bad and social media can kill productivity, but for users who check their social posts (too) frequently to view activity and to interact quickly, the Threads tab will put its distraction level at parity with other social apps.
Although mobile web traffic exceeds that from desktops today, serious content creation still happens on the desktop. A web app will facilitate instant sharing of images, videos and other content.
A web client will let Threads users who spend all day on their desktop computer get notified instantly when, say, another user interacts with their posts. Notifications may reduce productivity, but they boost engagement with the apps creating them.
Sharing Threads Posts
In addition to making it easier to share content on Threads, a web client will make it easy to share Threads posts with others via email, messaging apps, community sites, etc. This will bring returning and occasionally new users to Threads.
Other Steps To Increase Engagement
Easy access via Web browser is perhaps the most impactful thing that Threads can do to improve the frequency and duration of usage. A few other steps will help as well:
Beyond the extra effort involved in sharing content from news media and other providers, the tools that facilitate posting by more serious social media users don’t yet work with Threads. Social management and sharing apps like Buffer and Hootsuite can’t be used to interact with Threads. Contact centers for big brands that use X for customer support can’t do that as easily with Threads.
Visit any website with articles, videos, news, etc., and you’ll find sharing links for X, Facebook, LinkedIn and perhaps other social apps. This lets any user instantly share that content item with minimal effort. I’ve shared things to X that I’d also have shared to threads had it been easier.
Search and Hashtags
Currently, there’s no effective search feature to let users find content they are interested in or to locate users they want to follow. Hashtags aren’t enabled either, which also makes it harder to find topical content. A strong search feature may obviate the need for hashtags.
There’s little doubt that X boosts engagement with its prominent “Trending” links. When you see your favorite celebrity or brand trending, it’s impossible not to click. This powerful feature can also be problematic. X trends often amplify toxic content and memes, and they are sometimes cluttered with hashtag spam. Threads can increase engagement with a similar trend feature but would need strong algorithmic functionality and human/AI moderation to provide a friendlier alternative to X.
The major social apps make it easy to embed content elsewhere. One can embed an Instagram post or YouTube video easily. YouTube makes it easy to embed a feed of your channel or a particular playlist.
Oddly, embedded X feeds have apparently stopped working, perhaps because of their rate limiting initiative. Providing the ability to embed Threads posts and feeds on websites would be another way to boost traffic and engagement. (I would have embedded Zuck’s post about him coding the Threads web version in this article had it been possible.)
Will Easier Access Ruin Threads?
For many users, Threads has reminded them of the early Twitter days. There’s more personal interaction and less content overload. Once web and API access open up, so will promotion and automated content sharing.
If Threads becomes a Twitter/X clone not just in design but in content, then it will fail. The users most engaged on Threads are users who want a different environment than X currently offers. It’s likely that Zuckerberg and Meta recognize this and will introduce features cautiously.
For the moment, though, an increase in content and activity from a web client are exactly what Threads needs to move forward.