Boost Threads engagement by making the platform more useful
31 July 2023
Image courtesy of Igor Ovsyannykov.
The number of people using Threads, Meta’s micro-blogging app, together with the amount of time they are spending there, has continued to decline, according to Israeli web analytics company, Similarweb. It’s certainly not what a lot of people would have expected, given Threads’ awe inspiring debut in early July. Meta however maintain they are not surprised by the latest numbers, and perhaps for good reason.
While Threads signed on a record one-hundred million members in a matter of days, that could be largely attributed to the ease of joining. If you had an Instagram (IG) account, as do some two billion people, joining Threads was almost as simple as pressing a button. A person’s IG profile information was copied straight over to their Threads page, as were their followers, who had the option to follow back if and when they joined.
Aside from early adopters scrambling to score a low Threads badge number, numerous people already established on IG were keen to carry over their IG username and brand to Threads, lest someone else get in first. Threads also appealed to those disillusioned with the shenanigans of the micro-blogging platform formerly known as Twitter, who further were enticed by Threads’ ease of use, compared to alternatives such as Mastodon.
But once set up and ready to go on Threads, many Threaders were left wondering: what next? On looking more closely at Threads, members found a platform lacking not only in user options, but also a significant proportion of their friends and followers from other social networks. In addition, some users, particularly those with smaller followings, had expressed frustration at the low levels of engagement they were experiencing on Threads.
Many of these new users also had the existing social networks they were part of to consider.
Yet none of these problems are, I think, insurmountable. So long as Meta doesn’t overly Facebook-ernise Threads in the way they have IG, that is. Do we want Facebook and IG like “suggestions”, and other content we didn’t expressly opt-in for, clogging up our timelines and feeds? Not me. I’m not saying Meta shouldn’t be able to generate revenue from Threads through advertising in some form, but surely they can do so in a measured way.
What Meta needs to do is make Threads more useful. They could start by making topics of interest searchable. This was one of the highlights of Twitter/X. Finding out what’s happening elsewhere in my hometown, or why there’s a delay on the train line, was as simple as entering a phrase into the search box. Another urgently needed feature is making hashtags live. Being able to see what others are saying about the same topic was another feature that gave Twitter great value.
A list of trending topics would also be useful. As would desktop/laptop computer access to Threads. The current app-only access means I need to email posts I’ve written for other platforms to my smartphone, just to make the cross-post to Threads. And on the subject of cross-posting, how about the option to post photos and videos from IG — as we can to other Meta properties, such as Facebook — to Threads at the same time.
When it comes to boosting engagement on Threads, perhaps selected posts from users with public profiles, who are not influencers, nor have large following counts, could have more prominence in the “For you” column. At present the “For you” column seems to be the domain of the Threads rock stars, whom maybe I could refer to as the threaderati, were I to riff on that celebrated neologism from the blogosphere, bloggerati.
Threaders with modest profiles though might feel less disinclined to interact with someone closer to their level, rather than respond to an influencer who may not even see their comment. If nothing else, it might garner more interaction at grass roots level. But let’s see what eventuates. Meta have said new features are forthcoming. Now it’s a matter of waiting for them, and seeing what impact they have on the platform.