Several major publications have already called time on Meta’s attempt to dethrone X.
The Drum points at its rapidly-declining user base as proof that it’s dead in the water (source: The Drum). Forbes claims that it “just doesn’t work” in its current incarnation (source: Forbes). And Leaders claim that “the wave has crested, and users are getting bored of the app” (source: Leaders).
But we’re still fielding frequent questions about the relevance of Threads, with (B2B) marketing clients in multiple sectors asking whether the app could help them build brand awareness, engage potential customers or drive useful leads.
The regularity of these conversations suggests that marketers are eager for a new social media platform. Something that competes with Elon Musk’s increasingly-controversial app, and enables them to engage with users in a way that transcends the gaudy showboating required to thrive on platforms like LinkedIn or Instagram.
It’s also worth noting that some major voices are sounding a much more conciliatory note about the future of Threads. TechCrunch point out that the app’s still a “beta product” and that new features may reignite interest in the platform (source: TechCrunch).
And the folks over at The Marketing Pod are quick to flag its ability to create a uniquely “personal and intimate space” that fosters long-lasting relationships with potential customers (source: The Marketing Pod).
Overhyped Or Criminally Undersold?
Evidently the jury is still out. Still, it goes without saying you shouldn’t sink time and money into a Threads marketing strategy on the back of anyone’s intangible hopes and/or unqualified predictions.
Most of our budgets are stretched to breaking point, and the pundits at Marketing Beats predicting further downward pressure in early 2024 (source: Marketing Beat). In a climate like this, we have to ensure that every penny spent on a given marketing tactic has the potential to deliver tangible returns
To help you work out whether Threads fits the bill, we’ve pulled together a deep dive into its feature set, audience demographics and overall viability in 2023/2024: Focusing on the needs of B2B marketing managers who are focused on generating revenue.
There’s Life In The Old Girl Yet
According to Ars Technica, Threads has already lost approximately 75% of its active user base, which peaked at 49 million back in June 23 (source: Ars Technica). But that still means approximately 12.6 million people use the app on a daily basis.
To put that into perspective, Belgium and Greece have a population of 11.91 million and 10.34 million people respectively (source: CIA).
The question is, are any of these 12.6 million people members of your core target audience? One of the biggest mistakes B2B CMOs make is conflating reach with potential leads and revenue. Ultimately, success comes from putting branded content, offers or news in front of the vanishingly small group of people who are in a position to buy whatever you’re selling, and understand the value of your proposition.
So if you’re selling HR software to SMEs, you need to be sure that every marketing channel you leverage is popular with (or used by) HR professionals that are
- working for smaller business
- using outdated software
- cognizant of the time and money that could be saved by updating to a modern system
And the problem with Threads? Its population was initially ported from Instagram – another Meta product with an audience that skews gen Z and is most popular with people who’re interested in travel, music, food and drink (source: Hootsuite).
That’s not to say that your tribe isn’t using Threads: Averages don’t account for exceptional cases and a fair number of people will have signed up to Instagram so that they could access Threads.
But it’s important to go in with your eyes wide open, and spend some time working out whether investing time in Threads will actually help you reach the people who have the potential to drive revenue growth.
Threads’ Demographics: What Do We Know?
Working out whether your target audience spends time on any given social media network is always challenging. Yes, that goes for LinkedIn too!
There’s always going to be a certain amount of guesswork involved – and a requirement to spend time clicking around and trying to work out whether people are actually active/engaged.
But drilling down into some detailed demographic data will give us a head start. This is doubly true if you’ve already got access to detailed audience or buyer personas that you can compare to Threads demographic data, although we’d be wary of drawing firm conclusions unless you’re very confident about their accuracy.
So, who’s using Threads? According to Sensor Tower, Search Logistics and the Tech Report, Threads users are predominantly:
- younger ( 37% of users sit in the 18-24 age bracket, vs. 17% for Twitter or X)
- male (68% male vs. 32% female, compared to a 52% - 48% split on Instagram)
- social media savvy (80% use whatsapp, 58% use Facebook)
We still don’t have much data about popular topics, despite Threads claiming to encourage and promote organisation around people’s interests (source: EnterpriseAppsToday).
It’s also worth noting that we don’t know where Threads is most popular either: It hasn’t launched in the EU because of data privacy concerns, and initial reporting around its popularity by country seems confused, with some outlets reporting that its most popular in the UK or the US, and others reporting that almost half of its users are in Brazil and India.
Shouldn’t We Know More?
This somewhat confused and confusing picture isn’t all that unusual: while Threads has been out for a few months now, accurate user and uptake data does take a while to gather so I wouldn’t be hugely disheartened by the lack of certainty.
If it survives into 2024, it’ll inevitably gain a dedicated following in most countries. The question is, does the core user demographic profiled above match up with your understanding of your core target audience?
If yes, fantastic – it may well be worth looking at a Threads campaign. If not, we’d probably steer clear at this point. B2B marketing is time consuming and expensive. Especially if the product or service you’re selling is a considered purchase that requires a lot of hands-on nurturing.
Venturing onto a new platform ‘just in case’ could be a colossal waste of time. Particularly if you’re not trying to reach young men who spend a lot of time on social media.
What If My Tribe Is On Threads?
Let's say you think your audience personas do line up with Threads’ demographic data and - after a fair bit of hands-on research, you think your target audience may be actively using the platform.
Great stuff! But it’s not time to dive in just yet. Before you do, we want to highlight the opportunity cost involved in building a dedicated strategy for Threads. Simply put, the resource you dedicate to this platform can’t be deployed elsewhere.
The time your team spends writing Threads posts, replying to interactions on their ‘threads’ (read: discussions) or reposting other people’s content can’t be spent on proven channels like LinkedIn – or used to build up on-site content for your blog.
Similarly, the time and money you spend creating video content for Threads can’t be used to create Youtube shorts or Instagram reels. And before you tell us that you can always re-use assets across more than one channel, we’ll point you towards Ibrahim Gamaledin’s seminal guide to shifting from Twitter (or X) to Threads.
In this rather magnificent little article, Ibrahim points out that simply repurposing content for (or from) Threads doesn’t work because the platform is trying to do something brand new. There are no hashtags or topics on Threads. There’s no way to quickly jump on a ‘trending’ bandwagon or make sure your posts are popping up at the top of people’s feeds.
Instead, you have to focus on creating content that resonates on a personal level, and encourages people to share (or amplify) your output organically.
You’re also missing paid advertising tools and the promotional boosts that make Facebook so easy to leverage. Which is to say that you’ll actually have to spend time being insightful, original and helpful or your content will inevitably fail to gain traction.
This is social media in hard mode, without any of the tools and shortcuts most marketers use to hijack attention. It’s not for the faint of heart.
I’m Going To Use Threads Anyway…
More power to you. We’re not here to tell you that Threads is dead in the water. By all accounts, it’s improving rapidly – with Meta rolling out a new search function in September and a slew of additional updates scheduled for Q1 2024 (source: Search Engine Land).
If your target demographic is using the platform and you have the time to leverage it properly you may well find success. If for no other reason than that most big brands have decided to withdraw from the app (source: darnell.day).
Just recognise that it’s going to be an uphill battle, and that you will have to spend a significant amount of time working out how to engage with this new community in a way that elicits genuine engagement and doesn’t fall into the trap of making you look like you’re desperately fighting for relevance.
As to how you can accomplish this, the jury is still out. The truth of the matter is that nobody is seeing groundbreaking success on Threads yet. But we’ve never shied away from a challenge and we think we can offer some best-practice guidelines that’ll help you build and refine a successful strategy.
To a degree, this is common-sense advice based on years of experience with various social media channels. But it does account for the peculiarities of Threads, and the insights gleaned by other organisations over the past three months of Threading(?).
Building A Winning Strategy For Threads – In Spite Of Its Dwindling User Base
There are a few core areas to cover here, including:
Being Light, Conversational and Positive
Stryve Marketing point out that the only brands who’ve seen initial success on the platform have focused on fun or lighthearted messaging.
Brazen attempts to start conversations, puns and visual gags are the order of the day, with Microsoft posting tongue-in-cheek messages about the use of AI on social media platforms, and American Eagle taking aim at Gen Z users with chatty posts (source: Stryve Marketing).
Now, being genuinely funny won’t come easily to a lot of B2B brands and there’s nothing worse than forced or artificial humour so we wouldn’t recommend trying to ape these brands.
But we would advocate playing to the strengths of the platform, and focusing on engaging people in playful ways will land much better than overt attempts to market a product or brag about your company’s fundraising activities.
Establishing A Consistent Voice
Without the paid promotional tools that let us ‘skip the queue’ on other apps, building a dedicated following on Threads is going to be a long slog.
At present, there are no hashtags or trending feeds, which means that your posts will only show in other people’s feeds if they search for related content, or the Threads algorithm decides that your content will be of interest.
In a way, this is somewhat reminiscent of the early days of Instagram, if any of us can cast our minds back to those dark days at the dawn of the internet (Tech Target claims it launched in 2010 but it definitely felt like a different age).
Thriving there was all about being consistent, slowly making a name for yourself and proving that you could create engaging content that fit a specific template. We suspect that success on Threads will call for much of the same, albeit tweaked for the preferences of a Gen Z audience.
Engaging With Your Audience
Above all, Meta has stressed the fact that they want Threads to be about community. As such, any strategy that focuses on posting content at the expense of engaging with people who are conversing on their Threads, reposting interesting content and wading into discussions is doomed to failure.
Tread this path and you’ll wind up looking tone deaf and a little foolish. Ultimately, the brands that see success on Threads will be the ones who manage to foster a small community of dedicated followers who engage with and amplify their content, and the best shortcut to establishing this behaviour is reciprocity.
That means ferreting out and sharing things that’ll be of interest to other people, answering questions and celebrating other people’s successes.
Recycling X (Or Twitter) Content Judiciously
Earlier, we cautioned against treating Threads like an X (or Twitter) clone and simply trying to repost old Tweets to gain traction. This is good advice: Expectations for the platform are different and you lack the hashtags and other gizmos needed to contextualise a lot of your content.
That said, your audience is (or should be) made of the same sort of people, with the same preferences, humour, interests and so on. If something really resonated on X, there’s a very good chance it’ll resonate on Threads so tweak them by all means, but don’t be afraid to re-run old favourites.
Test, Test, Test
As of the time of writing, Threads doesn’t have any reporting or analytics tools which is probably a good argument for staying well away for the time being – particularly if you’re answering to a c-suite or board that demand consumable reports on your progress and/or the value of your efforts.
That said, we can still track engagement on individual posts or threads, and this will be key to learning what works, and how you should adjust your posting strategy over time. We’re very much in the wild west here; it’s up to us to develop the rules, and that means trying to learn from every data point we have access to.
To Infinity, And Beyond
It might sound like we’ve been unduly negative here, but that’s not our intention. We’re very much in the “wait and see” camp when it comes to Threads for B2B marketing. If Meta can add the features needed to find parity with X or Instagram it could become a sleeper hit.
But the predominantly young, male and instagram-esque nature of its core user demographic, the cost of exploiting the platform and its murky future make caution the most sensible strategy at the moment.
If you’d like to chew over the finer points of social media strategy and/or get a second opinion on your plans, don’t hesitate to reach out. We love to help B2B businesses refine their marketing strategy and find new ways of getting their message in front of the right people.