Will trending topics improve the overall Threads experience, and get people posting more often to the app?
Today, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri has reiterated his contention that features like trending topics won’t have a big impact on Threads’ growth, though he has provided some more context as to what he does believe will be important, as they look for new ways to get more people using the app.
Which is really the key goal. The Threads team, right now, is focused on boosting its active user count, which, in Mosseri’s view, will be the key thing that does drive broader adoption of the platform.
As per Mosseri:
“I don’t think that trends, [which we are working on], are going to massively change the trajectory of Threads. They’re going to be an important feature for a small set of power users, which is great, because you really want to support your power users. But at the end of the day, one of the most important things for all users, including power users, is that you can reach more people than you can elsewhere. And so, we really care a lot about growing the overall community, because that is the best, and really only way to increase reach for everyone, and that is going to be, I think, the most important value proposition.”
So, in this sense, Mosseri sees the path to beating X as the real-time platform of choice as expanding Threads’ audience, first and foremost. More people using the app will mean that more people will then have to pay attention to the conversations happening there, and at 130 million monthly actives right now, versus 500 million on X, it’s got a way to go to win over a critical mass of real-time social fans for the platform.
And I can see the argument that Mosseri’s making, that boosting the app’s general appeal is the best way to go, and given his breadth of experience in managing Facebook’s News Feed and Instagram, he, of course, would know what he’s talking about in this respect.
But I do think that trending topics, as well as chronological search sorting options, and other real time engagement tools, will have a bigger impact than he seems to suggest.
For example, among the biggest community holdouts on X right now are sports fans, who have a long embedded engagement process for how they interact around live events. I would suggest that real-time engagement is a massive part of this, and the fact that they can’t follow game developments as they happen on Threads, at least not easily, would be a major impediment to them making the switch, if they so wanted. Mosseri’s saying that the desire to change is the key first step, and that comes from more discussion happening in the app, but I would suggest that these two elements both play a significant role in encouraging related engagement.
So making it easier to stay on top of the latest developments, through trending topics and chronological search, is important, and I would argue that both are more important than the concerns around trends being hijacked by spammers in the app.
That, seemingly, is what’s stopping the Threads team from rolling out these options, but I suspect that, eventually, it will add both, enabling more immediacy in conversation in the app.
The same would apply to reality TV discussion, news events, awards shows, etc. Mosseri is right, in that people posting about these topics enjoy the dopamine hit that they get from engagement with their posts, which light up their notifications, and they can’t get that if Threads doesn’t have more users paying attention. But again, the two elements are more complementary than Mosseri suggests, and I do think that such functions will have more impact once they’re added.
It’s also worth noting that the “power users” Mosseri refers to are absolutely critical considerations as well.
For example, 80% of X users never engage in the app, they only view content, which means that all the content posted to the platform comes from around 20% of its user base. That would suggest that appealing to this subset is indeed hugely important, and does play a massive role in boosting activity.
Again, I don’t doubt Mosseri’s knowledge and understanding of what works best within social apps. But I do question the seemingly limited thinking on growth in this context.
Either way, we’ll find out, with the Threads team currently working on trending topics, and other highly requested features.