While Meta’s Threads app raced to 100 million members in less than a week after its initial launch, setting a new growth record, it’s dropped off significantly ever since, with the app now sitting on 128 million users 8 weeks out from its full release. That means that’s its only added another 28 million members in seven weeks, at an average of 4 million per week, which is a huge decline from its early hyped rise.
And those figures are members, not active users of the platform. Threads has a big advantage in this regard, because it’s been prompting Instagram users to create an account, with an easy, streamlined account creation process linking the two apps. But its actual user numbers are a lot lower, with the latest third-party reports indicating that Threads is now serving just 10 million daily actives, down from a peak of 49 million DAU in July. Threads’ average session time is also down to just 3 minutes.
For comparison, X currently has around 250 million daily actives, with an average session time of 25 minutes.
So does that mean that the dream is over, that Threads is done for, and that we should all just accept that nothing will ever surpass Twitter, now X, for real-time engagement?
Honestly, it’s still hard to say, because while the engagement numbers are not great, as X continues to alienate significant portions of its audience, and Threads continues to add more functionality, it could still become a more significant platform, and fill a role in the social media landscape.
The release of a Threads web app was seen as a major development on this front, and it likely has led to an increase in engagement, though the lack of an API, and related scheduling functionality is also still a factor that’s caused some major publishers and creators to hesitate in making a bigger Threads push.
Techmeme founder Gabe Rivera recently noted such, specifying the lack of API as a key impediment to his publication making Threads a bigger focus.
That could be a more significant hurdle than it seems, and maybe, once Instagram is able to facilitate API access, that’ll see more publications emphasizing Threads.
Because I can tell you, a lot of them are keen to find an alternative, given Elon Musk’s regular criticisms and attacks.
The media lies constantly. Explicit lies are easy to catch, compared to the choice-of-narrative lie.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 31, 2023
They completely ignore that which they don’t want to talk about, but will turn a molehill into a mountain when they do want to talk about it.
Elon may be underrating the value of journalists to his platform in this respect. And while it might help to make him look cool to his friends and followers to trash the “mainstream media” whenever he can, statements like this continue to erode his relationship with highly influential, and highly active users of his app, which could also play into Meta’s favor in this respect.
Meta’s also exploring new ways to promote Threads, in addition to prompting users to create a Threads account, including a new Threads highlights element inserted into the main IG feed.
With a huge captive audience across its other tools, Meta has a lot of opportunity to drive more awareness of Threads, and these combined efforts do seem to be helping to at least drive more downloads of the app, and get more people looking Threads’ way.
But if the actual in-app experience isn’t that great, people won’t stick around, which is why Meta really needs to get more influential users making Threads a priority, in order to make it a more compelling, engaging space.
It’s not there yet. At such comparatively low usage levels, Threads still feels a little bare, a little empty, and it doesn’t take long for the algorithm to start throwing increasingly random posts your way, as it runs out of its most engaging updates to show you.
There is still an opportunity, driven mostly by the desire to leave X, but Threads hasn’t cracked the code, or fully fleshed out its platform enough as yet to become a real replacement for the Twitter experience.
But it is still early, and the Threads team is still working. So while there are regular updates proclaiming Threads’ demise, and those will likely keep coming, I would just be monitoring the situation for now, and keeping tabs on how significant the Elon backlash is, and how that relates to key segments of X’s user base seeking out another option.
Essentially, Threads now offers a mostly functional alternative, which could become even more significant if Elon decides to implement another major update to his app.
The next shift, in this respect, could be key, and that could open the door a little wider for Threads to take hold.