SOCIAL MEDIA

Threads Reaches 175 Million Users on One Year Anniversary

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Can you believe that Meta’s Twitter-like Threads app is a year old already?

The text-based social app, launched in order to gather up cast-offs from Elon Musk’s X project, has risen to become a genuine player in the social media space, piggybacking off of Instagram to establish its own audience, which now does seem to have a life of its own.

But is it an actual rival for X in the space? Can Threads become a viable replacement for real-time, conversational engagement?

Also, can Threads, as Meta has envisioned, become the next billion-user app?

Well, there are some good and bad signs in its first year of performance data, but at the least, the groundwork has been laid for Meta to build Threads into something more significant. If things go right, or more operatively, if things go wrong on X.

As noted, from the start, Threads was designed as a response to Elon Musk’s less popular changes at Twitter/X, which have included mass layoffs, relaxed moderation rules, forcing users to pay for checkmarks, paywalling elements of the product, and more. But the biggest change may have actually been Elon himself, and the divisive opinions that he now feeds into his X profile on a regular basis.

Indeed, Musk has altered his public persona through his constant stream-of-consciousness X feed. And given that he’s also the most followed user in the app, those posts are also pushed into almost every single X users’ feed, one way or another, whether they like it or not, which, for some at least, has been a key driver in them shifting away from the app.

But there’s a lot more to it than that.

Musk’s initial layoffs at the company sparked the first major shift away from X among the tech community, which has since become one of the most active groups on Threads. Left-leaning political commentators and entertainment identities have also turned their back on X, and are now posting to Threads instead, and it’s these communities that have had the most influence in making it a more active, engaging space, essentially moving their Twitter discussions to the new app.

Yet, at the same time, many other, less exposed communities, particularly sports, remain attached to X, and have thus far shown little interest in re-creating their networks on another app. X’s focus on in-the-moment updates, via its real-time feed, combined with the curated “Following” lists, which users have built over years, means that it’s still a highly valuable stream for live events, and as such, X remains a critical connector, with many key updates still flowing first through X posts, as they once did through tweets.

But at the same time, that initial cohort of Threads users is building momentum within the app. At a slower pace than the app’s initial rush, for sure, but it is still steadily rising over time.

That early rush saw Threads set a record for the most account sign ups ever, reaching 100 million profiles created within days of its initial release. It followed that up by reaching 100 million active users just three months later, proving the stickiness of the app, before rising to 130 million users in February this year, seven months after launch, then 150 million in April.   

And today, Meta has confirmed that Threads is up to 175 million users, marking its first 12 months.

Threads 175 million users

Which is a solid user base. For comparison, Reddit has 82 million daily actives, while Snapchat has 422 million DAU.

Though the more direct comparison, of course, is X, which is still sitting on 250 million daily active users, where it’s been stuck since November 2022, shortly after Elon took over at the app. Threads is closing in on this number, which is when you could definitively label it a genuine rival for Musk’s social project, though it also worth noting that Threads’ growth momentum has slowed a lot, even if it is still rising.

Threads added 7.5 million new active users per month between October 2023 and February this year, but that’s now declined to 5 million more actives per month over the most recent three-month period. So its growth rate has dipped by more than 30%, so while it is growing, it’s not exactly hooking people in droves at this stage.

Is that a bad sign?

Well, again, X hasn’t seen any growth in daily actives at all for almost two years, so the fact that Threads is adding 5 million more per month is significant, in relative terms. At 5 million more users per month, Threads is also on track to surpass X in active users by October next year, though that would also depend on X not adding any new users, and a lot can happen between then and now to change this.

Essentially, Threads still has a way to go to win over many of its potential users. And that, at least partially, could relate to its resistance to real-time news content.

Which is also only partially true. As Meta has made clear, while it does want to steer clear of divisive content, like political news and ideological debate, it is happy to host real-time news on certain topics, like sports and fashion.

As per Instagram chief Adam Mosseri (in an interview with Platformer this week):

It’d be great to go to Threads and see what’s happening during the NBA finals, during the Super Bowl, during the Met Gala if you’re into fashion, during the Grammys, or the Emmys. So we do need to be a place for news. I just don’t think that it’s our place to be showing you political takes from people you don’t follow. I think that’s fundamentally going to create more problems than it solves.

That aligns with Meta’s push to be a place for more positive discussion, because, essentially, Meta has had enough of users complaining about political debates taking over their feeds, and its executives being hauled before Congress to answer for such.

That’s why Meta’s taking definitive steps to avoid political content, but that does then also leave the door open for X to dominate during major real time events. Because Threads, as it currently stands, is not fundamentally designed to provide a live stream of in-the-moment posts.

It’s working on this as well. Mosseri says that the team has been increasingly focused on real time engagement as time has gone on, and it is developing better solutions to keep users updated as news breaks. That would be a significant shift, but right now, its resistance to news updates remains a bugbear for many.

Though if Meta’s metrics show that this is the right move, then those complaints likely matter a lot less, but will it inadvertently help to maintain X’s relevance?

Really, probably not, because the people who are now most aligned to political discussion on X were likely never coming over to Threads anyway. So while this seems like an obvious miss by the Threads team, over time, Meta’s betting that a more positivity-focused approach will win out.  

We don’t know if that’s true, and again, as much as there’s a lot of onus on the Threads team to get things right, the more that Musk agitates the X user base, the more that also works in Threads’ favor.

So as of right now, Threads is in a strong position to eventually overtake, and potentially surpass X as the real-time social platform of choice. It also has more variables working in its favor, and if it can win over some of those embedded X communities, like sports and music fandom, that could spark a much bigger shift.  

And then will come the ads, and a new platform for marketers to consider. Mosseri says that this is in the works, but it feels, at least at this stage, like Threads needs another big growth surge before Meta makes the next move on this front. 



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