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Instagram Threads attract creators, and Meta’s job is to keep them

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Brian Moller is the “Thin Master”.

Ever since Meta debuted on Instagram Threads the day after the July 4th holiday, the radio host and comedian, whose stage name is B Mo the Prince, has been joking and bantering with other early adopters of the Twitter clone. He made a few jokes last week about how his new compulsion to Threads takes precedence over certain necessities of life, like sleep.

For the past few years, Moller has devoted his extensive presence on social networks such as TikTok, Instagram and YouTube as a creator of short comedy sketches, poking fun at Gen Z and millennials and how they perceive each other. He now has about 3 million followers on social media and online video platforms.

One major app that avoided it: Twitter.

“The vibe was off,” Moeller said of the reception to his jokes and sketch comedy posts on Twitter. “It’s not exactly a platform for that.”

Savvy Instagram users like Moller are a big reason why Threads topped the download charts and became one of the fastest-growing consumer apps in history, surpassing 100 million users in its first week. With Twitter sputtering due to technical glitches and Elon Musk’s erratic behavior alienating many formerly loyal fans, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg took the opportunity to kick a competitor while it was down.

The hard part is retaining users.

The number of chains skyrocketed because it was easy for existing Instagram users to create accounts on the new messaging service and connect with their followers. But the app is already showing signs of waning momentum, with analytics firms Sensor Tower and Similarweb reporting a drop in engagement.

Moller is exploring how Threads could become a central service to his online existence and a potential way to reach a larger audience. He hopes that Threads will stay strong and that people will continue to open the app throughout the day to listen to his jokes and other forms of entertainment.

Earlier this week, Meta released its first major update to Threads, adding features that make it easier to view followers and a translate button so users can read text in other languages.

However, Threads is missing key improvements that could help creators build their in-app audience beyond existing Instagram followers, said Caspar Lee, whose YouTube channel has more than 6.6 million subscribers. There isn’t even a website that users can access via desktop.

“Threads is the really cool new kid in the classroom that everyone wants to talk to,” said Lee, who also has a venture capital firm and co-founded marketing firm Influencer. “Then over the next few weeks they have to find out if they have anything else.”

Currently, Threads users cannot search for topics or hashtags that represent hot topics. The feed is algorithmic, based on who the user follows and content recommended by Instagram. There is a sense of randomness and disorganized chaos. You’re not really participating in the conversation.

“The great thing about Twitter and TikTok and YouTube is that you can go on a topic, a trend, and you can get tons of people to follow you and consume your content,” Lee said. “It will be interesting to see if people can go from an initial spike in the first few days to a steady increase over the next few months.”

Twitter is nicer

Instagram executives began by positioning Threads as a better alternative to Twitter, discouraging chatter about news and politics and focusing more on entertainment and lifestyle content. Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, said Threads can cater to people interested in topics like fashion, sports, music and beauty who have never found a like-minded community on Twitter.

Conflict is a major attraction on Twitter, which is often used by high-ranking politicians to promote their views and criticize those of their opponents.

Lee even created a popular YouTube video five years ago in which he read “evil tweets” with comedian Jack Whitehall. The video was viewed more than 1 million times.

Mohler said he finds Threads more welcoming than Twitter, and likes the ability to scroll and post without having to engage in real-time arguments. One of the few things he does on Twitter is read about sports. Even then, the comments can be “so argumentative” as to be unpleasant, he said, adding that the combative nature of the discussions has only intensified since Musk bought the company late last year.

The topics, at least so far, “don’t have the same vitriol,” he said.

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Marcel Florus, a fashion influencer with more than 580,000 Instagram followers and more than 1 million YouTube followers, says it was a “smart move” for Meta to try to capture disaffected Twitter users as well as people who left the app.

However, he is still trying to figure out how Threads can help him. Florus built a career as an influencer giving fashion tips and advice, and he never found a way to “offer something to Twitter,” which he says is more for news, live events and politics.

In Stories, Instagram’s time-limited messaging tool similar to Snapchat, Floruss can share tips alongside photos. He also creates content for TikTok, Instagram’s short video service Reels, Snapchat and YouTube. Florus said he’s going to “play around” with Threads, but he’s not ready to make it a priority given how much time he spends elsewhere.

“The potential benefit outweighs the amount of work I feel I have to put in,” he said.

Floruss isn’t alone in taking a wait-and-see approach.

Chas Lacaillade, CEO of influencer recruitment agency Bottle Rocket Management, said many of his creative clients are turning away from Threads until the program shows it’s a place that can boost their careers.

“They’re not going to go from zero to 100 miles on this other thing,” Lacaillade said. “It’s very important not to discredit what you’ve got by looking for something unproven or flavor of the month.”

Creators, Lacaillade said, would rather spend their time deepening existing relationships instead of working on a new social media service that could quickly lose steam.

Threads “had a really splashy entrance,” Lacaillade said. The real test, he said, will be Meta’s ability to find sustained momentum.

As it stands, there is no way for creators to monetize their presence on Threads. There’s no advertising, so brands aren’t looking for influencer partners, and it’s unclear if Threads can turn into a channel to help them direct people to sites where they can sell merchandise or promote their Patreon pages, he said.

A Meta spokesperson said in an email that the company’s priority is to “create consumer value first” to “explore how to build business value in a way that doesn’t detract from the consumer experience.”

The spokesperson also noted Mossera’s previous public statements describing that Instagram “was completely focused on turning on the lights and fixing bugs, but we’re starting to prioritize features that are clearly missing, like the next feed, edit button, and post search.”

“Famine of regular monetization”

Creators say YouTube remains the #1 outlet for influencers who can build lasting careers.

“Other than YouTube, what other platform can engage you or any viewer for more than 30 seconds?” – said Florus. “You’re taking advantage of people’s attention, which costs advertisers a lot of money.”

As Twitter struggles with advertisers, the site is trying to gain traction among creators. The company recently started paying some verified users to advertise in their conversations. That might encourage some people to use Twitter instead of Threads, said Tameka Basile, who works for artist relations and marketing at Time.

Basile noted that some Twitter users have reported being paid as much as $35,000, and she said it could be an attractive way to attract “micro-influencers” or “nano-influencers” who lack a large audience but have gained some recognition in certain communities.

“The creator economy is starving for regular monetization,” she said.

Industry experts said Twitter is not disclosing some important details of how it pays some creators, such as the percentage of revenue they receive from advertising.

Brendan Gaan, partner and chief social officer at ad agency Mekanism, said Twitter’s system needs some transparency.

“It feels like Twitter just gave away a bunch of random accounts right now,” Gahan said.

Twitter had no comment for this story.

Sasha Kalecki, co-founder and managing partner of Creator Ventures, said in an email that Twitter’s recent influencer payment plans are “almost impossible” to compete with brand deals from Instagram or YouTube.

As with Threads, creators will wait to see how Twitter works for their peers before “spending a lot more time creating content there,” Kalecki said.

Marketing influencer Jack Appleby said his income comes from brand sponsorships on platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as his own newsletter and speaking engagements.

Appleby said that for Threads to be relevant to creators, the app needs to have better analytics so they can measure engagement and prove to brands that they have reach.

Appleby likes that Threads allows you to post up to 500 characters, which he says allows him to write more complete thoughts. The maximum length of tweets is 280 characters, except for paid subscribers who can write messages of 25,000 characters. Appleby said he definitely doesn’t need that much space.

“I hope Threads allows us to be a little more human,” he said.

As for Mohler, a comedian, he hopes Threads will continue to feel playful and fun. With time and some smart features, maybe the engagement will be strong enough to help his entertainment career.

“It happened, and I was sure that Zuckerberg was not releasing something half-assed,” he said.

LOOK: Twitter as a product is “dramatically better” under Elon Musk, says Gary Vaynerchuk

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