Advertisers are eagerly watching how Meta’s new Threads messaging app develops over the next few months as they look for a new social channel to reach consumers while Twitter continues to struggle.
Instagram Threads debuted last week and has amassed more than 100 million sign-ups, which has caught the attention of numerous companies, several digital marketing agencies and industry experts told CNBC.
Natasha Blumenkron, vice president of paid social for marketing firm Tinuiti, said that Threads has become the topic du jour for her company’s clients, who are trying to figure out how the messaging app fits into their existing social media strategies.
Many businesses that have stopped advertising on Twitter over brand safety concerns, including the reported increase in racist and hateful speech on the platform under the ownership of Tesla chief Elon Musk, are excited about the possibility of advertising on Threads once that option becomes available, Blumenkron said.
Meta is currently more focused on building the core Threads product as opposed to monetizing the app, Instagram head Adam Mosseri has said in various interviews and a post on Threads. Many popular features that are common to other social apps, like the ability to use hashtags or read posts in chronological order, are not currently available, and Mosseri has said that his team is working to incorporate some of those tools.
Blumenkron explained that many brands are interested in the potential for Threads to add more features like chronological feeds and the ability to search for hashtags. These features can be helpful for companies to ensure that their posts are being shown to the right audience and helps them understand which trending topics could inform their content.
“When we think about playing in the paid space, brands really just want to make sure that their content is reaching relevant audiences,” Blumenkron said. “You’re paying to play at the end of the day, and you want to make sure you’re where it makes the most sense.”
Rachel Tipograph, CEO of marketing technology firm MikMak, said that her company’s clientele of consumer product firms and retailers are also interested in advertising opportunities on Threads, as they consistently try to “find new eyeballs,” particularly as Twitter’s brand safety problems have continued to increase.
MikMak was able to deduce that many of the company’s clients significantly pulled back on their Twitter advertising spend based on how much traffic the firm records from the paid advertising campaigns it helps manage for customers, she said.
For example, MikMak logged a 42% decline in Twitter traffic between April and May, indicating that companies were pausing their paid advertising campaigns. When Linda Yaccarino, former NBCUniversal global advertising chief, became Twitter CEO in June, MikMak recorded a 21% increase in Twitter traffic, suggesting that for some brands, the longtime advertising executive’s arrival at Twitter caused some companies to increase their spending, Tipograph said.
It’s too early to tell whether the debut of Threads will impact Twitter’s advertising sales as of now, Tipograph added.
Twitter issued an automated response when contacted for a request for comment.
Besides Threads’ increasingly growing user base, Tipograph said that companies are interested in Threads because it shares similar back-end administration tools to Instagram, meaning that corporate social media managers could have an easier time using the platform. Additionally, companies that already have Instagram accounts can essentially port their followers over to Threads rather than building an audience from scratch.
“It’s the most instant onboarding experience I’ve ever experienced in the history of my career, and my entire career has been in social,” Tipograph said.
Still, Tipograph believes that in order for Threads to have a major impact on online advertising, it’s going to need users who regularly interact with each other on the site, which could be quantified by the number of daily active users, an established marketing metric.
For Tal Jacobson, incoming CEO of digital advertising firm Perion Network, “the number of sign-ups doesn’t mean a lot.” Although it was easy for current Instagram users to create Threads accounts, he said, it’s unclear how active they will be on the service.
“The number of conversations is really the number you need to look for,” Jacobson said, regarding which statistics would be most helpful for advertisers.
Since Threads is so new, it’s unclear which kind of audience Threads is attracting, Tipograph said. Companies will be watching to see if the messaging app attracts a different type of audience than merely existing Instagram users, which will impact their marketing plans, she added.
Instagram’s Mosseri recently said that Threads will not actively promote discussions around news and politics, and the company believes that catering to topics such as fashion and sports would be less divisive. Because of this, some of Twitter’s core audience, who use the service to keep up with the rapid-fire nature of news and politics, could be less interested in using Threads, if the platform is geared toward lifestyle and entertainment.
Even if Threads doesn’t capture an audience interested in news and politics, it could still be a good business for Meta, according to Brian Wieser, a media consultant and former technology analyst. The total addressable audience for entertainment and lifestyle content may be much larger than the number of people interested in hard news, which could be a “a better business” to focus on and less of a reputational risk, Wieser said.
Wieser believes it’s possible for Threads to represent “a nice, incremental multibillion-dollar business” for Meta if it’s able to keep users glued to the service, and if it doesn’t morph into a video app that’s indistinguishable from others.
Angelo Carusone, chairman and president of the Media Matters for America nonprofit, said that if Instagram chooses to focus on more lifestyle content than hard news, it won’t have the same relevancy as Twitter to influence national and global affairs.
“It might have commercial viability, but it wouldn’t have any real relevancy,” Carusone said.
Media Matters and other groups including Free Press and Accountable Tech urged advertisers to stop spending on Twitter when Musk took over last fall, citing an increase in hate speech and other concerns.
Although Threads may not currently have the same amount of offensive content on its service that drives away users and advertisers, Carusone said that it’s possible that the same bad actors and trolls who have increased their activity on Twitter could do so on Threads.
Carusone noted that Nick Fuentes, a livestreamer and outspoken antisemite who was banned from Instagram in 2019, recently said that he created a fake Instagram and Threads account and urged his viewers to “blow up and red pill some people on there.”
If Meta isn’t prepared to handle users intent on spreading misinformation and divisive content on Threads, the messaging app risks alienating advertisers in addition to users, Carusone said, adding that Meta isn’t free from the issues plaguing Twitter, particularly after Meta’s layoffs on its trust and safety teams.
“My point is that Threads basically magnifies a problem that Instagram has [that] Facebook has never solved,” Carusone said. “And I think that is a real thing.”