Why Threads won’t work without Gen Z



Of course you know about it. It’s the hottest thing in social media since … Mastodon?

But I don’t think Meta’s Twitter killer will work as a social media platform because I’ve seen this song and dance before, and it didn’t work then, either. So let’s explore today the case against Threads.

What’s the problem with Threads?

100 percent human contentFor a new social media platform to succeed — or for any business to succeed— it has to solve a customer problem. Threads is the same as Twitter, with far less meaningful functionality. So I am truly struggling to see the business case here. What problem is solved by Threads?

Most people say it is the place for Twitter haters. But so was Mastadon and Bluesky. Are you going to Bluesky every day instead of Twitter? That’s what I thought.

Let’s not forget that Google Plus was the place for Facebook haters. I was the only blogger in the universe who predicted G+ would not work — on the very day it was launched.

Same reason — we already had a social network. It was called Facebook. G+ did not solve a unique problem. It was just a place for Facebook haters. I wrote at the time that it is far easier to move to a new house in another city than to move to a new social network and take your friends, your communities, your games, etc. along with you.

People only have the bandwidth for one social media function. We have one YouTube. We have one LinkedIn. We already have one Twitter. That’s all we need.

Google Plus was the fastest-adopted technology in history at the time. Once the novelty wore off, it crashed hard. The reason for the crash? Well, that’s a story for another day. Well … OK, if you really want the story, it’s here.

Twitter drama

Many early Thread advocates are relieved to be away from the Musk-induced Twitter drama. The currency of Twitter is conflict. Threads is the block party for Twitter haters, and there are lots of reasons to hate what has happened there. But being “not Twitter” is not a sustainable source of differentiation.

Twitter’s heaviest users, like journalists and activists, have built an audience and meaningful assets on the site. This is where they have their Lists, Twitter Chats, and breaking news. It’s their home. Will there be a mass exodus because they’re tired of the Twitter chaos, or are they immune to it by now?

One pundit said recently that Twitter was like a Chekhov play — everyone says they’re going to leave, but they never do.

Others have expressed a love for Threads because it’s less spammy and toxic. But what’s going to keep Threads from becoming spammy and toxic? It’s the same swamp, folks. Is Zuck and Meta more deserving of our trust than Twitter? Spoiler alert: NO.

I think curiosity and FOMO will drive early adoption, but what will keep us there? I don’t think there is a there there.

What’s a Fediverse?

When you sign up for Threads, Meta taunts you with the idea that the technology is all blockchain-y and that Threads is the lead component in a “Fediverse” that is a “new type of social network that allows people to follow and interact on different platforms such as Mastodon.”

Oooooh my. I get to connect to my zero friends on Mastodon?

Allow me to interpret what this really means (I speak fluent Meta). What Zuck wants to do is have access to all your friends and activity on every social network so he can sell you more targeted ads. I do not believe this solves any problem for us. The Fediverse solves a problem for Facebook.

Threads needs Gen Z

There are two wildcards that could torpedo all of the arguments in this post and make Threads a huge success.

  1. Twitter dies
  2. A young Instagram audience previously disconnected from Twitter discovers Threads and adopts it.

To win at strategy number 2, Threads has to be cool. I looked up the Gen Z word for cool, and it would be “fire,” “extra,” or “fit.” Yeah, that. It has to be fit.

I think that’s the only hope and the card Zuck needs to play — find the “tipping point,” a strategy chronicled by Malcolm Gladwell in his book of the same name.  If you attract a critical mass of the buzzy cool kids, the movement begins. There is some indication that this is exactly what Meta is trying to do when it provided early access to many A-List celebrities and brands.

Allowing Insta-fans to jump-start their Threads account by automatically adding current followers makes Threads at least an easy experiment because there is no “cold start.” This is less attractive for traditional Twitter users since there is probably not much overlap between the followers in these networks.

Lance R. Fletcher observed that the youth migration could already be happening:

“One of the biggest Instagram groups, Bookstagram, has migrated already. Artstagram and Poetrygram are also moving to Threads. It’s gaining ground on Twitter because of creator-centric and creator-friendly brands adopting the platform.

“That was a core weakness of Twitter — it’s focused on being business-forward. The lack of DM capability on Threads as of now, destroys the appeal for the people on Twitter who required it– MLMs and “coaching.”

“The older creator economy has been left out. Most of us don’t like making UGC for TikTok and Reels, and we liked the community of Twitter before it was taken over by MLM and hate speech.

“Instagram lacked the ease of direct engagement of Twitter. This fixes that problem. It also fixes the siloing problem of Mastodon, and the artifice of hashtag engagement in Twitter and BlueSky, something Gen Z does actually care about.”

Will GenZ care about having a new public square? That’s not why they are Instagram in the first place. Instagram is a place to avoid the public square.

The last wildcard

There is another factor in this battle: ego.

Musk and Zuckerberg have titanic egos. Musk already came out swinging with a lawsuit against Meta. There are sure to be surprises in store. Musk is not going to go down with swatting back. Could this be the jolt Twitter needed all along?

Get out the popcorn!

Any way, my job is to connect the dots and see where the path might lead for all you wonderful marketers. May your dots be connected, your threads be bright, and your FOMO at zero as we surge onto yet another social media platform.

Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions. He is the author of some of the world’s bestselling marketing books and is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant. The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak at your company event or conference soon.

Follow Mark on TwitterLinkedInYouTube, and Instagram.

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