Mark Zuckerberg’s new “Twitter Killer” has arrived. But questions have surfaced, especially from the key demographic it needs to be successful – Gen Z. Below, we asked Gen Z native Hannah Walters for her early thoughts on the platform…

Threads, owned and operated by Meta Platforms, was officially released to 100 countries on Wednesday 5th July. Soon after, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the app had reached 70 million signups which he said was, “Way beyond our expectations”. Less than a week later, Threads crossed the 100 million mark and by achieving the milestone in just five days, overtook the record ChatGPT set when it reached 100 million signups in two months.

Threads is already being described as the “Twitter Killer” as Twitter users look for alternatives due to the latest controversy surrounding the bird app. However, Threads displays some key differences – the Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri added, “The goal isn’t to replace Twitter. The goal is to create a public square for communities on Instagram that never really embraced Twitter and for communities on Twitter (and other platforms) that are interested in a less angry place for conversations, but not all of Twitter.”

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First off, Threads disregards Twitter’s chronological timeline by following a similar feed algorithm to Facebook and Instagram. Thread posts are also not limited to the accounts the user follows – this means anything can pop up on your feed reminding us that Threads is still a very new app and ultimately vulnerable to the spreading of poor content. This is one aspect that needs to be worked on.

On the other hand, Threads rivals Twitter by allowing users to post up to 500 characters (with the ability to add images, links, and videos) and read as many Threads as they want, unlike Twitter where tweets are limited to 280 characters and the latest change where users can only read a specific number of tweets a day – an unpopular update amongst Twitter users.

But the biggest decision by Meta is that Threads will not promote any hard news or political content. Adam Mosseri declares that, “Any incremental engagement or revenue they might drive is not worth the scrutiny, negativity (let’s be honest), or integrity risks that come along with them.” This statement counteracts Twitter’s CEO Elon Musk’s encouragement of political discussions on the bird app, which has created a more chaotic and aggressive platform.

However, Threads lacks common social media features like hashtags, stories and direct messaging and is heavily relying on Meta’s existing clout to encourage engagement. The question is will it be enough for people to keep coming back and ultimately burn Twitter?

A personal perspective

Speaking as an 18-year-old Gen Z native, the fact we have grown up with the internet and digital devices has resulted in a unique relationship towards new technologies. We have a higher level of appreciation for the online world as it plays a pivotal role in our daily lives especially how we communicate with others and express ourselves to the wider world.

So, when a new social networking app launches, it’s a natural reaction for us to want to stay “up to date”. Gen Z are early adopters, willing to be the rats in the experiments to see what this new app is all about. Threads being the companion app to Instagram has also meant we had easy access to it by using our Instagram accounts to sign up.

Screenshot 2023 07 19 10.00.11Mark Zuckerberg was smart with creating hype around the app when it first launched. All of Gen Z know about the ongoing competition between him and Twitter CEO Elon Musk. We enjoy watching their ridiculous public feuding. Seeing these grown men with all the money in the world act like children makes us almost feel more mature and grown-up than these billionaire babies. Zuckerberg tweeting on the rival app for the first time in 10 years with the classic Spiderman meme to make fun of Twitter added to our entertainment – and curiosity. And by making signing up so easy, everyone was able to join the feud and stir the pot.

However, joining Threads was one thing – using it was another. Despite Gen Z being wizzes with technology, I don’t think anyone knew how to properly use the app when it first launched. All we knew was that it was “like Twitter”. But apparently better. I still imagine most people don’t know how to make the most of it.

As a result of this, Threads has become a massive playground for Gen Z. The app is full of erratic comments, funny images, and Elon Musk memes. And we enjoy it because no one takes the posts seriously. The lack of toxicity on the app right now has allowed people more freedom to share whatever random thought comes to their mind without being attacked or cancelled which has sadly become a huge part of our culture.

I believe the liberty and excitement around Threads comes largely from Meta’s decision to not promote political verticals and hard news on the app. Although Gen Z is very in touch with today’s issues like politics, racism and the environment, Threads acts as a break from all that chaos. As a generation that has been thrown into the real world so quickly, it can be overwhelming to process all that turmoil alongside the challenge of growing up. The constant bombardment of opinions, news and expectations on Gen Z has had a huge impact on us, mainly our mental health. Threads, being the simplest and most unserious app ever, allows Gen Z to escape that chaos for a bit and just post, reply, quote, and repost – and it’s all relatable and amusing.

However, the Gen Z attention span is shorter than any generation before us which makes keeping ongoing engagement difficult. The simplicity of the app right now can only keep us entertained for so long. The lack of hashtags makes it hard to find specific communities and no direct messaging doesn’t allow us to share specific posts to closer friends.

Mark Zuckerberg needs to develop the app quickly if he wants to keep Gen Z from running back to Twitter.

Some conclusions

As Gen Z continues to be the primary audience for social networking apps and digital content, Threads needs to find a way to keep us involved in the app. It needs to consider our needs and preferences whilst keeping the comedic feel of the app, making sure toxic content doesn’t start to dominate our feeds.

Our chance to be a part of history and heighten the tension between the competing billionaires Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk, simply by signing up to Threads and ignoring Twitter, also makes it more entrancing and keeps us on Threads.

Publishers need to be very intentional now with their next decision: should they take on Threads? In my opinion, if they want to reach out to Gen Z, they should already be on the app. By adapting to Threads early with Gen Z, like Gen Z, they will quickly learn more about how we interact, take on new technologies and make the most of them despite the lack of direction. And as new updates are released and the app develops, publishers who have taken the risk to join Threads early will be miles ahead with both involvement and knowledge of what to post and how to draw our attention.

Of course, Threads is less than two weeks’ old, and we still don’t know where this could go. But either way we will still have Twitter and we still have the opportunity of sparking the most monumental cage fight in history.

Threads is a 6/10. For now…

About Hannah

Hannah Walters is an 18-year-old Gen Z specialist, with her area of expertise lying in understanding Gen Z and how they intake media in this heavily digital age. She has just graduated college and is taking a year out, looking for opportunities to write reports to from a real and authentic perspective to help publishers get an insight on how to tackle the challenge of keeping up to date with this fast-paced generation.

Email: [email protected]