Elon Musk recently challenged Mark Zuckerberg to a ‘çage fight’ — a fight in a cage I guess — and the result was declared on July 5th.
Zuck won hands down. He blew Musk — and his $44 billion social media toy, Twitter away. Last heard, Musk had sued Zuck for copying.
So, as most people probably know unless they’ve been living under a very large rock, the Instagram-fuelled Threads is where everyone is headed. It has disrupted social media, and how? Just when we were sharing memes on how Facebook had lost the plot, Zuck claims he got 10 million sign-ups in the first few hours, and he’s probably telling the truth. There were reports of 30 million users within two days.
Truth be told, when my boss asked me what I thought of Threads, I quickly replied “Boring. Seems like Twitter announcing something exciting and new in 2015.”
The big deal
Ad/Marketing/Comms folks often get the deeper motives wrong, miss the wood for the trees, and my reaction was classic evidence. Yes, it’s kind of boring, yes it’s very 2015, but — also yes — it sweeps the carpet from under Twitter’s feet. And that’s the real deal.
So here’s the dope, in my humble opinion; I am happy to be corrected as usual.
Elon Musk had taken a lot of wrong calls since he took over Twitter. These calls were erratic at best, the result being ad revenues on the platform are now down by 25 per cent, the Twitter Blue experiment backfired (every aunt and uncle can buy a Blue tick, obliterating perfectly good content), and Twitter lost 2/3rd of its value since Musk took over.
Zuck was in hot water too recently, if you remember. Metaverse is allegedly a major flop (those Pragati Maidan headsets were cool though), there were major privacy concerns — in fact Facebook had rebranded itself to Meta, to avoid some of the flack.
The perfect storm
It made perfect sense for Zuck to launch a full-frontal attack on Twitter. As my school football coach used to say, “Offence is the best defence.”
What also helped is Meta is allegedly good at copying: some claim they are good at cloning rival features, not unlike some Bollywood composers from the 90s. Insta Stories was allegedly influenced by Snapchat Stories, Reels was allegedly influenced by TikTok, and now it’s Threads/Twitter. Also, 87 per cent of Twitter is already on Insta, so that’s a brilliant headstart. Start-up CEOs throw parties when they reach 10,000 sign-ups, this is 10 million in a few hours. Cocaine on a silver spoon.
Oh and there’s also AI. This is money for jam for Meta, what with the online text data from Threads. Finally, here is why I think the advertising dollars will be flowing into Meta’s coffers:
Network: The integration with Instagram’s existing user base gives Threads a deep advantage by leveraging the massive user base and the network effect of Instagram.
Immersive: The visual nature of Instagram, combined with Threads’ focus on photos and videos, creates a more immersive and engaging messaging experience compared to Twitter.
Friends: The app’s focus on close friends and smaller groups allows for more intimate and private conversations, a delight for advertisers.
Will Twitter put up a fight? Funnily enough, they don’t need to. Twitter users (like me) are faithful. Only 4 per cent leave every year, so they are fine. And Insta users are as similar to Twitter users as chalk and cheese.
Elon could still have the last word.
(Shubho Sengupta is a digital marketer with an analogue ad agency past. He can be found @shubhos)