Retail in Asia


What Meta’s Threads could mean for retailers

Rolled out globally on July 5, Threads – Meta’s answer to Twitter – has become the most rapidly downloaded app, eclipsing launches of other highly anticipated platforms in recent years.

Crossing 30 million registrations in less than 24 hours and acquiring 100 million users in five days, Threads quickly garnered buzz. But whether the app retains its relevance in the long run is a question brands and retailers must contend with. 

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Threads’ features are limited for now. Threads have a 500-character limit, a repost and quote feature, and an algorithm-based feed, which means users see Threads posts from people they don’t follow. Threads posts can also include links, photos, and videos up to five minutes long.

At the moment, there are no hashtags, advertisements, or direct messages, which brands have leveraged on Twitter and Instagram for both customer and media engagement. 

With the plethora of social media platforms brands are already utilising to reach potential and current audiences, marketers and social media teams already have plenty on their plate. While some brands such as Nike, Lululemon, and Netflix have begun activating their presence on Threads, there are still a number of holdouts.

Victoria Neo, social strategist at digital and innovation agency R/GA, says brands can think about making Threads and sister platform Instagram work for them while leveraging its individual strengths.

“For instance, Instagram can be where retail brands can market their products while Threads can be where the retail brands can personify themselves using a ‘human voice,’” Neo says.

Pictured: Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg. Meta is the owner of Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and now Threads, among others. Source: Shutterstock

Unlike Instagram and Twitter, which are two separate platforms, brands can see Instagram and Threads as platforms that go hand-in-hand and apply complementary strategies in both platforms.

“Threads can therefore be leveraged as a community building platform, and brands can use it to hear from consumers – such as asking them what they would like to see, asking for feedback, and co-create their presence on Threads together,” Neo says.

One significant advantage of Threads over Twitter is that its users can choose to automatically transport their following list from Instagram. And as a text-based platform, “brands can share updates far more quickly without worrying if it will affect the look and feel of the page,” Neo says.

R/GA strategist Rita Goh adds that Twitter’s original target audience was very much skewed toward the United States, with a large swaths of users in the United Kingdom, Brazil, and Asian markets such as Japan and India.

“It will be interesting to see how Threads will perform across Asia and Europe, where Twitter was previously not well adopted,” Goh says. Threads, however, has yet to be made available in most countries in Europe due to local regulatory concerns. 

While it’s too early to pinpoint the real value of Threads for brands and retailers, Janice Siu, managing director, APAC growth, at Landor & Fitch, points out there remains room for experimentation as consumer behaviour, as well as the app itself, continues to evolve in the digital space.

“Regardless of the channel, they are simply a medium and are only effective and useful for brands and retailers if they can create meaningful and differentiated brand-led experiences along the customer journey,” says Siu. “We know that customers expect smart, dynamic and hyper-personalised experiences from brands nowadays. It’s crucial that they deliver powerful brand promise and enhance storytelling with a clear purpose to build deeper engagement with their customers.”  

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It will be worth observing what features Threads launches next, and indeed, what other things are in store for Meta, which has the tools it needs to establish another dominant social media platform.

Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg said he was “very optimistic” about the Threads community’s growth. The focus for the rest of the year is improving the basics and retention. It’ll take time to stabilise, but once we nail that then we’ll focus on growing the community. We’ve run this playbook many times (FB, IG, Stories, Reels, etc.) and I’m confident Threads is on a good path too,” Zuckerberg said in a Threads post on July 18.