What is Threads?
It’s a new text-focussed social platform created by Meta, the umbrella company which also owns Facebook and Instagram.
Is this the new Twitter?
Functionally yes, and an impending lawsuit from Twitter seems to agree.
For those managing an attraction’s Twitter account, the functionality of the Threads app will be rather familiar. Some of the terms may have changed – a ‘thread’ instead of a ‘tweet’, a ‘repost’ rather than a ‘retweet’ – but there is nothing in the app that will be new to a seasoned Twitter user.
However, the functionality of the platform is only half the consideration. Twitter’s years as the internet’s ‘town square’ have allowed it to become the go-to platform for visitor queries, updates on opening times, and even a place to collect visitor feedback.
At less than a week old, it’s still too early to say if the meaningful advantages of a museums or heritage attraction’s Twitter account will be replicated in Threads.
Will my visitors be there?
If the current speed of registrations maintains, eventually they may well be. Around 30 million people have already signed up for the new app since its public launch this week, according to Meta. Among them, big brands and major celebrities.
This is not the first time that a potential ‘exodus’ from Twitter seemed inevitable, only to fizzle out. Mastodon and Blue Sky are but two of the social media apps once slated to take the crown from Twitter, only to be forgotten. But the lightning-fast registration numbers potentially signal a step change.
In part, its early success is down to Threads’ tight integration with Instagram. This means that those with an established Instagram account can more easily bring existing followers with them to the new platform.
How hard is it to set up?
It is a relatively straightforward process, but requires an Instagram account. Those without an Instagram account will first have to create one.
Afterward, download the app to a smartphone, and sign-in via the existing or newly created Instagram account.
More details are available on the Instagram help page.
Among those that have already signed-up to the platform are Manchester Museum, the Natural History Museum, National Railway Museum,the Design museum, National Football Museum, Ashmolean Museum, Museum of London, and the Migration Museum.
The app is not without its flaws. One of the major disadvantages for museum and heritage professionals using the app on behalf of their attraction is the lack of desktop or web access. Threads currently requires the app be used via smartphone, and there is – currently – no way to sign-up or log-in via a desktop computer.
People with their own personal Threads account who are hoping to use their own phone for work, will now need to sign-in and sign-out manually to go between their own profile and that of the attraction.
Discoverability on the platform is also fairly basic. The app itself will only let users search for account names, and not content. This means a new user is unlikely to ‘discover’ the profile of a heritage or museums site unless they are proactively searching for it.
This lack of visibility currently extends to Google searches too. Searching for ‘Design Museum Twitter’ on Google, for instance, immediately surfaces the account. The same search for a Threads account surfaces no relevant results.
For museums and heritage sites which rely on international tourism, the app is also of limited use. While it has launched in the UK and US, digital privacy regulations in the EU – known as GDPR – have stalled its launch in any of the countries within it.
The content that works
An existing, well crafted Twitter strategy is easily transferable to Threads, and may be all that is required to ensure success on the platform. A culture of its own, apart from Twitter, is yet to develop. As you’d expect, in-house and agency expertise is already growing and may be helpful.
After a few days on the platform, some profiles have already secured thousands of followers and healthy engagement. Conversation – and particularly lighthearted memes – about the app itself are dominating conversation.
The Natural History Museum, for example, already has more than 28,000 followers, thanks in part to an existing Instagram presence.
The profile has posted only twice; its first post – or ‘thread’ – simply reads “Dinosaurs.”, and has been liked more than 600 times. Its second post reads “Impatiently waiting for the threadosaurus”.
If you do choose to set up an account, you can find and follow us on Thread here: @museumsandheritage.