Twitter has gone X. And Threads is in free fall after a turbo-powered launch. Desi alternatives like Koo have their share of ups and downs. There has probably never been such a flurry of developments in the text-based short blog space, referred to as microblogging, since Jack Dorsey invented the blue bird 15 years ago. So, what does the road ahead look like?
The most startling news was perhaps the demise of the blue bird itself. Maverick billionaire Elon Musk came up with his latest disruption for the microblogging champ this week — its very identity. Out went the blue bird logo and the very name ‘Twitter’, to be replaced by the more-ominous-than-mysterious X.
Not that all is hunky dory at Twitter’s bete noire, the newly-launched Threads from Musk’s nemesis Mark Zuckerberg. After a spectacular launch early this month which saw Threads hit 10 crore users in just the first five days, the unravelling began. Threads has lost more than half of its users and is in danger of becoming another internet viral trend that fizzled out soon enough.
Alin Choubey, business head (north) of FoxyMoron, a digital products and services agency, attributed it to a “lack of well-thought-out user acquisition and retention strategies.” He explained: “ Simply copying and pasting features from other platforms is not sufficient. The current approach of migrating Instagram's audience to a Twitter-like experience is not sustainable.”
Instagram’s 235 crore users were given a one-click option to join Threads. In the initial days of its launch, it became a fun trend for Instagram users to migrate and flaunt their Threads credentials. But active usage is entirely another story.
Not that Zuckerberg seemed too perturbed. "Obviously, if you have more than 100 million people sign up, ideally it would be awesome if all of them or even half of them stuck around. We are not there yet," Reuters quoted him as saying at a town hall event at the Facebook headquarters in Silicon Valley recently.
The company is now aiming at what it called ‘hooks’ to entice users, including squeezing in important ‘threads’ into user feeds on Instagram as well as launching a desktop version and 'Search' function. With its dominance over all other areas of social media — direct messaging (WhatsApp in most parts of the world and Facebook Messenger in the US), social networking (Facebook) and photo-and-video sharing (Instagram)—Zuckerberg obviously does not plan to let go of this golden opportunity to take over the one area of social media where he doesn’t have sway—microblogging.
Twitter’s chaos since Musk took over could only help him along the way. Musk has fired a good chunk of Twitter staff (many of whom have joined Meta, some even helping Zuckerberg clone Twitter at Threads, according to allegations levelled by Musk & Co), turned verification, earlier a mark of authenticity, into a paid-for revenue generator and made odious amounts of superficial changes. Result? Twitter’s brand valuation and ad revenue have been diving south these past few months.
Said Choubey, “Threads should adopt a multi-pronged approach: acquire an audience that drives the platform and connects with other opinion leaders, retain an audience that engages with the platform based on its value proposition, and offer something unique to address Twitter's shortcomings.”
“It's one thing to have a user base, but having an engaged user base is an entirely different challenge,” he quipped.
Indian social media platforms will know exactly how it feels. The network effect, the algorithmic might and FOMO-effect (Fear Of Missing Out) ensure that predominant players will almost always have an edge. This was in evidence when the government banned TikTok, prompting many desi players to launch their short video apps to fill in the vacuum. However, at the end of the day, it was Instagram that managed to take over the void left by TikTok through its own in-app short video facility called Reels.
Or even Koo. Though much touted as the desi Twitter, it has still to live up to its potential. Even with Twitter, oops, X plummeting further, the advantage would more be for a player like Threads than Koo, if you believe the experts. “Smaller players like Koo can't compete with the algorithmic strength of giants like Meta and Twitter,” said Choubey. “Koo needs to determine its unique value to users, clarify its purpose, and then emphasize that value proposition to attract and retain users effectively. This will be a challenging task, given the competition from established platforms, but it is crucial for Koo's survival and growth.”