Meta's Threads Is Struggling to Win Over Content Creators

Social platforms need buy-in from content creators to draw big audiences, but Meta's Threads is struggling to win them over.

5 Min Read
Meta Threads logo on smartphone

The power of online content creators has made them darlings of corporate marketing crucial to the launch of new products. Meta knows better than most how influential creators can be, but has failed to convince many to embrace its newest social network Threads, which launched a year ago Friday.

"It's an auxiliary thing, I don't think any of the creators I have even post on Threads," said Keith Dorsey, founder and CEO of Young Guns Entertainment, a social media talent management company in Atlanta that works with hundreds of content creators with large followings across multiple platforms. "We'd forget it's there if it wasn't for the automatic notifications."

Threads, a text-centric service launched by Meta last year in a bid to usurp Twitter after its acquisition by Elon Musk, needs people like Dorsey and his clients if it is to succeed. Adam Mosseri, the executive overseeing Threads, recently told The Washington Post he wants it to be a place for real-time discussions of events happening in the world, from sports to TV. But content creators who spoke with The Post said they are struggling to understand the platform.

"Threads still seems like a platform in search of a mission," says Lia Haberman, an independent digital strategist and author of the ICYMI newsletter on marketing and the creator economy. "The focus isn't news. It's not about visual creativity or video, like Instagram or TikTok. So what is it?"

Related:Meta's Threads Is Fun and Friendly, But Won't Land You a Job — Yet

Threads' lack of a distinct identity could be seen in a report Meta issued this week outlining the most popular tags on the platform in its first year. More than 50 million Tags have been created since the platform's inception, but the five most popular were related to generic lifestyle topics: photography, books, gym workouts, art and TTPD, the tag for discussing Taylor Swift's Tortured Poets Department album. Swift joined Threads to promote the album in April, with support from Meta, but did not become a regular user of the platform.

On Wednesday, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced on Threads that it has more than 175 million monthly users, up 25 million since April. That's a drop in the bucket compared to Instagram's 2 billion monthly users, or Facebook's over 3 billion.

Meta's clout as the world's dominant social media company means many in the content creator industry said they felt compelled to get familiar with the new platform. But influencers who spoke with The Post said that they invest much less time and effort there than on the platforms that provide the bulk of their income. On Meta's text-centric and lightly trafficked service, there's no pressure to write a script, set up lighting or perfect their hair and makeup.

Christal Luster, a content creator with more than 870,000 followers on TikTok and over 65,000 on Threads, said that she enjoys the freedom posting text updates offers. "Threads is focused on conversation so I'm not going to get lost in the visual," she said. Luster uses the service to test reactions to certain topics, and to document her regular trips to Target, things she doesn't do on her primary social channels.

"I use Threads like a journal. I just put my thoughts there," said V Spehar, a news content creator with 3.1 million followers on TikTok and 110,000 on Threads. "Everything on TikTok has to have intention, and it's going to be taken seriously. Threads is low stakes. I can just say whatever I want and have fun."

Some creators do take Threads seriously — and Meta is trying to incentivize more into doing so.

Haley Kalil's viral comedic posts have won her 686,000 followers on Threads and also helped boost her Instagram following, in part thanks to Meta promoting Threads content in Instagram users' feeds. Meta is also offering certain creators cash payouts for Threads posts that perform well, and brands are experimenting with the app.

"Apparently creators are getting paid dumby money on threads so hi!!!!," content creator and trends forecaster Coco Mocoe, who has more than 1 million TikTok followers, posted on Threads last Friday. "Get ready to be sick of me hehe."

In April, Instagram content creators began receiving in-app notifications that they could earn cash bonuses for generating engagement on Threads. "Make a profile and post threads or replies that get 10,000 or more views to earn money," the notification read.

However, by July, some creators claimed that it was possible to maximize Meta's payouts simply by posting generic replies to low quality meme posts going viral on Threads, instead of formulating new, thoughtfully crafted content.

"We're still testing a new bonus program that rewards creators for their creativity on Threads," a Meta spokesperson said. "This small, invite-only program will run for a limited time, and creators invited to participate can find their individualized requirements for receiving their bonus when onboarding to the program."

Meta says that its research with users of Threads shows it has won over some people who never had aspirations of becoming social media stars until they joined the platform and established an audience there. "Threads has given creators a fresh space to start growing their platforms," the company said.

Jessica McBride, an administrative professional consultant outside of Toronto, used Threads to connect with cat lovers after adopting a feral cat three months ago. She had about 850 followers on Instagram, but most were friends and family and widening her network proved challenging. X, formerly Twitter, felt too toxic. She turned to Threads, an app she'd signed up for at launch and nearly forgotten about.

After McBride began sharing daily updates on her cat on Threads her following quickly grew from 250 followers to over 2,700. "My cat has adjusted very well because people were able to [say] like, 'hey, try this, try that.'" she said. "I needed community, I didn't have it around me."

McBride's story may be heartwarming but for a social platform to succeed culturally and in business terms it needs many millions of people like her — and lots of creators with much larger followings to keep them logging on. Meta says it is committed to Threads, but despite stories like McBride's some still wonder how many more birthdays it will celebrate.

"If Threads was a start-up we wouldn't be questioning whether it had made its mark. They'd burn through their VC money and then quietly fold or be acquired by another player," said Haberman, the digital strategist. "I don't see how Mark Zuckerberg continues to pump money into a platform where the biggest draw so far is that it's a less toxic alternative to Twitter."

Taylor Lorenz, The Washington Post

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