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In November 2022, Instagram head Adam Mosseri received a late night call from Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta (Instagram’s parent company), while on a family vacation in Italy to discuss a construction plan of the “Twitter-killer”.
A month after Elon Musk’s tumultuous acquisition of Twitter for $44 billion, Mosseri found himself talking quietly to avoid waking his sleeping wife as he, Zuckerberg and a few other Meta execs discussed Twitter-like features. that they might add to Instagram until Zuckerberg said he had a different idea: “What if we got bigger?”
At the end of July 5, 2023, Meta launched a new application called Threads, an independent Twitter competitor based on Instagram’s account system. Within 2 hours of launch, Threads had two million downloads, and within five days of launch, Twitter’s competitor (now called X) soared to over 100 million users. It took Twitter 17 years to reach 368 million active users.
Related: “We’re Not There Yet”: Meta Focuses on User Retention for Threads Amid Significant Drop in Engagement
What is the Threads app? Here is the description according to Meta:
- Threads is a new app created by the Instagram team to share text updates and join public conversations.
- You log in using your Instagram account and posts can be up to 500 characters and include links, photos and videos up to 5 minutes long.
- We are working to make Threads soon compatible with the open and interoperable social networks that we believe can shape the future of the Internet.
Why can Threads be considered a more attractive alternative to Twitter?
- Twitter is more toxic than Threads – Users reported friendlier atmosphere.
- Twitter has an inferior verification system.
- Twitter users want better options – a recent study found that 25% of current Twitter users are expected to leave within a year.
However, after becoming one of the fastest growing apps of all time, Threads lost more than half of its 100 million users just ten days after launch.
What seems to be missing on and with Threads?
- Chronological feed.
- Search functionality.
- Trending hashtags.
- Direct messages.
But perhaps more importantly, Threads had a pretty disappointing product launch from a marketing standpoint. What has made Twitter exciting for the past 17 years is seeing and hearing the blue bird logo with “follow me @twitterhandle” on every TV, news, radio or podcast, resulting in billions of impressions and site traffic.
Outside of Meta’s generic press release, there hasn’t been much marketing or publicity to promote the launch of the new social media platform. While I hope Threads finds creative ways to attract and retain users, let’s explore four social media companies that failed due to unsuccessful launches.
Related: If You Don’t Start Using Threads, You’ll Fall Behind – Here’s Why New Tech Is Changing The Game For Entrepreneurs
1. Google+: circles that are never completely connected
In June 2011, Google launched Google+ with high hopes of competing with Facebook. The platform introduced the concept of “Circles”, allowing users to group their connections into different categories. However, Google+ failed to resonate with users, mainly because it was marketed as an invite-only service.
This exclusivity gave the impression that it was not readily available, and users did not find a strong incentive to switch from established platforms like Facebook. Google+ struggled to find its identity and finally shut down in 2019.
Lesson: Accessibility is key. Social media platforms should be open and easy to join to attract a large user base.
Related: How to Make Your Social Media Channels More Accessible to Everyone
2. Friendster: the first but not the last
Friendster was one of the first social media platforms, launched in 2002. It allowed users to connect with friends, play games and share content. However, its launch was plagued with technical issues and server issues, leading to frequent downtime. As competition from other platforms emerged, Friendster’s slow response to user feedback and inability to handle its growing user base led to a rapid decline in popularity. It finally closed in 2011.
Lesson: Reliability and scalability are essential to the development of any social media platform.
3. Vine: A Six-Second Wonder
Vine, a short-form video hosting service, has gained popularity with its six-second looping videos. Basically, TikTok before TikTok. However, despite its initial success, Vine failed to capitalize on its unique format and lacked effective monetization strategies. Additionally, when Instagram and other platforms introduced similar video features, Vine faced stiff competition. Twitter, which acquired Vine in 2012, eventually shut down the service in 2017.
Lesson: Innovation alone is not enough; sustainable monetization plans are essential for long-term success.
4. Ello: the ad-free promise that fell flat
Ello gained attention in 2014 for its promise to be an ad-free social network, addressing growing user concerns about data privacy and intrusive advertising. However, its launch was marred by serious technical issues, limiting users’ ability to invite friends and connect with others. Additionally, Ello struggled to maintain user interest due to its limited functionality and lack of engaging content. As a result, it failed to build a critical mass of active users and gradually died out.
Lesson: Deliver on your promises and provide engaging features and content to build user loyalty.
The history of social media platforms is filled with success stories and cautionary tales. The platforms mentioned above are a reminder that a strong launch is key to establishing a user base and gaining momentum. Accessibility, reliability, scalability, innovation, and sustainable monetization strategies are critical to social media success.