What is Instagram’s new standalone messaging app for “close friends.” It’s Instagram Threads
Although it just recently launched (October 3, 2019), the hot takes are already rolling in: Threads is a nail in Snapchat’s coffin; Threads is the next step in Facebook’s “pivot to privacy” (and their domination of the messenger app market); Threads is pretty; Threads is creepy.
So, what’s it? Should you use it? Should your brand use it? Is it even necessary? (We checked, and yes, business accounts could use Threads too.)
The way Instagram tells it, the app has 3 attractive hooks:
- the ability to “fully control who could reach you”
- the ability to rapidly access the people you message most
- the ability to passively connect throughout the day, even when you aren’t actively chatting
Let’s take a look at how the new Instagram app actually does all that, and what it may mean for brands.
8 things you should know about Instagram Threads
1. Threads is a camera-first messaging app
Like Snapchat, Threads opens straight to the camera, which means you could take a photo or video and send it to a friend with two taps.
2. Threads is only for the people you care about most
Acquaintances, strangers, colleagues, and frenemies won’t be able to reach you here, based on Instagram.
Threads only works with the people you have selected for your Close Friends list on Instagram. So when you are already utilizing this function to choose who sees your Instagram Stories, Threads will feel natural.
Your messages could go to your whole Close Friends list, to one person on it, or to sub-groups within your list. The app also keeps your top eight friends (and/or groups) useful for simple access: select your lucky eight wisely.
Of course, there are some methods that brands utilize Close Friends on Instagram already. Such as curating exclusive content for VIP followers, geo-targeting, or updating the influencers they partner with.
Should brands transition these strategies to Threads? It remains to be seen.
3. Threads automatically shares your status with your close friends
With your permission, Threads will access your location, accelerometer (the sensor that measures how fast you are moving and counts your steps), and battery power to automatically give your friends an idea of what you are up to.
This type of ‘passive connection’ is supposed to make users feel connected without being invasive. The app does not tell people where you are eating brunch, however, it does say that you are in a restaurant and your friends know it’s 1:00 p.m. on Sunday Funday, so they do the math.
You must opt in to this function if you set up your Threads account for it to work. And when you do, you could turn it off at any time.
As for brands, you could think about how they may want to opt-out of this function. Does Nike’s social media manager need Colin Kaepernick to know when her battery is low? I mean: yes? But also, no.
4. You could set your own status
You do not have to default to the auto-status. You could select one that indicates why you may not be texting back right away or your level of availability and interest in a spur-of-the-moment hang.
Not only could you select from the available list, however, but you could also make your own, and choose an emoji to go with it.
5. Threads has several versions of dark mode
We must hand it to Instagram: the app’s interface feels tasteful, private, quiet, and tailored.
Why? Because of dark mode. (And since there are not any adverts.)
One of Threads’ more delightful UX choices is that the app permits you to select your color palette.
And doing so changes the color of the icon on your home screen, as well.
6. There are no filters, gifs, or stickers (yet?)
Threads isn’t quite Stories. In terms of content, you are pretty much limited to snapping a photo (or video) and drawing lines or typing over it.
Without stickers, your recipient could only respond with text, too.
7. Images follow the same rules as Snapchat
You could set your picture’s longevity. It could disappear after one view, be replayed once, or stay permanently in the chat.
Also: Threads notifies the sender if you take a screenshot. (I learned that one the hard method. See above.)
The similarities are “spooky” enough that Snapchat, which has 203 million users to Instagram’s 500 million, saw its parent firm’s shares drop 7% the day that Threads released.
8. If your friends have not downloaded Threads yet, that’s fine
All of your conversations—messages, images, videos, Stories—will show up in both Threads and Instagram Direct (a.k.a. the main Instagram DM inbox.) So when you are sending messages from Threads and your recipient is still utilizing Instagram Direct, no big deal.
Likewise, when you have included somebody on your Close Friends list, however, they have not reciprocated, you could message them from Threads while they message you from their DMs.
So why have a separate app at all?
The notifications you get from Threads will always be from people you care about (and not trolls).
And where does that leave brands? The jury’s still out, although some people have their suspicions:
We have not checked our crystal ball, however, where the people go, the adverts usually follow.
So what does Threads mean for brands (right now)?
Long story short: nobody knows yet. But when we know anything about Fb, it’s that if there’s a method to monetize, they’ll find it.
Overall, Instagram’s recent moves towards a better user experience—hiding likes and cracking down on bots—is great news for brands. The platform knows it needs to keep its users happy and coming back.
And if the new Instagram app gains widespread adoption as a easy, private channel away from the pressures of public scrutiny and congested feeds, then brands could discover methods to surprise and delight. Similar to what they did with Instagram Stories, where one-third of the most-viewed Stories are from businesses.
Regardless, whether or not “Threads Adverts” ever becomes a thing, there are plenty of ways that brands could use messenger apps. Plus, Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri, has already committed to Threads working across Messenger and Whatsapp in the future.
For now, a little bit of exploration goes a long way. When you try Instagram Threads for yourself, let us know what you think.