Meta’s Threads real-time messaging app has found it challenging to attract new users, as its popularity has waned since its remarkable debut in July. According to a forecast by Insider Intelligence, Threads now ranks near the bottom of the most popular social media platforms in terms of the number of U.S. users, surpassing only Tumblr. The forecast predicts that Threads will have a meager 23.7 million U.S. users in 2023, far behind industry giants like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, which boast 177.9 million, 135.2 million, and 102.3 million users, respectively. In comparison to its closest rival, X, Threads will only have less than half of the U.S. user base. The analyst firm projects that Threads will continue to struggle and “rank second-to-last among social networks” through 2025.
The decline in Threads’ popularity has been confirmed by several third-party estimates from mobile analytics firms, including Sensor Tower and Similarweb, which have tracked the decrease in its usage. Initially, Threads experienced rapid growth, attracting millions of users, largely due to its seamless sign-up process for existing Instagram users. Additionally, the app benefited from being a mainstream alternative to X, a platform that has been losing users due to issues surrounding the ownership of Tesla by Elon Musk. However, according to Insider Intelligence principal analyst Jasmine Enberg, Threads cannot rely solely on X defectors to sustain its growth.
The recent prospect of Elon Musk potentially charging all X users a monthly subscription fee presents a potentially clearer path for Meta to monetize Threads, according to Enberg. Should this plan materialize, it could lead to the alienation of more X users while simultaneously generating increased interest among advertisers. However, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has stated that the company has no immediate plans to monetize Threads until it achieves a larger and more established user base.
The Road to Relevance and Monetization
Meta has been striving to enhance Threads by introducing new features intended to make the platform more appealing. These updates include the release of a desktop version and a search tool. Advertisers and creators have asserted that certain features, such as analytics tools, are necessary for Threads to become a more robust platform that attracts more investment. For Threads to emerge as a major player in the social media market, it needs to establish its own distinct identity beyond being viewed solely as an extension of Instagram or an alternative to X. Jasmine Enberg highlights the success of TikTok, emphasizing that it gained traction by offering users a unique social experience that set it apart from other platforms.
Meta’s Threads is facing significant challenges as it struggles to maintain and grow its user base in the competitive landscape of social media. With declining usage and a low rank among social networks, Threads must find a way to differentiate itself and provide users with a unique experience to gain relevance. While the potential monetization through the alienation of X users presents an opportunity for Meta, the company remains focused on expanding Threads’ functionality and further establishing its place in the market before pursuing monetization. As the social media market continues to evolve, only time will tell if Threads can effectively navigate these obstacles and emerge as a prominent player.