After a hot start, Meta’s Threads struggles for traction

Its new desktop version, announced Tuesday, may be the hook some users needed — though the question remains: Why post on Threads?

Its new desktop version, announced Tuesday, may be the hook some users needed — though the question remains: Why post on Threads?

Mark Zuckerberg isn’t doing quite the same victory lap he was less than two months ago. Despite an initial explosion of signups and engagement numbers, Threads, Meta’s X competitor, is struggling to craft its own identity.

Users’ fervor has fizzled: Engagement is stalling, according to data analytics companies. Many influencers have no idea what to post. And those who have large followings on X, formerly known as Twitter, or other text-based platforms have largely lost interest.

An analysis of Android users by Similarweb, a digital data and analytics company, estimated that daily active users on Threads’ Android app peaked at 49.3 million in early July and fell to 10.3 million after a month — a drop of nearly 80%. Data for iOS and Google Play show similar trends, according to July numbers from mobile app intelligence company Apptopia. Daily active users on Threads peaked at around 26.7 million a week after its July 5 launch, and dropped gradually to around 13.5 million by the end of the month.

Some celebrities who joined the platform before it was available to the public, such as Jennifer Lopez and Tom Brady, haven’t posted at all since launch week. MrBeast, the YouTube star who was the first user to reach 1 million followers on Threads, stopped posting about a month ago.

Its new desktop version, announced Tuesday, may be the hook some users needed — though the question remains: Why post on Threads?

“What’s the ‘why am I here’ for Threads?” said social media consultant Matt Navarra, who was among the frequent X users looking for an alternative text-based platform in the aftermath of Elon Musk’s takeover. “What’s the draw?”

Navarra said that his activity on Threads dropped quickly after he joined. He said other pivotal features are still missing, including the ability to search for posts and to track trending topics, both of which Meta had previously stated are in the works. And for professional users, being able to schedule and monetize posts would create more incentive to invest time in Threads.

An Instagram spokesperson said in an email that the company is working on getting new features out quickly.

Users’ excitement was palpable when Threads first hit the app stores. Curiosity over the next potential microblogging giant attracted more than 100 million signups in just five days, as people scrolled and refreshed, some sacrificing sleep for fear of missing out on all the discussion.

In a Threads post touting unexpectedly “off the charts” growth within a week of launch, Zuckerberg wrote that the company would spend the remainder of the year focusing on enhancing basic features and retaining users.

“It’ll take time to stabilize, but once we nail that then we’ll focus on growing the community,” the Meta CEO wrote. “We’ve run this playbook many times (FB, IG, Stories, Reels, etc) and I’m confident Threads is on a good path too.”

The platform appeared for many as the first viable competitor to X, something that some users sought in large part due to its new owner, Elon Musk. But with the novelty of Threads wearing, Musk claimed at the end of July that the number of X users had reached a new high this year (X as a private company is not required to disclose any user numbers). Around the same time, X rolled out its ads revenue sharing program to pay eligible verified creators for ads shared in their replies.

Jules Zucker, like many others with large X followings, had flocked to join Threads in case her main platform imploded. When that didn’t happen, she lost interest and refocused her attention on X, where she maintains 142,000 followers as @jzux.

She said that building a following on text-based platforms is unique in that successful content doesn’t usually come from high-effort production. X posters tend to be “people who just want to blast off a few words of dumb s— and see where it goes,” she said, so they won’t likely want to put energy into multiple platforms at a time.

“It’s tough to say but I do think unless it folds completely, or something so heinous happens that there is immediately a moral imperative to jump ship, I don’t know if a competitor could overtake it,” Zucker said. “I think that’s probably the main barrier for these new competitors: just the fact that Twitter still exists, even if it’s deeply troubled.”