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Brand Strategy Croud VMLY&R

Agencies split on best approach for brands on Meta’s Threads app


By Sam Bradley, Journalist

July 12, 2023 | 10 min read

As marketers weigh up the risk and return of bringing their brand to Threads, we compile some of the advice from agency experts.


How cautious should brands be about joining Threads? / Adobe Stock

If you’ve not been following Threads, there are a number of things you might be confused about. What is it for? Is its logo secretly taken from the Tamil alphabet? Will it cause your social media executive to receive death threats? Why has Elon Musk publicly called Mark Zuckerberg a ‘cuck’?

Away from those concerns, agencies and marketers are hard at work deciding how best to engage with this new platform – and how long to wait before they plunge in beyond the waist.

For the time being, at least, don’t expect serious campaigns to involve the platform. Harry Hugo, co-founder of WPP social agency Goat, says he expects advertisers will hold off putting serious time into activations on the platform for at least a month.

“We think it will be a few weeks before we start to see campaigns and activations on Threads because first movers will want to get it right rather than rush into something for the sake of it,” he explains.

Despite that, after hearing from over 40 agency experts from right across the global sector, the consensus seems to be that brands can’t afford not to get involved right now. The question is – how involved?

Practically speaking, the platform’s resemblance to Twitter means that brands can initially carry over their tone of voice and approach, says Mobbie Nazir, global chief strategy officer at We Are Social. “Brands should initially be leaning on their Twitter knowledge; a test and learn approach using an existing Twitter content strategy will show what value Threads can add to the social ecosystem.”

But Scott Lavell, head of social strategy at Social Bull Media, says Threads’ similarities end at its text-based posting format. “Don't expect content to perform and get interacted with in the same way as Twitter. It may act, walk, and tweet like a bird, but that doesn't make it Twitter. All social channels have rules of engagement. Threads will eventually develop a style, tone, and life all of its own,” he says.

Despite comparison between Threads and older versions of Twitter by some users, Lavell says key aspects such as its higher character count put clear blue water between the two platforms. “We are advising clients to pull at this Thread slowly and see what unravels as content starts to be posted and engagement begins.”

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Either way, a parallel strategy won’t do beyond the short-term, Nazir suggests. “Rolling out the same content cross platform isn't a viable long-term solution - brands will need to develop their own unique approach to Threads to avoid content fatigue from users.”

Sian Wetherhill, an account manager at indie agency MG Empower, says she’s advising clients only to jump in if their tone of voice already supports wordier social media. “Text-based content can’t always capture the experience a brand has to offer, in which case Threads might not be the platform to dedicate energy to right now,” she says.

Rush hour for brands?

Despite uncertainty over the value of Threads to brands, some agency experts are advising them to leave caution at the door.

Jordan McDowell, strategy director at McCann Manchester, says that “strategy is so often in the doing, with opportunities like this, it’s sometimes best to go for it and dip your toe in the water.”

Getting ahead of the game might bring some valuable earned media or PR buzz, says Lloyd Williams of Socially Powerful – an opportunity which might only be possible for a short window of time, if the platform goes the same way of brand Twitter and becomes an open forum for consumer troubleshooting. “We don’t know what works, there’s no trends, there's no ads, there’s no data yet. So brands: treat Threads like it’s Twitter in 2006,” he says. “Grab your username and enjoy it before Karen finds out about it.”

However, the value of that earned media might be lessened by brands’ inability to signal boost through paid media slots, according to indie social agency Linqia’s Keith Bendes. “It’s too early for brands to experience other platforms' benefits, such as paid media platforms, which complement campaigns. If PR headlines are important, being first is valuable. However, we promote a 'wait and see' approach to make an impact.”

Tamara Littleton, chief executive of The Social Element, disagrees with the need for speed. “There’s definitely no need for brands to panic and rush their Threads strategy. It’s the perfect time to build an organic experience through testing, learning and engaging with your audience.”

VMLY&R’s head of social media Christina Miller echoes the ‘test and learn’ advice. Integration with Instagram should make getting off the ground easier, she argues. “Figuring out what to say and how to stand out is often the biggest challenge with any platform for brands, and on Threads it’s no exception,” she explains. “Listen to what is happening on the platform - what are other brands saying, what is your audience saying? If you know what matters to your audience, you can be what matters to them.”

These calculations might change if, over time, Meta pads out its new playground with more features. Threads is a bare-bone experience for those used to the full toolbox of TikTok or Instagram, notes Jonathan D’Souza Rauto, billable product lead at indie media agency Kepler.

“Given the lack of certain functions in Threads like an explore section or the ability to search out for a specific topic, the organic strategy will require an attention-grabbing approach, in order to allow Thread's algorithm to trend this content into user's newsfeeds.”

There’s also open questions over the kind of media inventory Meta will end up making available. Carly Carson, head of integrated media at US media agency PMG, says: “A space for real-time conversation is pivotal for brands and advertisers who want to take advantage of the cultural zeitgeist. By leveraging the Instagram user base and Meta algorithm, Threads has the opportunity to provide a scaled approach extremely quickly. That said, adjacency and topic controls will need to be table stakes to provide the safest advertiser experience”

Insta link

In the longer term, experts are keeping an eye on the Instagram integration which has fuelled the app’s initial growth. Kris Tait, managing director at Croud, says the crossover in audiences might dilute Threads’ worth to advertisers. “The calculation I keep doing in my head is that brands can reach the same people—but with added effort and when ads eventually launch, added frequency and cost. Again, same people. We'll see how this plays out.”

But Ben Boyles, head of social at Exposure, says that the value of the platform may come as a wordier counterpart to the picture app.

“We’re telling clients it’s an opportunity to explore longer-form brand storytelling with their Instagram audience – a place to communicate values and ethos unconfined by content restrictions and dimensions,” he says.

The link between he two services could set the tone on Threads for years to come, Hugo says. “At the moment, it seems pretty positive which is great as it's going to open up another channel.

“I think it's going to be really interesting to see how it links back into Instagram and how Instagram brands use it because that's where the followers are going to be derived from.”

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