4 Ways Nonprofits Can Start Using the New Social-Media Platform Threads
Earlier this month, Meta launched Threads, a new text-based social media platform. It’s the latest in a parade of social media apps vying to replace Twitter, which some nonprofits quit after billionaire Elon Musk bought itin 2022. Other Twitter competitors, such as Mastedon and Bluesky, have so far failed to attract the volume of chatter that still happens on Twitter. But users’ quick adoption of Threads has commentators and experts wondering if this will be the app to finally supplant Twitter
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Earlier this month, Meta launched Threads, a new text-based social-media platform. It’s the latest in a parade of social-media apps vying to replace Twitter — now rebranded as X — which some nonprofits quit after billionaire Elon Musk bought it in 2022. Other competitors, such as Mastodon and Bluesky, have so far failed to attract the volume of chatter that occurred on Twitter, and now X. But users’ quick adoption of Threads — 100 million people joined the platform in its first five days — has some wondering if this will be the app to finally supplant Twitter.
“Everybody’s been looking for a Twitter alternative, and Threads is the most promising to come along so far simply because of the audience size that it was able to gain so quickly by being a crossover within Meta,” says Caitlin McShane, principal at EMC Communications, a consulting firm that runs social-media accounts and strategy for nonprofits groups and leaders.
Threads is a companion to Instagram, Meta’s photo- and video-based social-media app. When users add a Threads account to their individual or organization Instagram account, all their followers with Threads accounts will automatically follow their page on the new platform. Once users create a Threads account, however, they can’t untangle it from their Instagram account. If they want to delete Threads, they would have to delete their Instagram account as well. Users can “deactivate” an account to keep its content from being seen.
Functionally, the app works like Twitter-turned-X: Users share written posts with their followers. They can write more on Threads — 500 characters, as opposed to 280 characters for unverified X accounts. They can also share short videos, photos, and links to other websites.
Just three days after Threads launched, activity spiked to nearly 50 million daily active Android users but has since shed half of them, registering 23.6 million on July 14, according to Similarweb, a software and data company that assesses web analytics and traffic. Data on Threads usage by iOS systems is forthcoming from Apple.
For all the talk of Threads having a built-in audience, it’s not as simple as it sounds. “We don’t yet know who you can find on Threads,” McShane says. What’s more, search is limited on the app right now, so it’s hard to say how many users are connecting with new people and organizations.
Despite all the unknowns, experts offer four ways nonprofits can start using Threads.
Claim Your Handle Now
Even if an organization isn’t sure whether or how it will use Threads to communicate with its audience, it can’t hurt to create an account under the same username it uses on other social-media platforms, says Thom Josephson, director of media for Blue State, a digital strategy and fundraising firm that works with nonprofits, advocacy groups, political campaigns, and companies.
“It’s important to keep your handles consistent across platform to platform, just so that it is easy for people to find you on whatever their chosen social media is,” he says.
Nonprofits that already have engaged followers on Meta’s other platforms — Instagram and Facebook — should also consider joining Threads, McShane says.
“We’re not just saying, ‘Everybody should try it,’” she says. “When selecting which platforms are a fit for your organization, it’s always a question of what are your goals there and who can you reach there and what are you going to try to do?”
Threads, McShane says, is worth a try for nonprofits that have had active followings on Twitter and are looking for a text-based place to engage with their supporters on social media. Cross-posting content from Twitter on Threads is a safe way to test out the platform without sinking too much time into it, she says.
Frequently Track Your Engagement
Everyone is figuring out Threads together in real time, so it’s important that nonprofits keep a close eye on how their followers are engaging with their posts on the platform. Nonprofits should aim to post on Threads every day and keep a close eye on how their followers are engaging with their posts. Whoever manages the account should check Threads engagement statistics daily.
“I would be looking at reach, likes, shares — all the basic engagement — as well as, hopefully, a steady increase in followers,” McShane says. “But I would look more at engagement than audience growth.” Engagement on social media matters more than follower count because it’s a better measurement of how closely tied a supporter feels to a brand, she says.
The Threads account manager should also share these statistics within the organization about once a month. “I wouldn’t go a whole quarter on Threads without checking,” McShane says. There are no ground rules to what works on Threads and what doesn’t, so organizations need to watch their audience closely to learn how to best communicate with them.
Prepare for Ads
Threads launched without some tools users wanted. More features — including suggestions on whom to follow and a more sophisticated search tool — are coming soon, according to Meta. And experts suspect that ads will be coming, too, at some point.
Advocacy and political groups found success attracting dollars on Twitter through ads and even direct messages to engaged followers. But nonprofits as a whole have had a much harder time winning donations on Twitter than on Facebook or Instagram.
“When it comes to advertising, Meta is just much sharper at this,” Josephson says. “I see Threads especially as an opportunity for them to provide another advertising stream.”
But Josephson notes that Meta is billing Threads as a forum for “positive, productive conversations,” not the bullpen for political sparring matches that Twitter often is. To that end, Josephson wonders how open the platform will be to ads about social and political issues — which could include some nonprofit fundraising ads. He notes that Meta only just started allowing these ads on Reels, the short-form video feed in Instagram. “I could see them restricting this for Threads for quite a long time,” Josephson says.
What’s more, even when Meta does allow social and political advertising on its platforms, it hasn’t been clear about which messages are acceptable and which aren’t. “We’ve seen pretty generic environmental content get flagged as being a social-political issue,” Josephson says. “There are a lot of questions with that as we think about Threads and advertising.”
Nonprofits shouldn’t stress too much about their first post on Threads, experts say. “You know you’re good for social media when that gray space is exciting and not scary,” McShane says. “Social media is where you can play around with your brand voice a little bit.”
McShane encourages nonprofits to test out a new tone on Threads. The Whitney Museum, for example, quickly attracted 104,000 followers with funny, irreverent posts. The posts have amassed likes and appreciative comments from the museum’s followers, some of whom are pleasantly surprised by the account’s tone. “Omg guys I’m not an intern,” the museum’s senior social media manager, who handles the Threads account, wrote to followers wondering if inexperience explained the account’s lack of self-seriousness.
“Threads is in this place where there’s kind of not a ton to do there yet other than just to talk to people,” Josephson says. That helps make a nonprofit more approachable to an audience that is largely familiar with its work, as well as new followers.
Question-and-answer sessions — similar to an “Ask Me Anything” on the social media platform Reddit — work well in these moments, he says. “It’s an opportunity for nonprofits, NGOs to peel back that curtain a little bit and to be something more than just a name and maybe some white papers and reports.”