While the Threads community is slowly taking shape, which is further solidifying it as a viable alternative to Twitter/X, there are still some signs of growing pains, especially among certain interest areas, many of which are still yet to migrate across to the platform in any significant way.
Which could be fine. Threads is already up to 100 million users, and following its launch in Europe last month, I anticipate that Meta will update this to 200 million, if not more, as part of its Q4 earnings announcement next week.
But I have also noticed that some users who had seemingly made the switch to Threads have since drifted back to X, instead of sticking with the new app.
This is purely anecdotal, and without a Threads API, it’s difficult to glean much in-depth insight to suggest that this might be a broader usage trend. But at the same, it does also make sense that users who’ve amassed big followings on X would be hesitant to start again in a new app, and if they do start posting to Threads, and they struggle to get traction, I can see why some of them would simply head back to what they know, where they can reach a broader audience, and get more interaction with their updates.
In order to dig into this further, I decided to do a quick study of how the most followed profiles on X have migrated, or not, to Threads, and what sort of activity each of these prominent users is undertaking in each app.
Given that almost 100% of all X activity comes from just 20% of its users, the output of these prominent profiles is significant, because just a minor percentage of users posting more often can make a big difference to overall activity. Indeed, X also recently confirmed that of the 500 million posts submitted in the app every day, only 100 million of these are original updates, with the rest being replies and re-posts.
So a lot comes down to the activity of the most followed profiles, who spark the conversations of the day. Which, presumably, is also similar now on Threads, as it looks to copy that same blueprint.
So while this is not 100% indicative of overall engagement, analyzing the posting habits of the most followed X profiles, relative to their activity on Threads, might provide some more insight into where engagement is happening, and what topics and elements are more popular in each app.
I looked at the activity of the top 50 most followed profiles on X, and matched their activity with Threads.
Here are the results:
As you can see in this listing, the first point of note is that half (24) of the top 50 most followed profiles on X don’t even have a Threads presence as yet.
Some of those make perfect sense, with X owner Elon Musk, the official X account, and Truth Social founder Donald Trump unlikely to be interested in the Meta-owned app.
But you can already see some of the areas where Threads may be missing out, with Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi still highly active on X, along with various other Indian celebrities. That could suggest that Threads is not catching on with Indian users as yet.
Soccer (or football, depending on where you come from) is also still presumably seeing more engagement on X, as the popular soccer profiles aren’t posting anywhere near as much to Threads, while breaking news profiles from CNN and BBC are still posting more to X than Threads (though it also worth noting that the main CNN profile has been way more active on Threads).
But sports seems to be the big trend of note, at least based on this listing, with the NBA and ESPN, along with the aforementioned soccer profiles, remaining highly active on X.
The Threads team has been working to make inroads into sports communities, with the NBA a particular focus, which recently saw Threads sponsor the NBA’s In-Season Tournament. That does seem to be boosting NBA-related activity in the app, but based on these numbers, it’s safe to assume that sports leagues are still seeing a lot more engagement on X.
But to the original point of this study: Are users that gave more focus to Threads now reverting back to X?
Using these profiles as an example, I looked further into how the Champions League and the NBA posted over the preceding three months on Threads.
For the Champions League account, it’s remained fairly steady, averaging around 35 posts per month between October and December. That‘s pretty much on par with its January output, with the above listed 18 posts covering the first three weeks of the month.
The NBA account was slightly different, in that it posted a lot more to Threads in December, as part of its coverage of the Mid-Season Tournament. In both October and November, the NBA account posted an average of 30 Threads updates, which jumped to 96 in December. It’s back down to 44 in January thus far, versus over 400 posts on X in the same period, which could suggest that despite increasing its posting frequency on Threads for December, it didn’t actually see a great audience response.
Interesting, too, to see ESPN maintaining its activity on X, despite X owner Elon Musk repeatedly attacking Disney, which owns the sports broadcaster. Seemingly, the value of posting on X outweighs any personal gripes that Disney may have.
This is not definitive, of course, as this is only a minor subset of users, and it could be that the behaviors on Threads are very different, and it actually is seeing significant activity from a wider breadth of communities.
But as noted, generally, social app engagement is defined by a minor subset of users, which means that the most prominent, most active profiles do drive a lot of engagement.
The fact that half of the most followed profiles on X haven’t even given it a shot seems worthy of note in this context, while the trends around certain topics are also underlined by the figures.