Who's using Threads? And what lessons can we learn so far?

A deep dive into Threads. Now we're a few months down the line, who's still using it? And what lessons can we learn from the approaches taken so far?

Who's using Threads? And what lessons can we learn so far?
Welcome to Between The Lines, a regular round-up of what you might have missed in the world of sports marketing, as well as a deeper look into some of the topics from social media.

This edition is a bit different in that I'm looking at one main issue: how Threads is performing among UK football teams. There's a short round-up at the end still.

I'd love to know what you do - or don't - find useful in these pieces. I'd like to shape them so that they're providing the most value possible. You can reply to this email at any time and let me know your thoughts, or send me a DM on social media.

It's been a few months since Threads launched to the public. We're just about at the magic 6 months mark (time flies when you're having fun), so what can we learn about how it's being used in the world of sports?

The current state of play

It feels like November has been the busiest month for the platform since it launched, when there was a ton of activity which died down pretty quickly once it became clear it wasn't going to be the immediate Twitter/X killer people thought it would.

This month's activity has been spurred on mainly due to Elon Musk's ongoing self-sabotage attempts. Major users, such as Disney, Apple, and Paramount, have either pulled their advertising budgets or stopped posting organically. Some have done both.

However, it seems to be different in the world of football which is pretty much continuing on as normal. While the clubs I've spoken to across the top 92 in England say it's business as usual, there has been a noted drop in the level of engagement posts are receiving. No clubs have yet said they're backing away from the platform, and I don't expect that to change in the near future as it's clear there's still an audience on there.

What does this mean for Threads?

Threads has been the main benefactor of X's issues. At the end of October Meta CEO mark Zuckerberg said the app had "just under" 100 million monthly active users. And Threads itself has felt noticeably busier these past few weeks.

I've been on there since launch - nobody's impressed, but The Online Rule was around the 25,000th account created on the app as I stayed up until it launched at midnight to sign up - but it's only in the past few weeks that I've properly spent time on there. Here's what I've noticed.

NB: Because there's no API or other access than just using the app or in a browser, for these figures I'm relying on some good old manual research when logged in.

Activity levels

Firstly, you just can't get away from the fact that not many teams (and when I say "teams", in this case I'm referring to the top 92 in England unless otherwise stated) are particularly active on there.

Firstly, 12 teams still don't have accounts. These are:

  • Accrington Stanley
  • AFC Wimbledon
  • Charlton Athletic
  • Cheltenham Town
  • Colchester United
  • Forest Green Rovers
  • Gillingham
  • Newport County
  • Preston North End
  • Rotherham United
  • Stoke City
  • Walsall

For the remaining 80 that are, there appears to be a couple of things that have happened:

  1. They signed up and barely posted.
  2. They signed up, posted a lot (often just cross-posting from X), but didn't last long.
  3. They signed up and post semi-regularly, maybe a few times per week.
  4. They signed up and post a fairly regular amount of content, in line with other social channels.

Most teams seem to be either 2 or 4. In my opinion, 3 is the best approach right now. To give you a rough idea of the amount of activity that's on there at the moment, in the 24 hour period from 6pm 21 November to 6pm 22 November, 16 of the 80 teams posted. These were:

  • Brentford
  • Chelsea
  • Everton
  • Exeter City
  • Leicester City
  • Liverpool
  • Manchester City
  • Middlesbrough
  • Newcastle United
  • Northampton Town
  • QPR
  • Southampton
  • Sunderland
  • WBA
  • West Ham United
  • Wrexham

That's quite a mix. Most of these teams have posted 3 or more times, some have posted less. I'm aware that the ongoing international break may have an impact on activity, however it hasn't stopped them on other platforms.

In terms of other accounts, the EFL is on there and regularly active (the Premier League hasn't signed up as they choose to limit the number of accounts they're on at any one time), as are the England Rugby team, and some clubs' women's teams too. You'll also find New York Red Bulls, Minnesota United, and LA Galaxy from the MLS on there regularly. Threads isn't available in the EU yet, although that is apparently close to changing.

What are the approaches?

For pretty much all the clubs who are active on there, Threads has become another social platform to manage. They're using similar content, with hardly any tweaks. The only logistical issue will be the requirement to log in directly - either on your phone or browser - to post. Right now you can't use any third-party platforms to publish, which has been identified as a limitation by the clubs I spoke to.

All the examples below are screenshots, click each one to go to the post itself on Threads

One thing the platform does have going for it is sharing Instagram's 10 post carousel limit. It means teams can share a range of content from events, for example.

There's no denying images look great on the platform. That's not a huge surprise, given it's from the Instagram team. There's another good example here.

With the absence of cards, like on X, one approach is to post the content and then add the CTA and website link in a second post. This also works because algorithms tend to de-prioritise posts that direct people away from the platform.

Some teams are sharing links directly to articles on their websites. Very much straight to the point.

You can, however, share a link and an image. But the URL gets a bit lost in the body of the post.

The most engaging approach I've seen so far has come from Brentford. I've featured them previously when talking about long reads, and it's great to see their approach to storytelling translate to social media.

They've threaded several posts together to tell stories that are native to the platform. All of the content is here, and you don't need to go anywhere else to get the full story - very much an approach that the platforms themselves are in favour of. This is a textbook example of using native tools to tell an engaging story.

In most cases, you'll get more out of content if it's made directly for the platform. That's often at odds with sales targets and marketing agendas, but it's becoming increasingly common for social media sites to restrict the reach of posts that have links in them.

What's the view from the clubs themselves?

Of course, this is all just my opinion. What about the people who actually have to manage these accounts? I spoke to a few social media staff at clubs across the 92, ranging from those who signed up and never posted, to those who are fairly active.

The main issue that comes up is that nobody can really see a place for Threads in clubs' growing list of social media responsibilities. One club said that maintaining an active Threads profile would put their channels into the double digits, stretching them increasingly further.

Despite one club saying they reached a substantial number of followers quickly - and faster than every platform other than TikTok - their issue was that the engagement and response just wasn't there. Nobody wants to be posting into the void.

The over-riding theme is that, right now, the community just isn't there to warrant a big push. While it's noted that the features are improving, desktop publishing being the big one, it's still lagging behind everywhere else.

One team that's active on Threads says that the platform is simply interesting and different to use. The lack of pressure there, mainly because there are no meaningful metrics available to measure performance, means they're just experimenting and seeing how it goes.

In the short term, however, it doesn't feel like anyone's moving from X any time soon.

A few quick updates