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Unravelling What Threads Means for Fashion

Brands including Nike, American Eagle and Fashion Nova have jumped on Meta’s Twitter alternative, but the app has yet to prove its staying power or that it offers real benefits to fashion brands.
The debut of Threads represents an opportunity for fashion brands to build an audience in a new format.
The debut of Threads represents an opportunity for fashion brands to build an audience in a new format. (Shutterstock)

Key insights

  • After Meta launched its Twitter competitor Threads on July 6, brands including Balmain, J.Crew and Adidas piled in.
  • Integrated with Instagram, the app represents an opportunity for brands to build an audience relatively quickly; eventually, they’ll have to evaluate whether it’s worth their long-term commitment.
  • Though engagement faded in the weeks after launch and much about what success for brands looks like on the app remains to be seen, Threads could still become a mainstay.

When the Gap went silent on Threads two weeks ago, its fellow retailers sounded the alarm. American Eagle was first, posting “someone check in on Gap, it’s been 4 days …” Old Navy then jumped in to help, writing “My sister was kidnapped … help me find her.” Soon, Gap replied with a GIF of a woman rolling her eyes and walking away from her laptop: “We’re working weekends now?”

The exchange is indicative of how brands are feeling their way through Threads, Meta’s Twitter copycat app. Unveiled on July 6, Threads quickly dominated social media conversation, reaching 30 million downloads in less than 24 hours — and over 185 million as of last week, according to intelligence firm Data.ai. That included several fashion brands, like Nike, Louis Vuitton Shein, Michael Kors, Adidas and J.Crew., racing to be early adopters.

Still, despite the early rush, much remains to be seen about fashion’s future on Threads — and Threads’ future itself. While Threads’ automatic Instagram integration makes it an easy platform to adopt — and build a following on — the number of fashion and beauty players not on Threads far outweighs those that are. Major players including Gucci, Balenciaga, Supreme, Zara and H&M have yet to sign on.

That’s perhaps because Threads has yet to prove it has staying power. Since its early spike, engagement is already down drastically and the app fell from the top spot on Apple’s App Store to the fourteenth, behind YouTube and just above Facebook.

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Early activity suggests Threads will serve as casual and conversational conduit for more timely announcements and humour-filled conversations between brands and users, but it’s yet to be seen if that strategy will be an effective one. As well, the return on investment for brands on Threads is unclear, especially considering Twitter hasn’t played an important role in fashion’s social media mix for years. Still, given Threads’ casual nature and Instagram ties, setting up shop is a relatively low lift, and those who get in early will position themselves well if the Meta-backed app does take off.

“We’re so early stage that norms haven’t been set, it’s kind of like a wild west … but being in on the ground level at an early stage allows brands the opportunity to grow an audience and experiment with the content style,” said Brian Vaughan, creative director and partner at marketing firm Shadow.

Fashion’s Thread Count

Twitter hasn’t been a focus for fashion since the early 2010s, and even then, its influence never reached the heights that Instagram or TikTok later did. Since the start of 2023, Twitter accounted for just 2.5 percent of luxury fashion brands’ media impact value (MIV, a measure of conversation online), compared with Instagram’s 36 percent, according to measurement company Launchmetrics.

But despite that, brands that never really embraced Twitter are giving Threads a chance.

“TikTok created a renaissance for social media, and opportunities for creative freedom and more casual versions of brands,” said Evan Horowitz, co-founder and chief executive of social media marketing firm Movers+Shakers. “With the launch of new platforms, there’s a lot of excitement to capture some of that.”

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Brands are using Threads to reply to users, ask them questions and comment on their posts. Converse, for example, asked “ok threaders, what chucks do i wear to the office tomorrow? Drop your pick below pls.” Lululemon asked users to “reply w a pic of you wearing leggings at office.”

Nike, the fashion brand with the most followers on Threads so far, posts much of the same content across Threads and Twitter, such as an ad starring the US women’s national soccer team and a photo of Carlos Alcaraz following his Wimbledon win. But it’s making some modifications, cutting down a tweet about a Martine Rose collab for Threads, for example.

American Eagle, the fashion brand that has posted most frequently on Threads since launch, has also embraced a more casual approach, posting in a stream-of-consciousness style that feels more like a person than a brand. Recent Threads read “I’d rather have Summer Mondays where work starts at 1pm versus Summer Fridays tbh” and “my toxic trait is cleaning my closet and immediately thinking i have to fill it with new clothes.”

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While those sort of posts have little traceable impact on sales, Horowitz argues they help build brand affinity.

“Human centric brand personas are the future of social media. Most social media is going to move there, that’s what consumers are going to be expecting from brands,” said Horowitz.

Will Threads Be Pulled Apart?

Brands’ efforts on Threads, however, will undoubtedly be decided by the platform’s success. By July 18, a little over a week after launch, engagement on Threads was down more than 75 percent after reaching a post-debut high on July 7, according to data analytics firm Sensor Tower. Even at its peak, average time spent on the app was significantly lower than Twitter, and Threads didn’t seem to steal any of Twitter’s traffic, according to Sensor Tower.

Still, Zuckerberg is happy with the growing community, which will take time to stabilise and fits into the Meta playbook, he said in a post on Threads last week.

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Meta has pulled off the execution of much more complicated functions like stories, said Horowitz. But Threads is a separate app, not an added function like Stories or Reels, and there are plenty of defunct Meta copycats out there. Since 2021, Meta has shelved audio features, an attempt to compete with Clubhouse, and Bulletin, a Substack alternative. It even seems to have cooled on the Metaverse, despite at one point being so bullish on it that the company changed its name to Meta.

And it’s brands and media, rather than individual users, that seem to be driving conversation on Threads: Companies including Draftkings, Carnival Cruises, UnTuckit and lip balm-maker Eos made up a meaningful amount of comments on the American Eagle-Gap-Old Navy saga, for example.

As of now, much of the Threads’ charm is in its rough edges, which counter Instagram’s hyper-curated aesthetic and make Twitter look more contrived. But that relaxed approach isn’t enough to keep users around: Candid photo app BeReal, which took off in 2022, has seen usage and hype fall.

It’s difficult, though, to compare Threads to other apps. It has the backing of a social media giant in Meta and Twitter’s woes since owner Elon Musk’s takeover late last year have created demand for an alternative. It’s hard to bet against, even as other replacements like Mastodon and Jack Dorsey-backed invite-only Bluesky haven’t caught fire. The brand buy-in it generated so far is impressive; and the app has an international reach, with India and Brazil being its top geographies in terms of downloads.

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“[Threads] stuck the landing out of the gate. Even if they screw it up for a while, because they’re Meta and have such unlimited resources,” said Horowitz.

Right now, there’s little risk in testing Threads out. Eventually, fashion brands will have to evaluate whether it’s worth long-term commitment.

“Ultimately, brands will have to prioritise where the ROI is in a game of scarce resources,” said Vaughan of marketing firm Shadow.

Additional reporting by Marc Bain

Further Reading

Should Fashion Quit Twitter?

Balenciaga was the first major label to bail on the troubled social network. Others will need to weigh how valuable the platform is to their business before deciding whether to follow the luxury brand's lead.

About the author
Joan Kennedy
Joan Kennedy

Joan Kennedy is Editorial Associate at The Business of Fashion. She is based in New York and covers beauty and marketing.

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