TikTok to add text-only posts as Twitter undergoes a drastic rebranding… the social media landscape just got a whole lot more interesting

Social media | 31st Jul

Another week, another sensational Silicon Valley social media story. Twitter, Threads, and now TikTok is getting in on the action.

As news broke that Twitter was to ditch its iconic blue bird logo and Threads launched a “Following” tab to accompany the algorithmically curated content of the “For You” feed, TikTok added text-only posts.

These three platforms could well be vying for all our attention as the next few years unfold.

TikTok is the most downloaded app of 2023 and has an active monthly user base of approximately 1 billion. Twitter, on the other hand, is a little murkier. Estimates place the monthly active userbase anywhere between 330 and 450 million. Threads, the new kid on the block, sits somewhere around the 120 million mark.

When he bought the company, “Chief Twit” Elon Musk estimated that Twitter had 259 million monthly active users and was vocal that their userbase should rival or match that of other social media giants, even saying that the numbers are inflated due to the ubiquity of bot accounts.

Social media is a numbers game. The more influence you have, the more successful you are. Users are fickle. They can be here today and gone tomorrow. If platforms can’t offer what they want, they’ll migrate to another one.

To say that competition is fierce would be an understatement of the digital age.

Why is TikTok launching text-only posts?

Given the timing of TikTok’s launch of text-only posts, it’s hard to argue that the Chinese short-form video hosting platform isn’t going for the jugular in an attempt to topple Twitter and Threads as the most influential mobile apps in the Western world.

TikTok has said that the new feature will offer users a “new way to express themselves.” Now, that may be the case, but it’s hard to argue that the new feature isn’t a blatant attempt to offer users a similar experience to Instagram stories.

The platform hopes that these text-only posts will “expand the boundaries of content creation for everyone on TikTok, giving the written creativity we’ve seen in comments, captions, and videos a dedicated space to shine.”

But the text-only posts are not the only change.

TikTok has also announced that users will be able to customise posts by adding sound, location, and “Duets”, split-screen creator videos such as video reactions and responses.

Additionally, the platform has launched a new music streaming service, TikTok Music, in Brazil and Indonesia, following last week’s beta version of the streaming service launched in Singapore, Mexico, and Australia.

It seems that TikTok is serious about maintaining its status as one of, if not the most influential, social media apps in the world.

Elon Musk will have to do something drastic to bolster the stability of his $44 billion investment.

Twitter’s drastic rebrand

In one of the most drastic rebrands in recent corporate history, Twitter’s famed blue bird has gone the way of the dodo, replaced by what some might consider to be a nondescript white ‘X’ resting on a black background.

If that’s not jarring enough, Musk has also announced that “tweets” will be replaced by posts called “X’s.”

Whether the “X” will signal the end or if “X” marks the spot is open to interpretation, but one thing’s for sure: the days of Twitter giving a voice to the masses are over. “X” is now that voice.

But why did such a drastic change come seemingly out of nowhere? Twitter’s credibility has been eroding for quite some time. Elon’s takeover accelerated the left-wing exodus, driven by celebrities including Jack White, Elton John, Jim Carey, and Gigi Hadid. This has had a knock-on effect, with advertisers pulling out left, right, and centre. And this presents a big problem for the once unrivalled platform.

In truth, Twitter’s evolution to “X” is more complicated than an action taken by a brand affected by the loss of a few celebrities. It’s an effort to preserve freedom of speech and to distance itself from controversy while representing a building block towards Musk’s “everything app,” a place where users can communicate, shop, consume entertainment, and more.

To anyone working at Twitter (or X), this drastic change should come as little of a surprise. In fact, prior to his takeover, Musk had made it clear to employees that his vision was for the platform to function like China’s WeChat, where users basically use the platform in every aspect of their daily lives.

Indeed, from chatting with friends and paying bills to buying food and booking yoga classes, Musk’s vision is nothing if not ambitious. For starters, massive expansion will be needed to approach the usability of anything like WeChat. With that comes monumental investment, and let’s not forget that there has been little appetite for an all-in-one platform like this anywhere outside of China.

However, there are a few things standing in Musk’s way as of July 2023: time, money, and people, three things that the company no longer has.

Hanging on by a thread(s)

And now we come to Threads. The exuberance of its monumental account sign-up was swiftly quashed by news that Mark Zuckerberg’s Twitter alternative was failing to win over users, most of whom weren’t overly keen on the app’s threadbare functionality.

Championed as one of the last bastions of free speech and even the antidote to Twitter, the news that Threads had close to 120 million users by the end of July on the surface made for good reading. However, digging a little deeper, it’s clear that Threads isn’t quite the monumental success those stats would have you believe.

Upon launch, the app could only be described as threadbare, and the latest update, complete with the “Following” tab, has been met with criticism by some users who felt that this feature should have been available upon launch.

Then there’s the undeniable fact that Threads looks and feels remarkable similar to Twitter, or X, minus some of the platform’s more controversial features, like character limits. And the comparisons don’t stop there, and it’s not hyperbole to state that Threads’ intention is to appeal directly to users who didn’t fully embrace Twitter.

However, with the news that TikTok is evolving to add text-only posts, Threads is facing an even bigger challenge to get and keep users on its platform, hoping that they’ll be patient and feel part of an evolving “experience”, and not a ready-made platform for users to communicate, shop, and be entertained from download day one.

What’s clear is that for Threads to avoid the same fate as Google+, which, let’s not forget, according to some reports once boasted hundreds of millions of users (actual reported figures are sketchy at best), only to fail because of pitifully short user sessions, it needs to evolve and give users what they want.

Yet, there are some signs that Threads could still prove to be a success. For one, it’s impossible to judge the success of an app a few weeks after its launch. Threads could very well be a catalyst for bringing decentralised apps into the mainstream, shaping user communication and commercial interaction for years to come.

Another reason not to count Threads out just yet is its ability to attract the kind of high-profile user base that made Twitter so popular for so long. People want to hear about the opinions of those they admire. Get actors, politicians, thought leaders, and sports stars on board, and other users will follow.

Next, there’s the fact that Threads and Instagram are 100% intertwined. Users have a badge on their Instagram account showing that they’re a part of Threads. This simple feature could be enough to convince people on the fence about joining Threads to leap over it.

And lastly, Threads still play a lot of cards. As we mentioned earlier, users may be happy to watch the app evolve, using consistent evolution and improvements to reel in greater user engagement sessions. This alone may well prove to be much more influential than anyone could imagine, especially now that Twitter, sorry, X, is on its own evolutionary journey.

Bottom line: whichever platform offers the better experience will win the day.

The fight for users has never been greater.

For too long, social media giants have remained unchallenged. Twitter cornered the microblogging market, TikTok the micro video market, and Facebook the social and commercial communication market. But now the tides are turning.

From an outsider’s perspective, it can be assumed that each now wants to encroach on the other’s territory, creating an unrivalled monopoly.

It’ll be very interesting to watch the developments over the coming months and years.







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