The rumor is that Instagram plans on launching a new standalone messaging app called Threads. This app would be geared toward letting Instagram users connect with their closest contacts only. The idea of a social media app that focuses on only your closest friends isn’t new (remember Path?), but what’s interesting here is how the app’s functionality is arrived at. Instagram looked at its users and found that they connected differently with their closest contacts. Most Instagram users preferred to communicate with close connections via instant messaging rather than public interactions. In other words, Instagram found that most users communicate publicly with everyone, and privately with just their close friends.
I’ve written about this before, but I think we will see social media sites and apps begin to move toward helping us foster closer connections with fewer people versus platonic connections with everyone. Social media was originally focused on growing your network organically via simple interactions with friends and family. Everyone had smaller networks, and a much closer connection to the members of their network.
This all began to change when social media sites like Facebook and Twitter began adding ‘vanity metrics’ to a user’s account and activity. Suddenly, everyone could see how many people followed you, or how much engagement every bit of content you created had earned. It also changed how we created and shared content. If a particular piece of content had many Likes or Retweets, it was a sort of ‘social proof’ that other people enjoyed this content, so it must be worth our attention. Or at least worth sharing with others.
I’ve wondered how our behavior on social media today would change if no one knew how many followers someone had, or how much (or little) engagement their content had earned. Would we go back to communicating instead of broadcasting? Would we judge content on its own merits, rather than the number of Likes or Retweets it had gotten?
At the end of the day, I think most of us would like to return to a time when it was more about the ‘social’ and less about the ‘media’.
If you’d like to learn more about the potential of the Threads app and why Instagram could go in this direction, check out this episode of eMarketer’s Behind the Numbers podcast.