Jul 11, 2023 - Economy

Scoop: Branded content tools coming to Threads

Photo of a phone with the Threads logo and Instagram lol

Photo: Thilina Kaluthotage/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Instagram is planning to bring its branded content tools to Threads, a source told Axios, giving marketers a way to get involved with paid promotion on the app while advertising is still off limits.

Why it matters: Companies see a clear advantage in being a first-mover on Threads, but with the rules around paid promotion in flux, it's unclear the best way to get involved beyond creating organic posts.

State of play: Instagram's terms of service, which includes guidance around sponsored content, applies to Threads.

  • That means brands that work with influencers to post sponsored content are technically required to use Instagram's branded content tools.
  • Instagram's branded content tools, which allow companies to add paid partnership labels to their posts, are only made available to eligible brands.
  • Instagram's branded content tools aren't currently available on Threads. But a source told Axios that Instagram is working to quickly make them available, which would give marketers an opportunity to begin experimenting with paid promotion, while advertising is still unavailable.
  • (Threads won't introduce ads until its user base reaches a critical mass, a Meta source told Axios.)
  • In the interim, the guidance being offered to brands is to clearly disclose any paid partnerships through text or hashtags until Threads gets its branded content tools up and running.

Between the lines: Instagram head Adam Mosseri said Threads will try to avoid courting news and politics content creators because the topics aren't worth the scrutiny and integrity risks that come along with policing them.

  • That makes Threads more of a brand-safe bet for marketers, but it's unclear how the app, which is centered around text-based conversations, plans to remain hyper-relevant without that type of timely content.
  • For now, most major companies have already set up accounts on Threads, and many have already begun posting content organically.

Be smart: Threads has not yet rolled out chronological feeds, which makes real-time announcements from news, sports and local governments less reliable.

  • The lack of chronological feeds also presents a risk for corporate accounts and public figures, said Nu Wexler, a former Twitter and Facebook communications executive who now serves as a partner at the strategic communications firm Seven Letter.

"There's a big risk with the algorithmic timeline, because a brand or public person could make a post in the morning, and then a huge industry event could happen two hours later," he said.

  • "And if the post is served later that day, it could make them look out of tune with everything else that is going on. That's possible in any algorithmic timeline, but Twitter has [conditioned] users to expect this content to appear more chronologically," says Wexler.

The big picture: The explosive success of Threads has caught the attention of brands looking to experiment with the new app early while it's still hot, but social media managers, public figures and journalists are also wrestling with fatigue.

  • Without being able to rely on paid promotion, brands and professional creators need to focus more resources on creating buzzy organic posts that can go viral.
  • Meshing their Instagram persona with their Twitter persona on Threads can be difficult because it's unclear what Threads' audience wants.
  • Twitter refugees might expect pithy observations, while Instagram natives want visually appealing content.

Bottom line: Right now, it's all about establishing a presence on the platform and using common sense, says Geoff Gates, creative director of social strategy and content at Boathouse marketing agency.

  • "Brands should be experimenting [by] engaging with their audience a bit and keeping it light and having fun. Especially in these initial few weeks the recipe for success is just spending time on it and paying attention to the dialogue and what people are doing on the platform."
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