Restaurant marketers have a new social media platform to contend with, and this one might actually stick around. Meta – parent company of Facebook and Instagram – launched a new app called Threads Wednesday, a day earlier than expected.
The app has been called the “Twitter killer,” as it’s modeled similarly to the bird-themed social networking platform, first launched in 2006. Those similarities include limited (500) characters, a tagging function using the @ symbol, and reply and “repost” abilities.
Twitter was acquired by Elon Musk in late 2022 for $44 billion and, since that acquisition, users have grown frustrated by several changes, including rate limits and paid verification. A rise in hate speech on the social media site has also led to a steep decline in ad sales, with revenue down 59% year-over-year.
A few alternatives have since been introduced, including Mastodon, Bluesky and Post, but none have shown the early velocity Threads has so far. For context, 10 million users joined Threads in its first seven hours. According to Fast Company, it took Twitter over two years to accomplish that membership number. What’s driving this pace is simple: the app is linked to Instagram, providing a built-in follower base. Threads users can log in using their Instagram credentials and can toggle back and forth between accounts.
Many restaurant brands aren’t wasting any time trying to leverage the mass migration to Threads. Among the early adopters are A&W Restaurants, Dunkin, Raising Cane’s, Whataburger, Papa Johns, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Burger King, Arby’s, Popeyes, Sonic, Crumbl Cookies, Dave’s Hot Chicken, KFC, Domino’s and Taco Bell. Starbucks also has an account, but it’s set to private, so we’ve requested a follow (please accept, Starbucks).
What does having a presence here mean? Well, for starters, it means the brands that choose to join Threads will have to develop another content strategy for yet another social media channel. I spent seven years doing this for the University of Louisville and I can tell you, it’s not easy. You have to understand how people are using the channel and go from there, and that usage, by the way, changes on a dime. You also have to accept that not everyone wants to engage with brands during their down (e.g. scrolling) time, so there’s a fine line between playful and annoying.
That said, the potential to get it right is huge as evidenced by the tailwind TikTok has provided for restaurant concepts big and small. Given the swiftness of this app’s membership thus far, we will start to see savvy marketers develop a plan that very much fits their consumer base and their brand. An early look suggests most of these brands are differentiating their content from Twitter, which is interesting given the platform similarities. Wendy’s, for instance, hasn’t tweeted since June 30, but it already has nearly 30 Threads posted since Wednesday night (and for sure more by the time you’re reading this).
McDonald’s, meanwhile, is leveraging Grimace’s current popularity with a simple post, “hi from grimace say it back plssss.” Chipotle, which has been an early adopter of many social media platforms, has also jumped in with, “oh look another place for u to ask for free burritos.”
We will keep an eye on how these brands leverage this new platform and its wide audience. For now, we will keep restaurant marketers in our thoughts. Such work has never been easy, but – given the proliferation of channels and the unpredictable “lightning in a bottle” virality – it’s downright dizzying now. – Alicia Kelso
How should restaurants approach a new social media platform?
Threads, the new so-called “Twitter killer” from Meta, the parent to Instagram and Facebook, came at me Wednesday evening as a surprise.
Because so many restaurant brands have moved content to Instagram, I check that platform daily after work. I got the offer to sign up for Threads. By 7 p.m. CDT, I was #2039994 (your position is on your Instagram profile now). I watched as brands posted or joined. I noticed videos from Auntie Anne’s Pretzels (1238247) and a follow from Pinstack (29266398).
I encountered a few restaurant brands as early adopters of the smartphone-only app: A&W Restaurants (630024), Dunkin (649450), Raising Cane’s (1421472), TGI Fridays (505538) and Whataburger (5133230) social media folks had expanded their Instagram networks by that time.
Jimmy John’s (690825), which touted “Bakin’ Fresh Threads" on its Instagram profile, offered a simple post: “BREAD THREAD.”
On Thursday morning, I asked followers to offer tips on how to best use Threads as a promotional platform.
Chicago-based Frato’s Culinary Kitchen suggested: “Post often.”
Cynthia Smoot, a publicist for lifestyle brands at Dallas-based Gangway Advertising, offered: “For your mental health, hire a social-media team so you can actually run your business.”
Deanna DeShea, a wildlife photographer, said: “Post food pics when people are most likely to be hungry.”
Beth Hutson, a publicist with Elevated Content Co., said posts should be: “Quality & Consistency.”
As McDonald’s Corp. found with the Grimace shake, social-media promotion of items can lead to shortages. Savvy marketers urged restaurant operators to be prepared.
Lisa W. Miller, consumer insights strategist and president of Dallas-based Lisa W. Miller & Associates, said: “It is critical to understand that disappointment and frustration with menu items being out of stock is significantly higher for Gen Z (30% report having frustration with "My favorite item that I went for was no longer available" vs. 18% for total U.S. consumers).
“Marketers need to be monitoring their brands and have action plans in place when viral driven out of stocks happen,” Miller said. “It's perfectly predictable that it ‘could’ happen - you just don't know when. Be prepared.”
Jay Baer, a customer experience adviser and speaker, posted a thread for social-media managers: “When your boss asks you tomorrow to actively create content on Threads, there is only one answer: ‘OK. But what would you like us to STOP doing?’
“Social media pros have to stop normalizing VP and C-suite fantasies that social media resources are somehow endlessly elastic.
“If we’ve learned nothing in the past 15 years, we’ve learned a mile wide and an inch deep is NOT a winning social strategy.” – Ron Ruggless
Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]
Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]
Follow them on Threads at @aliciakelso and @ronruggless