We have an epic showdown in the thrilling world of social media warfare. It’s X vs. Threads, the battle of short-form social media. In one corner, we have X, the reigning short-form post champion embroiled in drama and controversy.
In the other corner, we have rookie Threads, who’s betting big on user control and wants everyone to play nice. Can X maintain its dominance and keep you scrolling for more?
Will Threads promise a better, safer platform for public conversations?
The X vs. Threads story includes leadership takeovers, a sizable user departure, and a record-shattering launch.
Shaking off the dust of the past, we’re here to answer the most crucial question for you and your brand for the future: Which one should you use?
X vs. Threads: What’s the difference?
Twitter (now X) and Facebook (now Meta, which owns Instagram which launched Threads) have a long history of competition. Their new (or rebranded) platforms, Threads and X, are similar in many ways.
Both are text-based social media networks that promote open dialogue. While they may look like copycats, X, and Threads have some key differences.
- Approach. Threads is a platform that prides itself on meaningful, moderated public conversations. On the other hand, X favors free speech with minimal moderation and private conversation through direct messaging.
- Features. X offers premium users many post formats and extended post and video lengths. Threads has a limited number of posts and is missing a few key X features like direct messages and (gasp!) hashtags.
- Ads. Threads are completely ad-free (at least, for now), while X works with advertisers and content creators to monetize the platform. X displays sponsored posts and ads almost everywhere you go in the app.
- Cost. While X was free, it now has a free and paid, premium version with advanced features. While X offers more post formats and longer post and video lengths than Threads, many advantages are hidden behind its paywall.
What are the different user demographics for X and Threads?
Threads users tend to be younger and more educated, though X is growing its Gen Z segment thanks to its new creator features. X users trend toward white male Millennials without a college degree.
However, there’s a spread across economic and political spectrums, making it an exciting place for debate.
What is X?
X is a social media platform specializing in short-form text content with photos, links, and videos. Originally named Twitter, the platform facilitates 500 million daily posts (formerly tweets).
The platform is exemplary for sharing live posts or live-streaming videos about breaking news, sporting events, and trending topics.
Users can easily discover new content through hashtags, featured trending topics, and X’s never-ending algorithmic feed.
Advantages of X
Wondering how X can benefit your brand? Here are the pros and cons of X, plus unique features you can leverage.
Large User Base
X boasts 253 million daily active users, giving it a considerable edge over Threads’ 10.3 million. 62% of social media users spend at least one hour per month on X, compared with 21% who spend time on Threads.
In terms of usage growth, it seems to be a mixed bag.
We surveyed X users in August 2023 and found that 28% of users increased their time on Twitter month-over-month while 31% decreased their time spent — and 12% quit the channel altogether.
The platform lost many high-profile users during its leadership and platform changes in 2022 and 2023.
Despite the turmoil, X is still the top social media choice for industries like media and live sports and is gaining traction and users again.
X CEO Linda Yaccarino reported that 1.5 million new users join the platform daily and that Gen Z is its largest and fastest-growing segment.
Content Discovery Tools
Whether you’re following live news or simply topics you care about X’s strength has always been to help users discover content.
You can click on a trending topic or hashtag that interests you or scroll through X’s algorithmic feed designed to serve up relevant content.
You can also create custom feeds through lists and communities or perform advanced searches like filtering a feed by location.
Its most iconic content discovery tool, of course, is hashtags. The hashtag idea originated with a Twitter user in 2007 and became its fulcrum for grouping topics and stories and a social media standard.
Love it or hate it, the hashtag is useful for finding similar content or following breaking stories.
Want to engage your customers or reach new ones online? X offers a full suite of advertising formats to help brands reach their audience.
You can target people by demographics, location, age, or gender and create a custom campaign based on conversation targeting, event targeting, and more.
Disadvantages of X
Lack of Moderation
X touts itself as a place for freedom of speech. While it does have community rules against hateful conduct, its content moderation is minimal.
The result? Users complain about harassment, cyberbullying, and bots on the platform. Since X revoked the blue check mark and started charging users for verification, users claim that X is a less safe place.
Lack of Trust
Because of the lack of moderation, mistrust of owner Elon Musk, and unpopular changes to the platform, some longtime users and advertisers have left the platform.
We found that 19% of X users say it’s untrustworthy, and 14% say the platform has poor leadership, compared with just 5% of Threads users.
Want a verified profile? That’ll be $8 a month.
X’s new pricing structure took several popular features and hid them behind a paywall.
Premium users can edit posts, create communities, post longer videos, and write posts up to 25,000 characters — much longer than the standard 280-character limit or Threads’ 500-character limit.
31% of X users told us they’re considering an X premium subscription versus 69% who plan to stay on the free plan.
Features Unique to X
X has many features and formats and rolls out new ones each year. Here are five of the best ones for engagement.
Want to create quick engagement and take the pulse of your audience on a topic? X Polls lets you post a poll to collect feedback — and automatically displays the results after it ends.
X is innovating to attract content creators by giving them ways to monetize their content. One of these is Subscriptions, which lets approved users charge a subscription fee for unique content.
As an influencer, building a subscriber list and earning income is very attractive. In 2023, X also rolled out shared ad revenue for content creators — only premium users.
For members only: X Communities are a moderated space where approved users can dialogue around shared topics.
While these aren’t private groups, they give exclusivity and the ability to build communities around shared interests or topics. You must be a premium member to start a community.
You can become a mobile broadcaster on X with just your phone and the X app. The live video feature lets you broadcast to X with just one click and saves it as a post once you’re done.
Video is a major growth area for social media; live streaming can give you unique content from live events.
X Spaces is a way to have live audio conversations within the platform. Users have creatively used this for purposes ranging from a live, interactive podcast to a TV or sports watch party.
Anyone can listen, join, and request to speak in a Space. A host moderates, and up to 13 people can talk simultaneously. You can also schedule and record Spaces for later.
What is Threads?
Threads is a text-based social media network launched in 2023 by Instagram. It borrows many features from X in a simplified interface and is designed around user control and meaningful dialogue.
Threads works as an extension to Instagram since users can carry their accounts over and share threads back to their Instagram Lives.
Our survey found that user sentiment is mixed when it comes to Threads. While more than half associate it with positive sentiments — like innovative, engaging, or optimistic — 24% find it boring (ouch!), and 19% don’t trust the platform.
Advantages of Threads
Threads takes the best parts of X and adds its own twist. These are the best features that make Threads stand out:
Threads boasts a clean and minimalist interface with user-friendly steps to share, reply to, and repost content. Users enjoy the white background, clean fonts, and absence of ads.
Designed for User Control
Fed up with X’s free-for-all chatter? Take control of the conversation and limit unwanted comments. In Threads, you can control who replies to or mentions you and limit replies to select groups.
You can also add unwanted hidden words to filter out replies with that keyword. If you’ve blocked people on Instagram, those settings carry over.
You can also control your feed by switching from the “For You” algorithm to “Following,” which shows only posts from people you follow.
Strong Moderation System
Also, Threads prides itself on its active content moderation to differentiate itself from X.
Following Instagram’s community guidelines, Threads attempts to flag and remove hate speech, threats, terrorism, some sexual content, and copyright infringements.
Disadvantages of Threads
The tradeoff for Threads’ simple interface and user-control focus? Limited functionality in some cases and limited opportunities for brands to engage.
Threads has limited formats, lacking live streaming and polls compared to X. While Threads beats out the free version of X in character count and video length, X’s premium offerings give much more flexibility and functions.
These limitations may be hampering user engagement on the platform. 24% of social media users say Threads is boring or unengaging, compared with 11% who say the same about X.
New Tool, Fewer Users, and Fewer Integrations
As a new tool, Threads has a smaller user base and few integrations at this stage.
If you’re used to scheduling and managing your social media accounts all from a social media management platform, it’s a good bet that Threads isn’t supported yet.
It’s also unclear if Threads can hold onto its surge of new users, with reports that its initial app usage dropped by 79% after a month. We surveyed users about how they planned to use Threads in the next three months.
39% of users shared that they planned to use the social media channel more, 13% planned to decrease their use, and 17% planned to quit the channel altogether.
No Direct Messages
You can’t slide into anyone’s DMs on Threads because there aren’t any. That’s right, there is no way to direct-message another user on Threads without it being public.
This controversial choice by Threads was likely an effort to reduce unwanted harassment messages that X DMs are known for, but it makes it challenging to engage one-on-one.
Brands that use social media for customer support also won’t be able to do that in a private setting here.
No Advertising or Business Accounts (Yet)
Some would argue that no advertising is a huge win for the Threads experience and promotes authentic community. However, this hurts brands who need a clear path to reach targeted user groups with their content.
Some brands are testing the waters and making it work.
Features Unique to Threads
While simpler, Threads has a few distinct advantages over X.
Individual Thread Subscriptions
On Threads, you can subscribe to an individual thread for 24 hours, helping you to follow a debate while it lasts — and clear out the clutter the next day.
Perhaps Threads’ most interesting feature is its themed public conversations. This feature allows users to create a debate topic, join others’ debates, and participate in real-time discussions.
Threads moderators moderate these debates to ensure respectful dialogue, and participants vote for debate winners at the end, catapulting to the top of a leaderboard if they’re successful.
Integration with Instagram
In July 2023, Threads broke records by becoming history's fastest-growing social media platform. In just five days, it amassed 100 million users.
That’s because Instagram created and promoted Threads in-app, giving users quick and painless onboarding.
All Instagram users need to do is to log in with their Instagram credentials, and they’re set up. Their handle, bio, profile picture, and settings transfer from Instagram but can be modified.
While separate platforms, they are connected: you can share Threads you like in an Instagram message or story.
Some hiccups with the linked accounts have users scratching their heads. You can’t currently have more than one Threads account or switch accounts (making it difficult to have a business account).
You also can’t delete your Threads account without deleting your Instagram one. If you deactivate Instagram, your Threads account will also be deactivated.
Which Should You Use — X or Threads?
Now, on to the final showdown: Which one should you use?
X gives users more features and functionality and has a clear path for brands to advertise and engage with audiences. X is also the clear winner for content creators who want to monetize their platform.
You will pay to play, though, as you’ll need X premium to use the best features.
From another perspective, X is oversaturated with established brands and thought leaders. It can be difficult to break in and get traction for your content.
Threads, as a new platform, offers an interesting opportunity to break in, innovate, and start conversations where fewer brands have a presence.
45% of Threads users we surveyed interact daily with brand content, and 21% of those users are hyper-engaged, interacting more than 10x a day.
Compare this with X, where only 34% of users say they interact with brands on a daily basis on the platform, and 7% are hyper-engaged.
Before you decide, consider your audience. What demographic are you trying to reach, and why are they going online? Do they prefer more controlled conversations, or are they bent on content discovery?
Suppose you want to invest in thought leadership and intelligent user dialogue. In that case, Threads is an excellent place to make an impact — and can dovetail with brands with a successful Instagram presence.
Engage Your Audience with Social Media Dialogue
Threads and X will continue to evolve, add exciting features, and continue their rivalry for years. Decide now which features are the most important to you and where your audience can be found.
Then, roll up your sleeves, get started, and gear up for the ride.