The George Clooney effect is a term used by Ozan Varol in his book Awaken Your Genius and refers to things that age well. Things like fine wine, where aging is an asset rather than a liability.
Will the new Instagram, Threads, have the George Clooney effect? Will it age well and continue to grow in popularity and usefulness, or will it go the way of many social media platforms and programs that have a use-by date and sink quietly into oblivion?
Zuckerburg is undoubtedly hoping it has the George Clooney effect. He enthused in a post the morning after the launch.
"Wow, 30 million sign-ups as of this morning. Feels like the beginning of something special, but we've got a lot of work ahead to build out the app."
The Twitter-sphere has been in transition since takeover by Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerburg saw this as a chance to introduce a more text-centric version of Instagram through Threads.
The 30 million sign-ups had grown to 100,000 five days after the launch , and while this is a significant figure, some say larger than Chat GPT take up, it is less than 1.0% of Instagram’s 2 billion active users .
Zuckerburg may say it feels like the beginning of something special, but that depends on the work done to improve the app. At the moment, Threads is a relatively thread-bare app that needs many features users like about Twitter.
Some of the challenges with Threads
While Threads has some unique features and advantages for users, it also has disadvantages and improvements that must be addressed. Some of these include.
Depending on a person’s level of trust in Meta, this is a big issue. Meta has been accused of violating privacy laws in several countries, and people are growing increasingly cautious about their privacy .
Threads' emphasis on sharing real-time updates with close friends could raise privacy concerns for users who may want to refrain from constantly broadcasting their current status or location.
Some users have already raised concerns about the amount of data that the Threads, like Instagram, can collect about users, including location, contacts, search history, browsing history, contact info and more, according to the Apple App Store .
There is no way to find a specific word or topic customers would like to read about. All a person can do is search for people to follow. This lack of a search function will annoy users who want to follow a topic or discussion rather than a person.
Threads bombard users with spammy posts. For example, if a celebrity is big on Threads, users will probably immediately see them in their feed. This may be because it is a new app, and sufficient information is still being built to meet individual interests and tastes.
While Threads may get more Instagram-flavoured functionality, for now, it doesn’t cater to users personally . Unless people are prepared to persevere to see how Threads evolves, it is likely that not catering for the individual likes and dislikes of users will be a turn-off for many people, mainly when there are so many choices available to social media users that do cater to their likes and dislikes.
Threads aimed to complement Instagram by providing a more intimate messaging experience. However, both Threads and Instagram support text and media-based posts. This leads to two potential challenges for users.
a) Duplication of features and confusion between the Threads and Instagram. Currently, Instagram has the upper hand because it lets you stick with the default feed and view updates from the people or groups you are following and take in posts only from your designated favourites. Admittedly, in the default feed, Instagram does dabble in serving you with what can often feel like spam.
b) Managing different social circles can be challenging and confusing if their contacts overlap across Instagram, Threads, and other platforms.
As mentioned above, while over 100 million people have signed up to Threads, this is only a tiny percentage compared to the two billion active users on Instagram. The fact, as Zuckerburg has admitted, there is still much work to do to improve Thread’s functionality may mean it will continue to have limited uptake as people hold off to see if there is significant value to signing up.
The limited adoption of a new app has several aspects that may impact the platform's long-term success. For example:
a) The Restricted Features of Threads
Due to the restricted features, people may prefer to stay with platforms that provide a more comprehensive range of features. This means it is less likely that people will switch to the new platform at a later stage, particularly if their current platform gives them what they need.
b) Resource Consumption
Using multiple apps can consume more device resources (e.g., storage, battery life) and clutter a user's smartphone, making them less likely to embrace Threads unless they find significant value in it.
Threads was initially available only for iOS and Android users in certain regions, which limited its accessibility and adoption on a global scale.
Many people have severe signup fatigue, particularly after COVID. The last new app to truly go mainstream in an unavoidable way was TikTok, and that was only after the pandemic forced everyone inside, desperately seeking mindless entertainment on our phones. The dominant feeling about Threads, even on the platform itself, is a disgruntled sense of obligation about downloading a whole new app .
Does it have the George Clooney Effect?
At this point, Threads is lacking the George Clooney effect. Depending on the work done to improve the app, it may become successful. However, it is a big “maybe”.
The measure of success is not necessarily how many people sign up but how many people continue to use Threads. To succeed by this metric, Zuckerburg and his team must work quickly and effectively to improve the user experience to ensure it meets and exceeds people’s expectations so that it becomes the go-to alternative for people turned off by what Musk has done with Twitter.
Given Zuckerburg’s recent history with Facebook, he needs to do more than he did with a name change to Meta. He needs to improve consumer confidence and demonstrate that the algorithms of Threads will protect people’s privacy and security.
The other thing Threads needs to demonstrate is whether it can go against the trend of many social media apps which are losing steam. For example, Twitter users have been leaving the platform in droves, driven no doubt in part by Musk’s right-leaning and mercurial management approach . Even on Instagram, average engagement has plummeted. Of the 95 million photos and videos posted daily on Instagram, most linger for only a fraction of a second as they mindlessly scroll through their feeds. Overall viewership on TikTok is also down, and the company faces the possibility of an outright ban in the United States and other countries.
Platforms such as Friendster, AOL Instant Messenger, and Myspace were huge until they weren’t. Here today, gone tomorrow .
It is doubtful that Threads will run counter to the history of similar apps, particularly given the improvements that need to be made.
Given its current format, Threads will unlikely achieve the George Clooney effect. Unless improvements and modifications can be made quickly to engage consumers, it may be an unravelling Thread.