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Aiming to boost retention, Threads now hooks into Instagram DMs

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The Threads logo on a smartphone
Image Credits: Bloomberg / Gabby Jones (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Despite declines in user retention numbers following its buzzy, record-breaking launch, Instagram’s Twitter (er, X) competitor Threads continues to ship new features. The company today announced a handful of updates to its new app, including one that could hook Instagram users into returning to the Threads app.

That new feature, “Send on Instagram,” allows a Threads user to share a thread to Instagram DMs (direct messages) via the app’s Send button. By doing so, the recipient may be encouraged to reopen Threads if their usage had been dwindling, or perhaps sign up.

The addition is part of Meta’s larger strategy to build retention “hooks” for Threads after it saw half of its 100 million-plus users drop off the app in the weeks following its launch.

As reported by Reuters, this plan was recently the subject of an internal company town hall where CEO Mark Zuckerberg cited the drop-off in retention numbers as “normal” and spoke about how Meta aims to turn things around. During the meeting, Chief Product Officer Chris Cox remarked that the company would be adding more “retention-driving hooks” that would entice users to return to the app, the report noted. This included “making sure people who are on the Instagram app can see important Threads,” Cox said.

Connecting Threads to Instagram DMs makes sense as part of those broader goals.

In addition, Threads shipped a couple of other features today, including a new button to easily mention someone’s profile in your Thread and another that lets you add custom alt-text and edit the current auto-generated alt-text for photos and videos prior to posting. The latter is an accessibility feature that allows blind and low-vision users using screen readers to understand what’s included in the media attached to a post. It’s also a feature that’s a big focus for Threads’ rival Mastodon, which encourages its users to add alt text when they post.

The updates follow other recent tweaks to Threads, including the ability to sort your following list in different ways (by default, latest first, and earliest first) and see your “liked” posts. Threads’ biggest update post-launch, however, was last month’s addition of a reverse chronological Following feed alongside its default, algorithmic timeline.

But even bigger changes are still in store, including the promised integration with ActivityPub, the protocol powering the decentralized Mastodon — an addition that would make Threads a part of a wider network of decentralized social apps.

Threads’ staying power has been the subject of much debate after its record-breaking debut saw it becoming the fastest app to reach 100 million users.

The prevailing narrative in the media that Threads is already doomed, however, is one that’s overdramatic and not in line with industry averages. Most apps are lucky to get 50% retention numbers in the weeks after their launch. In fact, most don’t even have high Day 1 retention! 21% of users only open an app once, according to Localytics data. Meanwhile, Statista research found that on the day of installation, the average retention rate across 31 app categories was 25.3%. By day 30, this percentage drops to just 5.7%, on average.

Threads, by comparison, is doing okay for now — and it doesn’t even have a fully functional web app yet.

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