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Is Threads the place to be or, uh, boring and not worth it?

The latest loud social media splash is Threads, a direct Twitter – now X – competitor from Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta. It was the fastest social media platform to 100 million users, but since then engagement has dropped precipitously. Which all leads to the question above. More specifically, how much should healthcare provider marketing and communications teams be investing in any given social media platform? Is Threads worth diving into? Even beyond Threads, there’s the deeper issue of too many platforms and channels and not enough resources within hospital marcomm offices to be present everywhere.

So, where do you invest?

This weeks it’s an all-Jarrard podcast, with Abby McNeil, Meghan McCarthy and Tommy Barbee bringing their extensive background in healthcare marketing, communications and digital strategy to the Threads debate.

Listen to the conversation or read the transcript below.

Also, just to be clear, Jarrard Inc. is not on Threads.

Key Insights

  • Threads doesn’t make sense for most organizations. Not worth it. Borin, even. Today, it’s a better spot for individuals and influencers.
  • That said, it may be worth having a couple of people on your team to sign up and keep an eye on the platform as it evolves
  • A few healthcare organizations are in a good position to use Threads. Namely, academic medical centers and research institutions that are known for cutting-edge innovation and that are looking to engage and recruit students or researchers – the people who might have that personal account.
  • In the end, it’s crucial to know what you’re trying to accomplish and where your target audience is before investing in any social media platform. Otherwise, you’re just stressing your social media managers.

Read the Transcript

David Shifrin: I was googling this morning to see if there’s any news stories about how well, or more likely poorly, Threads is holding up in the wake of the juggernaut that is X.

And a bunch of the suggested searches are things like, “What is the point of Threads?” “Does anyone use Threads?”

Tommy Barbee: All good questions.

DS: Abby, this is a podcast, and even though we have video, you have to verbalize your angry hand gestures.

Abby McNeil: I’m sorry. Threads is boring, and there is no point to it. Like, I get that…Facebook or Meta… I get that Meta saw an opportunity as Twitter was collapsing, now X. But it doesn’t have a point. Instagram is about photos. TikTok is about 60-second videos of people pointing to things. Facebook’s where everybody over 40 is. Threads is boring.

What’s the point? Because nobody from Twitter came over there to share their pithy thoughts. So, it’s Twitter and Facebook, but worse.

TB: I think because it was created by Facebook, it’s automatically worse, is really what it is.

DS: Now we’re getting into it. Here we go.

AM: Tell us more, Tommy.

TB: What hasn’t Mark Zuckerberg ruined in some form or fashion? Whether it’s the Metaverse, whether it’s NFTs, whether it’s now Twitter – he takes ideas, makes them slightly worse, and releases it out to the world. Threads is the latest.

AM: Zuckerberg didn’t kill Twitter.

TB: No, that was self-inflicted.

Meghan McCarthy: I mean killed X, not Twitter. X, forever.

AM: I refuse to call it X. I will henceforth refer to it as Twitter. I’m gonna be the person on this podcast who yells at kids to get off my lawn and talks about where I was when Twitter was started. That’s what I’m going to do here because, man, I’m spicy about it.

DS: What do we do with it? Because, personally, it’s boring.

TB: It is.

MM: Okay. I am the only person who semi-enjoys it because it is my safe spot… Elusive safe spot of throwing out random thoughts that mean nothing that you could do on Twitter, but it feels a little more ad hoc on Threads, which however, makes zero sense for most organizations to be on. Like it is a personal, entrepreneur, personal brand type folks who love to put out one-off random thoughts that they have throughout the day.

TB: And I think that’s really what it was created for is the personal brand in particular, using that as a vehicle for some sort of interactive, “Let’s get to know each other” type of thing. And I think that’s where I think it might be a little ahead of its time ’cause I don’t think most people are ready for it.

But if you look at where, generationally, where social media is going, it’s a lot more private. So, one of the things that we haven’t talked about is Be Real, which no organization would ever be on, but on an individual basis, that’s one of the more popular social media platforms for most of the younger folks that are out there because it is that distillation of, “what are you doing in real-time?”

“Even though we’re not connected physically, I can see what you’re doing at any point in time.” Threads is very much that. So, it’s trying to build some sort of miniature community for personal brands, and that’s where I think, long term, that’s the play. But I don’t think it is useful for most organizations – To your point, Meghan.

DS: I was gonna ask you a question, Abby, and you were about to say something, so go ahead.

AM: I was just going to ask, if it’s a great place for personal entrepreneurial brands and influencers, why is it not a place for organizations? One could argue that then there’s a lot of opportunity ’cause there’s a lot of white space.

Or if an organization wants to get in on that conversation, they should do it through an influencer, right? Pay somebody to talk about their experience at your healthcare facility or whatever. So, are we too quickly – I know I’m the one who said it was boring and it is – but are we too quickly walking away from opportunity here?

MM: Just saying I’ve… it’s a good little spot to ask random questions, ask one-off things, put little facts in, but there’s no scheduling. So, in execution, a very difficult thing to incorporate into a larger social media strategy and to automate and make things efficient when you have a very small – typically a very small social media team­ – if you have one. So, you know, as a foreign organization, if you have all the resources in the world, it is a great place to go and have fun and try things and see what works, what doesn’t. But if you don’t have people to do that… it’s just one more social channel to stress out your social media managers on.

TB: That’s an important distinction though, because I do think that there’s an opportunity for organizations to – that already are in touch with influencers – to leverage Threads for that purpose. So, I do think that there’s an avenue for that, especially once the platform matures.

But I think that the danger in doing it now is that it’s always very obvious when brands that aren’t quite ready enter into platforms that are also not quite ready.

That’s where you get like the really cringey, “Hey kids, we’re out here on Threads!” And it just it never feels natural or right, and it ends up making you look worse in the long run.

So, I think that there is a lane there that will probably be available for organizations soon, but they just need to be – I would say – strategic about it. Where, right now, probably look at it on a more individual basis. If you already have an influencer that is using it, that’s something that you can leverage in terms of research, additional information, things of that nature. But I would be careful about trying to dive straight in.

AM: Please call this episode, “Hey kids, we’re on Threads now!”

DS: Done.

MM: Can that be the pullout quote we use?

DS: It may also be the cold open.

TB: Hey there, fellow kids.

MM: Or “Get off my lawn!”

TB: Come on down to Threads.

DS: We’re gonna have four cold opens.

AM: You’re welcome.

DS: So, the question that I was gonna ask you, Abby, is thinking about the number of platforms and the marketing funnel, which we talked about recently, there’s just too many places. You all just talked about limited resources, there’s limited budgets.

Marketing teams are already stretched thin, and whether or not somebody gets on Threads, it opens the door like, “Oh, there’s a new social media platform. Should we get on it?” That then opens the door to the larger conversation of, “Where the hell should we be in general, and are the places that we currently are the right places, and are there some other things that we haven’t done that we should be that we’ve just missed because of inertia?”

Like, how do you vet the number of possible channels that you have to capture people at the right part of the funnel? All the different demographics… You’ve got an 18-year-old kid who’s still on their parents’ insurance versus a 26-year-old who’s just getting their own insurance for the first time, and that changes the way they make healthcare decisions.

You’ve got the 45-year-old who grew up on Facebook, so that’s the only thing they know. Like, at some point, isn’t there just too much?

AM: Yes. So, you have to decide what you’re doing on social media and why before you decide where you’re going to be. I think a lot of times social media becomes like the trash can or storage room of the marketing communications department. We don’t have anywhere else to put this, but it’s important to like, the VP of something.

So, put it up on social. “Hey, we had cake in the break room today. Somebody put this picture up on social.” So, I think you need to know why you are using social and for what. I think also there’s an organic play and a paid or marketing play. So, there is engagement that is important. What are we going to do to engage people online?

How are we going to use these owned channels for actual conversation? And then how do we use them for driving profitable volume? Because what you need to measure for your profitable volume campaigns and how you measure the things you use for engagement are very different. So, I think you just need to know that. Also, typically when I was designing marketing campaigns, they were targeted to a very specific demographic and age range – and they weren’t the 18-year-olds.

I think that’s the other thing you have to think about is, “who do we want to influence to do what? Who do we want to be in conversation with and where do we find them?” And then, “how do we get our resources aligned with that?”

TB: And I think to add to that, sometimes I think there’s a feeling of… I don’t even wanna say FOMO. It’s pre-FOMO, where it’s, “If we’re not everywhere, then somehow, we’re going to be missed. We’re gonna miss the boat.” And it doesn’t matter if it’s Blue Sky, Mastodon, whatever. There are five million platforms that are out there.

You don’t have to be on it to be aware of it. And I think that’s really the other part of it too, is that it’s important as an organization to know what’s going on in each of those channels in terms of conversations that might or might not impact you. But that doesn’t mean that you have to post to it.

That doesn’t mean you need a profile on it. That doesn’t mean you have to have a social calendar for Threads because all of that is just overkill. But you can be aware of it, know how it’s impacting or shifting or shaping the market. That doesn’t mean you need to be there. So, I think that’s the other distinction sometimes that we have to make as marketers, too, is that as tempting as it is, we really don’t need to be actively involved everywhere.

We can just listen in on the conversation and see how it evolves.

AM: I think that’s a great point that it’s great not to be on Threads. I think you just need to know why, right? And for the same places you are and are not, right? Just make an intentional choice.

MM: Test. Test and learn. I think the other part is, you know, gonna tell you where you should be, where you shouldn’t be, where your audience is, where it’s not, and what resonates with your audience on various channels. The same content that you would post on LinkedIn is not going to be the same content you would want on Instagram or Facebook necessarily.

So, making sure that you’re being smart and strategic in how you’re building that content is critical for success on those channels and Threads… We don’t know anything yet. We don’t have the data to know what’s going on there, but there is conversation happening. There is, you know, starting to pique interest for organizations, so it is something that could become something, but we don’t know yet.

It’s too new to know if data is really going to support it or not or drive the right audience to it that’s going to make an impact for an organization in some way.

AM: I think there are certain brand positions that may benefit from a presence on Threads. Meghan and I have talked to a client or two about this. Do you wanna talk about that, Meghan?

MM: Yeah. Yeah. Actually, you know, some of the clients that we’re seeing that it makes sense to do Threads are academic medical schools who are doing very innovative research and tackling TikTok in such a strong way where they have the capability and the interest and the opportunity to kind of, start and be an innovator on Threads. So, they’re posting about some of these new research things that they have. They’re posting about facts and things that they found through their research. They’re elevating some of their physicians and elevating some of their students and residents through these different profiles.

And it’s a different take where it’s almost like that personal brand because you’re talking about these individuals leveraging these very unique pieces of content that health organizations just are not able to do – like a traditional health system. So, there is definitely an opportunity to test.

AM: And it’s a different KPI. I think still the conversation goes back to, “What are you trying to accomplish and how are you measuring it?” Those groups aren’t really tasked with patient acquisition. They are tasked with student engagement and recruitment and those sorts of things, and it makes more sense then for them to be on the cutting edge – not only because they are about research, but because the audiences they are trying to engage are different from people they’re trying to get to come in for care.

MM: And I think that also brings up TikTok. Something that we’ve been hearing a lot of from clients is, you know, should they be investing more in TikTok because it is that younger demographic who’s very interested in who an organization is and getting the video content. But what we see a lot of times is people don’t have the affinity to want to be on video or they freak out about video, and there’s not a strategic way of thinking of how to use TikTok.

So, it’s just another case for, is your audience on there? Is it a patient acquisition? Is it an engagement play? And how are you creating content to support that too?

DS: I think it’s a pretty good… I think we’re at recording for 24 minutes. It’s about 20 minutes of not us laughing. All right, so okay, we’ll use this as the last question: Tommy, you talked about in the case of Threads, keeping an eye on it, but not feeling obligated to jump in. What are the three of you watching? Threads, yes, but just social media in general.

TB: So, admittedly there is nothing that currently intrigues me as far as the platform to watch. I think right now, there seems to just be a race to be the next Twitter, but that conversation has only gone so far as making an exact replica of Twitter. So, if you look at Mastodon, Spill, Blue Sky, all of these platforms – they look exactly like Twitter, and I think there’s some opportunities there.

Blue Sky’s probably the one that has the most resources, and they’re building it slowly. So, there could be an opportunity to be that next Twitter, but I think longer term it’s really going to be a matter of what leverages video in a way that TikTok can but makes it more actionable in terms of communication.

And that could be TikTok evolving to that point, but I think that video has become so readily available for folks now where they have – anyone with a cell phone at this point can create semi-professional video. How does that get leveraged and layered into a social media platform? I think that’s where things are headed now. What platform is doing that right now? I don’t think there’s really one, but I see that is where people are starting… companies are starting to evolve to.

MM: Yeah, I completely agree. That was gonna be mine as well. No, outside of the fact that I love Threads for my own book talk and random things, I think for organizations – what’s actually getting me excited is that there’s more interest and excitement around creating those short form videos and people actually seeing the benefit of it.

So, when social media teams were stretched thin and couldn’t – you could barely get a photo. Now they’re able to get little snippets of video and do some great things for Instagram Reels. And that’s something that we talk with our clients a lot about of, you don’t necessarily have to be on TikTok, you just have to get your team up and moving and ready to create video content that is relevant for your organization. And you can do that through Instagram Reels and get the rest of your team moving. And we’re starting to see that trend where people are way more excited and willing to do that.

AM: I am too old and tired to be thinking about new places and tools online, but I spend a lot of time with our health services and health systems clients talking about how to optimize what they already have. And I would much rather have that conversation about how we do more with what we have.

How do we do it better? How do we prioritize? How do we go in the places where it really matters? I think those are the conversations that are really happening today. I agree about the video content really being where things are going and how we’re starting to see that being done better.

I also think that we need to think as marketing and communications teams about our internal content the same way we think about it externally. And I’m starting to see that move, too, where organizations understand, we can’t just default to memos and email and SharePoint.

And I’m excited to see us use the same level of, I don’t know, investment in our internal comms as our external, because everyone who works in our organization is a consumer and many of them are on TikTok and expect our videos to be 60 seconds or less. I started producing 60-second commercials for digital boards when I was in-house in the health system because that was the amount of time we had people for, and that was how long their attention span was.

And we were trying to take some of those things we had learned from social media and externally and bring them in-house. And so, I’m excited to see more of those conversations going on, too.

DS: Thank you Meghan McCarthy, Tommy Barbee, Abby McNeil. I appreciate your time and insight. It has been great to talk to you this early Friday morning.

MM: Thanks for having us.

TB: Thanks for having us.

DS: Thanks.

AM: Do I get a coffee mug?

MM: Yes, I want a coffee mug.

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