With Ads On Hold for Threads, Branded Content Is A Viable Alternative

How creators and brands can partner on sponsored content on Threads and why they should.

Hey — Bobbi Althoff, the host/creator of The Really Good Podcast, is about to blow up. She and Drake previewed a clip from an awkward but highly entertaining interview that will be released tomorrow (Monday, July 17th). Despite Alhoff's already impressive following (over 5 million across Instagram and TikTok), she will benefit from the "Drake Effect,” much like many of his musical collaborators, and reach a whole new audience. After seeing the clip on Drake’s Instagram, my wife even asked about Althoff.

What's even more interesting is that Drake, who is currently on his "It's All A Blur Tour,” chose to appear on a creator's podcast for an interview instead of taking the traditional press route, like doing interviews with major radio stations. As Drake has always been in tune with the digital world, from proposing an appearance on the Chicken Shop Date show to calling for Twitch to pay Kai Cenat $50 million for breaking the subscriber record, it’s not surprising. But, it highlights a continued rising trend of creators being the next generation of media outlets. Another great example of this is the impact of appearing on Alex Cooper's Call Her Daddy podcast, where musicians like Anitta and John Mayer are seeing an uptick in their streams after chatting with her.

This won't be the last time we discuss this, but let’s get into this week’s big stories for now.

Today’s Edition

  • Instagram plans to roll out Branded Content Tools for Threads

  • TikTok's One Creator Lab program provides two-way learning for creators, agencies, and brands

  • Twitter launches its ad revenue-sharing program for creators

With Ads On Hold for Threads, Branded Content Is A Viable Alternative

Instagram / Threads

Threads, Instagram's competitor to Twitter, has been running for a week and a half, and its debut can already be considered a success. Despite its relative lack of features, Threads has quickly amassed over 150 million users, making it the fastest app to reach 100 million users in just five days.

Addressing the Missing Pieces

Acknowledging the app's current lack of features, Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, has openly shared their plans to add the "obvious missing features." These include a following feed, chronological feed options, an edit button, and post search. Leaked documents shared with creators reveal that future updates will focus on messaging and content discovery related to specific trends and topics.

What About Ads?

There is currently no set timeline for introducing advertising on Threads. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has emphasized the company's focus on refining the app's functionality and aiming for a billion users before shifting attention to monetization. However, brands and advertisers are eager to invest in advertising on Threads due to their familiarity with Meta's other advertising solutions and the availability of budgets previously allocated to Twitter. This demand may prompt Zuckerberg and his team to accelerate the rollout of advertising features.

Branded Content Is a Viable Alternative

Branded Content Tools Are on the Way

In the meantime, branded content is an option for brands and advertisers to expand their reach on the platform. Reports suggest that Instagram plans to introduce Branded Content Tools similar to those found on Instagram soon. These tools will include the Paid Partnership Label, allowing creators to disclose sponsored content with brands. With formal tools for creator-brand collaborations and ads currently on hold, partnering with creators for sponsored Threads posts becomes the best alternative.

Why It May Be a Strategic Move

Introducing Branded Content tools on Threads before ads may also be a strategic move by Meta to support its show for creators. Being the option for brand advertising could lead to more brands experimenting with creator partners early on. This will help creators monetize quickly on Threads, and as we continue to see, most creators tend to invest time and effort into platforms where they can make money. To go along with this, I also predict that Partnership Ads, formerly known as Branded Content Ads, will be the initial advertising format for ads to arrive on the platform. This ad format allows brands to amplify creator-produced content—either from the creators’ handle or their own. This move, again, would make creators a core part of advertising on Threads.

What Does Branded Content Look Like on Threads?

Early Examples

Even without Branded Content tools available on Threads, creators and brands can still conduct influencer marketing campaigns, provided that proper disclosures such as "ad" or "sponsored" are included in the content. Some examples of early branded content include Kristen Bousquet/Hashtag Pay Me and Adam Rose/Hulu.

Text Plus Photos or Videos Is Probably Best

Due to the early days of Threads, and the low volume of branded content, there’s no defined strategy for strong branded content on Threads. Yet, leveraging text and visual content, such as photos and videos, looks to be effective. Threads is text-centric, so creators' text/captions can potentially have a greater impact than on Instagram, which is more visually oriented. However, visual content, specifically “tall” photos, and carousels, also make sense on Threads as they can capture people's attention in the feed. With clickable links in posts, having creators include relevant links in their content also makes sense.

Giveaways, Promo Codes, and Q&As

Other collaboration opportunities for creators and brands could mirror sponsored content that can be found on Twitter, such as giveaways, where creators help amplify brand posts promoting giveaways through reposts or creators sharing promo codes and exclusive offers on behalf of the brand. Q&As between creators and brands are also a good option due to the back-and-forth nature of the platform. Regardless, the tone of these should be less informal to match how users communicate with each other on Threads.

Added Value for Instagram-Focused Campaigns

From a broader standpoint, the best way to get started with branded content on Threads is to include it as an add-on deliverable for existing Instagram-focused campaigns. By utilizing the various formats supported by Instagram, such as Reels, Stories, Broadcast Channels, and now Threads, creators can take advantage of the unique benefits offered by each format to reach different audiences, expand reach, and drive engagement on behalf of brand partners. One key thing to keep in mind is that these campaigns should not be copy-and-paste. Creators should tweak their content to match what is native to each format.

How to Measure Threads Branded Content

The absence of standard post metrics, such as impressions or reach, on Threads poses challenges for brands in accurately measuring the impact of sponsored content. As a result, brands should primarily rely on available engagement metrics, such as likes, replies, reposts, and link clicks via tracking links, as key indicators.

It is also important to consider qualitative measurements or things that cannot be measured specifically by numbers, such as any learnings and takeaways gained by being an early adopter. Rose and Hulu's partnership shows that earned media is also worth considering. When there are new platforms or opportunities for creator-brand collaborations, those who are among the first to adopt can benefit from earned media as they become topics and articles that journalists want to cover.

News, Insights & Trends

TikTok has opened applications for its One Creator Lab program in New York and Los Angeles. This tuition-free program provides 20 weeks of in-person, part-time, two-way learning between creators and agencies/brands. The curriculum covers topics such as collaborating with creative teams, creating TikTok-first content, presenting and selling ideas internally and to clients, developing a creator portfolio, and interviewing best practices. The program equips creators with the necessary skills to enter the advertising industry while giving agencies/brands the opportunity to see firsthand the value that creators can bring to their businesses. This can lead to hiring creators for creative roles and emerging in-house roles specifically designed for creators. The program is part of a growing list of initiatives aimed at accelerating the creator-to-full-time employee pipeline, which can bring much-needed diversity to the advertising workforce.

TikTok has started rolling out the option for creators to download their posts without the signature watermark. With this, creators can easily repurpose it across other platforms without much effort. This functionality is especially useful because many platforms like Instagram downrank videos with watermarks.

TikTok and Redbox have partnered to display curated TikTok videos at over 3,000 Redbox kiosks, with ads running alongside them. This is part of TikTok's broader strategy to expand beyond mobile and reach new audiences in high-traffic locations. The initiative will increase ad revenue for both TikTok and Redbox, while giving creators a new way to be discovered.

Instagram has started rolling out Subscriber Social Channels to some creators who have turned on Subscriptions. Creators can create subscriber-only chats that last for a 30-day period and can have up to 250 participants. These channels allow creators to share exclusive content with paying subscribers to expand their revenue streams and deeper relationships.

YouTube added Video Title Suggestions, a new feature that suggests three different video titles for creators to use for their videos based on the video transcript and description, using AI. Creators can choose one of the suggested titles or create their own. This gives creators a starting point to create more engaging titles, save time, and optimize the discoverability of their videos.

Twitter's ad revenue-sharing program for creators has launched. Eligible creators, who meet specific criteria, such as 5 million post impressions in each of the last three months and passing a "human review" for compliance, and are subscribed to Twitter Blue, can receive a portion of ad revenue from ads served in the replies of their tweets (with plans to include ad revenue from profile page views soon). Some creators, including political commentators and controversial figures, shared their earnings ranging from a few thousand to tens of thousands. It's a positive development, but are some red flags, including Twitter’s struggling advertising business, which directly impacts what payouts creators will receive. As with most things in the Elon Musk Twitter era, expect to see some inconsistencies with the program.

Twitch is adding a Stories feature. Streamers can post ephemeral Stories consisting of photos, videos, polls, and more. They can share them with all of their followers or just subscribers. This provides them with a new way to connect and engage with viewers outside of live streaming. It also allows them to make their subscriptions more valuable and appealing by adding Subscriber-Only Stories for exclusive content.

Twitch is preparing to launch a Discovery Feed in October. This personalized, scrollable feed will feature clips from both live and offline streamers. Additionally, the Clip Editor will be updated next month with trimming functionality, a mobile version, and the ability to directly export clips to TikTok. Streamers will also be able to grant access to their channel managers so they can create clips on their behalf. These updates give streamers new opportunities for discovery on Twitch and other platforms, such as TikTok and YouTube, as they can easily share short-form videos that can help drive new audiences to their live streams.

Snapchat now enables creators with a Public Profile to add links to their profiles through a new integration with Linktree, which was initially announced at the Snap Partner Summit. Creators can now more easily direct their Snapchat followers to other destinations, such as their websites, businesses, and product pages, on behalf of brands. The linking capabilities will encourage more brands to explore partnerships with Snapchat creators; now, they can better support KPIs like driving clicks and conversions.

Tumblr has published a memo, outlining its strategy to increase its user base, as the platform is currently losing $30 million annually. With the not-so-user-friendly experience identified as the main reason, Tumblr plans to expand how users can discover and sign up for Tumblr, provide high-quality content, and grow its creator base. These efforts suggest that Tumblr may soon launch a TikTok-like experience that provides personalized content recommendations to users while helping creators build a following. However, significant changes will likely face resistance from Tumblr's core community, as its culture differs from major platforms.

Kick has launched Content Preferences, which enables viewers to disable streams for specific categories, such as gambling. Gambling and other mature-related live streams constitute a significant part of the platform's content and a core reason why many migrate from Twitch. However, this demonstrates that Kick is also mindful of the viewer experience by allowing them to avoid exposure to certain types of content they are uninterested in. More moderation features like this could help foster a more brand-friendly environment to attract advertisers who want to run ads on one of the hot, new upcoming platforms.

What I’m Reading

  • How Amazon harnessed its influencer network to create buzz and sell products around Prime Day (Business Insider)

    Men who post to social media are seen as ‘less manly.’ Could design change that stereotype? (Fast Company)

  • Behind Abercrombie & Fitch’s growing influencer strategy (Modern Retail)

  • Why TikTok retains its popularity, despite users having security concerns (Axios)

  • TikTokers are earning thousands in commissions from its new shopping program and scoring millions of views. Will it last? (Business Insider)

  • Telegram has become a window into war (The Verge)


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