With startups in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) facing unprecedented times and challenges in 2023, companies must adapt if they hope to survive and achieve profitability. Business leaders in Southeast Asia can take lessons from Twitter and the recently launched Threads for business ideas on operating their establishments and navigating constant market challenges.

Since Elon Musk’s USD 44 billion takeover of Twitter last year, the company has run into multiple headwinds—from malfunctioning systems to mass worker layoffs in essential departments. The platform has had to deal with government laws and restrictions, fraudulent accounts, diminished user activity, and declining ad revenue. Southeast Asia currently has approximately 40.7 million active users.

Mr Musk’s stated commitment to free speech has also led to many controversies affecting the business’ brand. Due to some reinstated, previously banned accounts, complaints from anti-discrimination groups have increased, and the media and celebrities have sought to leave the platform. According to Statista Research, 60% of all users admitted to taking a break from Twitter in the last 12 months, whereas 25% believed they would be less likely to use the app in a year.

Introduction to alternative platform Threads

Due to the upheaval caused by Musk, many people have been considering switching to different platforms like Mastodon, Bluesky Social, and the newly-released Threads. 

Threads made a big splash with Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg proclaiming that the app received 10 million sign-ups in seven hours upon release. The Instagram team built Threads to offer an alternative platform for connecting through text, similar to Instagram’s model of connecting through photos and videos. The new system enables users to join and engage in positive, productive public conversations, share text-based updates up to 500 characters, post videos up to 5 minutes long, and include links or photos in their posts. 

Lessons to consider for business leaders in Southeast Asia

To navigate the current economic climate filled with inflation, slow growth, reduced investment, employee welfare challenges, and more, business leaders must evaluate Twitter’s and Threads’ operations and decide whether to adapt their experiences for use in their own companies. Here are a few lessons they can implement:

Focus on user experience

One of the biggest issues startups face is the user’s experience with the business. Everything has to run smoothly for users to feel at peace with a company’s brand and activities. For example, the reimagining of Twitter Blue did not go down well with many users. It is now a premium subscription service that gives people a blue checkmark and additional top features, such as editing tweets, seeing fewer ads, creating tweets of up to 25,000 characters instead of 280, and so on.

Celebrities and other noteworthy individuals received a blue checkmark in the past, but they were now unwilling to pay for the service.

Communicate changes or decisions effectively

Elon Musk’s communications about the changes he’s making to his platform have become haphazard, creating unease among investors, businesses, and the public. For instance, the decision to limit the number of tweets users can see in a day alienated many users who feel they should be able to experience the platform in their own way.

Threads have also received criticism after revelations that deleting the Threads account risks deleting the interconnected Instagram account. Business leaders should inform customers beforehand what to expect and be transparent to build trust.

Seek user feedback

User feedback is vital to aligning a company with potential customer needs and showing they can solve problems. With Threads being a new company, they are seeking feedback to improve their platform. One user highlighted issues such as a lack of private messages, asked for “Views Per Post” analytics, and pointed out that enabling hashtags would make a difference.

Test platform changes before implementation

Changes to Twitter’s platform led to malfunctions, leading users to question the company’s running methods. The posted links were not working at all, building up user frustrations. Thus, founders and CEOs must ensure innovations are tested separately or with the help of selected users before being launched to the general public to avoid embarrassment or tarnishing the brand. Moreover, they must find a balance between innovation and the operation of the platform or app.

What’s next?

Competition between Twitter and Threads for business will benefit both brands. For now, Threads is still lagging. Mark Zuckerberg said in another post that the goal was to improve the basics, retain users, stabilise the platform, and focus on growing the community. He believed they would succeed because they had previous experience with brands like Facebook. 

Business leaders in Southeast Asia should learn that it is okay to match up against their rivals to build their brand. Ultimately, the goal is to better serve one’s customers or user base than other platforms.