The rise of the Instagram thread

It’s where teens go to get life advice

On social media, a new breed of advice format is catching on, in many way similar to the storied top tips format popularized by teen magazines: the Instagram thread.

These threads are delivered as Instagram galleries, with screenshots of illustrated tips (usually from Twitter threads) for readers to flick through and find advice on topics from what to order at Starbucks to how to deal with anxiety, toxic friends and breakups.

Many of these accounts post exclusively advice threads, and the most active among them use advice requests by their audience to inform their content choices: accounts will solicit comments from followers and take suggestions for what advice to cover next through DMs (direct messages).

“Thread-account admins say that they’re often the first person their young followers will come to for advice, and that they can spend hours a day fielding messages from teens requesting threaded solutions to their problems,” says this report from the Atlantic.

This kind of advice, mainly appealing to high-school age students, appears to be easily digestible in the bite-sized pieces afforded by the Instagram gallery format. The content can verge into more mature and serious topics than the traditional teen magazine format. It’s not just ‘how to ask a boy out’ (though that’s not to say it isn’t there too), but also addresses mental health issues, self care and friendship.

But how do young users find these accounts? The Verge explains:

“Instagram’s Discovery tab outpaces its Twitter counterpart when it comes to attracting new followers. It takes only a few seconds to flick through an entire page of images, and just a few more to refresh for new ones. Because the exploration tab on Instagram is so readily accessible, users can more easily browse similar content. For [content] creators, this ramps up their potential to draw in bored browsers who become devoted followers”

The Instagram thread format encourages comments and friend-tagging which creates a tight feedback loop to create new advice, and thus get more followers.

“They work really well with the algo to get more followers,” one thread-maker told the Atlantic.

No wonder then, that sponsored accounts are already cropping up.

But the most effective accounts seem to be those that genuinely create a community, speaking to their audiences rather than just using the caption box for putting in viral hashtags.

The user @sunny.carethreads, for instance, created a ‘face reveal’ post to celebrate hitting a follower milestone, showing the person behind the advice.

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