Elon flips the bird

🎵 ‘X gon give it to ya’

Hello, geeks…

I’m back from vacation (Cyprus). The island didn’t set fire, but man-alive, heatwaves suck (42c!)

A quick bit of BREAKING TikTok news before we get started…

So… I sure did pick a crazy week to take a break. I come back to find the Twitter Bird is dead. And a weird ‘X’ has appeared on my phone. Elmo has been busy.

But this super-weird Twitter app glitch on my iPhone made me smile

I also spotted the Zuck vs. Elmo cage fight is off. I’d have paid good money to tune in to that.

But good news, Twitter (I refuse to call it X) is going to start paying me for my tweets. If I get more than a couple of hundred bucks, I'll be surprised.

DON’T MISS…

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Alrighty then… Let’s get into it. These were the hottest headlines in social from the past few weeks:

🔥 GEEKOUT HOT 5

  1. Elon Musk Rebrands Twitter to ‘X’ and Kills Bird Logo [BYE BYE BIRDIE]

  2. Meta To Start Asking EU Users’ Permission Before Hitting Them With Personalized Ads [REGULATION WORKS]

  3. Threads Usage Falls to New Lows As Retention Issues Grow [DEAD THREADS]

  4. Meta’s Ray Ban Smart Glasses Fail to Catch On [EYE SPY PROBLEMS]

  5. Meta Study Claims Algorithms Don’t Influence Political Opinion [NEW RESEARCH]

Meta / Threads

Meta plans to launch A.I. chatbots with personalities as soon as September (what could possibly go wrong)… Meta is rebooting Horizon Worlds to make it something people actually want to use (I’m not optimistic about this one)… Meta made good its threats and began removing news in Canada…

Threads for the web is in the works (really hope this lands soon)… Threads now lets you keep track of your Likes and organise your Following tab… Threads could soon offer media quality settings.

Instagram / WhatsApp

Instagram is working on a ‘Standouts’ feature to show recent highlights from your time on the app… Instagram now auto-plays carousels of 3 or more items… Instagram is making it harder for spammers to DM you… Instagram may soon add a ‘saved’ tab to your profile.

WhatsApp is testing a new warning screen to help you reduce spam… WhatsApp wants to make it quicker + easier to add people to new group chats… And WhatsApp launched a new Video Messages feature (and you thought long voice notes sucked)

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Twitter (‘X’)

Twitter warned companies they could lose verification if they don’t buy ads (oh elon)… X is now letting Blue subscribers hide their verification checkmark of shame… X let more creators (including me!) into its ad revenue share programme (i’m not expecting big bucks)… And the terms have improved (but other platforms offer far better)… X was spotted making ads a little less obvious

TweetDeck is now called XPro (And soon you’ll have to pay for access)… X seems closer to launching real ID verification… X might build a stock-trading hub in its app… Community Notes now highlights ‘Top Writers’ as it expands to more countries… Blue subscribers can now download videos… And Spaces finally supports speaking via desktop browsers.

TikTok / Snapchat

ByteDance got sued for collecting user data via CapCut… TikTok now lets you write 4,000-character captions (almost double the old limit!)… TikTok is testing useful search filters… Snapchat is launching a rewards programme for AR Lens creators.

YouTube / Reddit / Discord

YouTube is adding a LIVE Shorts feed (the TikTok cloning continues)… and it’s testing a smart tool to turn horizontal videos into Shorts… YouTube has added TikTok-style Collabs and Q&A stickers.

Reddit is getting a redesign for logged out users… Reddit is testing ‘Official’ labels, its own version of verification… And finally… Discord on Xbox will soon let you stream your gameplay to friends.

DID YOU SEE… 👀

  • 😍 PRO-TIP: 65 Powerful ChatGPT Prompts for Social Media Marketers [VIEW PROMPTS]

  • FREE GUIDE: Meta’s New Guide to Ads Manager [DOWNLOAD GUIDE]

It’s time we dug a little deeper on the biggest developments in social everyone’s talking about. Geekout analysis of the top stories coming up next. 👇 [keep scrollin’]

– Matt

🚨 Everyone's talking about...

Twitter’s hasty, poorly thought-through rebrand to X is the best ad in history for the value of external brand consultants.

There’s been so much to take in. The messy process that has left plenty of ‘Twitters’ still on show (pro-tip: even though it’s officially changed, you can change the app icon back on iOS), the total lack of brand guidelines leaving social media managers confused, the logo just being a unicode symbol, and all sorts of concerns about possible trademark infringements….

Marketers might be baffled by the whole thing, but Elon Musk and Linda Yaccarino (the split in their duties running the company now officially confirmed) are putting a brave face on it.

They celebrated the rebrand with a garish flashing sign that left the neighbours furious. It was swiftly taken down amid fears it could be blown off the roof in high winds, but only after it had made headlines around the world. Musk isn’t afraid to piss people off in the pursuit of publicity.

But what kind of a brand is X? What does it stand for? The dumb, weird slogan doesn’t help us make much sense of the situation.. What does “Blaze your glory!” even MEAN?

So far X seems to stand for reinstating antisemite Kanye West again, suing anti-hate campaigners, and a terrible blog post containing half-written copy that makes professional writers feel ill. It’s not an encouraging start.

Meanwhile Musk is getting trolled by Stephen King over the whole thing and even TikTok is lining itself up as as a rival for sharing short-form text posts.

Still, the rebrand has helped create a clear break from the Twitter of the past, and it feels like more of the people who were once addicted to the app are heading elsewhere or just tuning out entirely.

It’s been hard to ignore the headlines over the past couple of weeks about how Threads usage is falling off a cliff:

Threads’ daily active user count is down 82% from launch as of July 31, according to Sensor Tower, with just eight million users accessing the app each day. That is the lowest it has been since the day after the app’s release when daily active users peaked at roughly 44 million, Sensor Tower said.

– Brian Fung, CNN

Last week we heard from Mark Zuckerberg himself that less than half of the 10 million initial Threads users are regularly using the app.

However, while Meta can’t be happy with the scale of the exodus, it’s fair to say they expected a sharp drop. After all, if a platform gets worldwide news coverage around its launch, of course lots of people are going to sign up for a look around - and not all of them will stay.

Meta plans “retention hooks” to keep people using the app, chief product officer Chris Cox reportedly told employees, like "making sure people who are on the Instagram app can see important Threads."

Ultimately, Mark Zuckerberg thinks Threads could be Meta’s next social network with 1 billion users but it will be an uphill battle to get there as users, and Meta themselves, figure out between them what Threads is actually for.

We’re seeing friction as some users and publishers push for more of an emphasis on news content than Meta seems to have an appetite for. But whatever Meta is, it certainly hasn’t found a vibe quite yet. It all feels a bit soulless.

Still, one encouraging data point for Meta is that a new report found that 54% of influencers said they'd already posted sponsored content on Threads

Threads might not have established itself quite yet, but you don’t need to look far to see how well Meta’s copy machine can work once it gets fully fired up:

According to the most recent data, Meta’s answer to TikTok gets 200 billion daily views across Facebook and Instagram.

Meta’s Reels earnings rival those of TikTok. According to Insider Intelligence, the latter video service pulled in $9.9 billion of revenue in 2022. The same firm projected that TikTok will reach $13.2 billion in ad revenue this year.

– Sam Gutelle, TubeFilter

Yes, Reels is really starting to breathe down TikTok’s neck. As with Snapchat Stories before it, Meta is showing how it can turn a rival’s cool product into a commoditised format and reap the rewards.

With TikTok’s future still hanging in the balance in the US, Meta is poised to clean up if the worst happens. But even if TikTok hangs on, it’s not crazy to imagine that Reels could become more successful than its Chinese-owned rival.

Still, angry Reels creators complaining about a payout glitch this week shows how keeping ‘the talent’ happy is key to keeping Reels on an upward trajectory.

😆 LOL tweets

Plus:

📈 Gone viral

Elon Musk made an enemy of journalist Christopher Beale last weekend. Living opposite X HQ turned into hell… but at least his video of the nightmare got him a shedload of engagement.

🪧 Brand social

Brands had a lot of fun with Elon Musk’s hasty rebrand…

plus:

📺 Must-watch

Adam Mosseri appeared on Harry Stebbings’ ‘20-Minute VC’ podcast recently, and took the opportunity to drop some hard truths about how people use Instagram these days.

It’s well worth a watch 👇

👀 Must-reads

What’s behind Mark Zuckerberg’s recent image overhaul? This article digs into what’s going on…

Also:

❓ What do you think?

The ‘unhinged social media manager’ act: fun and useful or tired and lame? Tap through and let me know what you think… 👇

💬 You can quote me on that

When I’m quoted in the news, you’ll find it here:

X vs Threads: I weigh in on the debate in this podcast…

Also:

  • Is Threads the Twitter-alternative journalists have been looking for? Journalism.co.uk asked for my opinion on their podcast

⏰ ICYMI

This is something really useful that might have passed you by in a summer haze…

🤦 FAIL

Meta messed up payments to Reels creators, and they are NOT happy:

🤔 Did you know…?

Well this has got me rethinking all that swiping….!

💬 Quoted

“I’m highly confident we’re going to be able to pour enough gasoline on this to help it grow”

– Mark Zuckerberg gets real on growing Threads

🪦 RIP

Features heading for the social media graveyard:

It’s a big one this week 😢

🧵 Top X thread

In this thread I break out useful insights from the Digital 2023 Global Statshot Report. Well worth a look 👇

🤖 A.I.-mazing

All the ways A.I. is transforming social media:

Meta has released a new open-source tool that creates music and sounds entirely through generative A.I.

Also:

💡 New feature spotlight

Even TikTok wants to be a Twitter rival…

📄 Reported

Key insights from recently published reports:

📊 Social stats

Turns out people don’t want Meta’s smart Ray-Bays. People surprised = 0.

Also:

📈 Charted

Also:

More Meta News

  • Facebook bowed to White House pressure to remove Covid-related posts, internal documents suggest. [Wall Street Journal $$$]

  • Meta has been accused of “neglecting” an initiative designed to remove harmful content and misinformation online. [Financial Times $$$]

  • News publisher Reach’s revenue has been hit by Facebook deprioritising news. [Press Gazette]

  • AN NHS health board has been reprimanded after patient data shared on WhatsApp over 500 times. [Sky News]

  • Roblox for Quest VR has been downloaded “well over” 1 million times, according to Roblox’s CEO. [The Verge]

Insights to give you an edge at work:

  • Why Meta is giving away its extremely powerful AI model. [Vox]

  • Meta has published a new guide to Facebook Ads Manager. [Social Media Today]

New features and tests:

Facebook:

  • Facebook now lets you choose a default between publishing short videos as Reels or posts. [@oncescuradu]

Instagram:

  • Instagram now lets you manage your broadcast channel on desktop. [@jonah_manzano]

  • Instagram now auto-plays carousels of three or more images. [@oncescuradu]

  • Instagram has added a button to help you learn more about being a creator. [@jonah_manznao]

  • Instagram could soon let you adjust the playback speed of audio messages. [@ahmedghanem]

  • Instagram is working on adding a Saved tab to your profile. [@alex193a]

  • Instagram has added an option “Avatar interactions” in the Privacy page. [@hammodoh1]

  • Instagram is testing showing broadcast channel subscriber counts on profiles… [@ahmedghanem]

  • Instagram is rolling out Avatar interactions and shared Avatar stickers… [@SaadhJawwadh]

WhatsApp:

  • WhatsApp is testing animated avatar stickers… [WABetaInfo]

  • WhatsApp could soon let you protect your account with an email address… [WABetaInfo]

The rest: Creator Studio/adtech/Quest and more:

  • Meta is working on new prototype VR headsets that focus on retinal resolution and light field passthrough. [Road to VR]

More X News

New features and tests:

  • X now lets creators limit replies to their paying subscribers. [@jonah_manzano]

  • Posts from Communities will now show up in your main feed. [Social Media Today]

More TikTok News

New features and tests:

  • TikTok has added ‘subscription spotlight’ to help you show off benefits of your paid content… [@jonah_manzano]

💥 Even more social media news and updates

  • China could impose strict limits on children’s internet usage. [The Verge]

  • Australia’s ban of TikTok on should also include WeChat, according to new recommendations. [The Guardian]

  • Reddit has closed the r/Place collaborative art project. [The Verge]

  • Three big Reddit communities are no longer focused on John Oliver. [The Verge]

  • Pinterest beat revenue estimates in its latest quarterly earnings report. [Bloomberg $$$]

  • Twitch has expanded its ban on gambling livestreams. [AP]

Insights to give you an edge at work:

  • How content creators and teams are using A.I. [Buffer blog]

New features and tests:

  • YouTube now lets you add a Short to any playlist. [@oncescuradu]

  • Snapchat has launched a limited-time Story format to mark International Friendship Day. [Social Media Today]

  • Bluesky has replaced ‘What’s Hot’ with personalised “Discover” feed. [TechCrunch]

  • Twitch has improved the way chat replies are displayed. [@TwitchSupport]

  • Discord on Xbox will soon let you stream your gameplay to friends. [The Verge]

  • T2 has added DMs ahead of other budding Twitter rivals. [TechCrunch]

📖 Weekend reading

😳 And finally...

All is not going well in MrBeast’s burger kitchens. The customers aren’t too happy either, it seems… 🤮

📅 Back next week...

…You made it to the end of this week’s Geekout. 🎉🍾

Does anyone ever actually read this bit? Tweet me “I read it” if you do! 😆

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That’s all for this week folks.

I’m heading off to hide my blue checkmark and figure out a better Threads strategy.

Goodbye geeks!

– Matt

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This newsletter is edited by Martin SFP Bryant

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