instagram reels is in trouble

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Well hello again, Geekout friends!

I hope you’ve all had a stonking week on the socials.

The death of Queen Elizabeth is still making social media for brands tricky to navigate. (check out this week’s ‘Read of the Week’ below for more on that).

What else has been going on this week…?

…Leaked memos revealed no one gives a f**k about Instagram Reels. Meanwhile, TikTok went full Facebook-mode by shamelessly ripping off BeReal. More on all that and more, in a moment.

To kick things off this week:


✨ Want to collaborate with me?

Get in touch for details about branded content, sponsored social posts, event speaking, private consultancy, and Geekout Newsletter advertising / sponsorship opportunities. [Get in touch].

🚨 A quick heads up

Geekout is moving! We’re switching platforms from Revue to Beehiiv from next Friday. Everything will look very similar and you should get transferred across painlessly. I’ll share more info about the move next week.

Right… Let’s jump into the hottest stories for social media geeks this week:


  1. TikTok Shamelessly Ripped Off BeReal With ‘TikTok Now’ [COPY/PASTE] 

  2. Twitter Security Failures Exposed by Whistleblower in Hearings [WHISTLE ON THIS]

  3. Instagram Reels Has Major Engagement + Watch Time Problems [LEAKED DATA] 

  4. YouTube to Launch Ads in Shorts + Share Revenue with Creators [MAKE IT RAIN]

  5. Instagram Boss Tells Staff TikTok Beats Reels on All Creator Satisfaction Scores [LEAKED MEMO] 

Let's quickly get you up to speed on everything else worth knowing about this week. I’ve read 200+ news articles + updates in the past seven days to make sure we don’t miss a thing. Here are the highlights:

Meta’s ‘New Product Experimentation’ (NPE) team is being scaled back to reallocate its resources on short-form video ‘innovation’ (innovation > copying)... Instagram is internally testing a gifts monetisation feature for creators (‘innovation’)... Instagram has also been spotted testing encrypted messaging features… Facebook launched Discord-like Community chat features for Groups (more ‘innovation’)... And Instagram is working on a ‘Quiet mode’.



  • Burnout is a real problem for social media managers.

  • Katy Leeson, former CEO of Social Chain, shares tips on how to avoid it.

  • Katy also explores managing work-life balance when working in social, ahead of her talk at Emplifi Summit '22.

Well worth a read! ➜ CHECK IT OUT

Twitter is apparently scheduled to roll out the Edit tweets feature to Twitter Blue users in New Zealand on Sept 21… Snapchat has added new lockscreen widgets on iOS… And Snapchat for the Web is now available for everyone… This new YouTube Shorts / YouTube Music integration lets you quickly save viral songs to a playlist… And YouTube now lets Shorts creators reply to comments with a Shorts video.

Everything old is new again… Discord is rolling out a Reddit-like forum channels feature… TikTok will now notify creators when you favourite one of their videos, but lots of people are not happy about the change.

In other news… Canva is launching a Google Docs / MS Office-style suite of tools… The Washington Post is looking to hire a social media coach to help journalists (good luck, whoever gets that job!)… Substack is targeting frustrated Instagram influencers… And finally…TikTok megastar Khaby Lame apparently charges $400k per sponsored TikTok post.


🌟 INVITE-ONLY: Join 29,000+ SMMs in the Geekout Group On FB [REQUEST ACCESS]

🧪 TESTING: What IG Reels Caption Length Gets Best Engagement [VIEW RESULTS]

🆕 EMOJIS: The 31 Wild New Emojis Coming Soon To Your Devices [TAKE A LOOK]

👑 BRANDS: 21 Surprising Brand Tweets Paying Tribute to the Queen [CRINGE]

🛠 TOOLS: The Ultimate Guide to Tools for Social Media Managers [200+ TOOLS]

Right… Let’s dig a little deeper on the news stories we’re all talking about.

Analysis of the hottest headlines this week coming up next. 👇


P.S. THE GEEKOUT WEEKLY DEBRIEF is back on Twitter Spaces today at 4pm UK, 11am ET, 8am PT. LISTEN LIVE/PLAY BACK

🚨 Everyone's talking about...

Given it's widely regarded as 'the one to beat' in social media, it's interesting to see that TiKTok has felt threatened enough by BeReal to blatantly copy it with a new feature called TikTok Now.

Not only that, the feature has prime placement in the TikTok interface - at least in some markets. In others, there will be a separate TikTok Now app.

It's probably no coincidence that the announcement of this new feature follows a report that TikTok's growth seems to be slowing. Even a soaraway hit app can't maintain stellar growth rates forever, but that won't stop its execs trying to keep potential rivals at bay.

The challenges don't stop there. TikTok had its toughest day in US politics for a while this week. The company's COO, Vanessa Pappas testified on a panel alongside execs from YouTube, Meta, and Twitter at a Senate hearing on how social media can be used to promote extremism and civil unrest.

Pappas insisted TikTok is not collecting biometric data of US citizens, despite the wording of its terms of service. But her repeated dodging of requests to stop sending data to China will have infuriated politicians clearly set on using TikTok as a punching bag proxy in the global battle for dominance between the US and China, which is helping to shape geopolitics in the 2020s.

TikTok's troubles in the US certainly aren't over yet.

While TikTok is busy trying to copy BeReal, Instagram's attempts to copy TikTok aren't quite going to plan.

Internal documents reported this week by the Wall Street Journal show that Instagram users cumulatively spend 17.6m hours a day watching Reels, which is dwarfed by TikTok's 197m hours. Only 20% of Meta's 11m US creators post Reels, and a third of Reels videos were created on another platform first, usually TikTok.

Reels is still at an early stage, so no problem, right? Maybe not. The documents show Reels engagement was down 13.6% in August compared to July, and most Reels users have no engagement whatsoever.

Instagram clearly sees this as a serious problem. Another leak revealed a memo from boss Adam Mosseri, who told staff, per the Information: "surveys of creators showed that Instagram 'lag[s] behind TikTok and YouTube on all the dimensions that are most important to creator satisfaction,” including several unrelated to the ability to make money, such as 'fun, reach, fair algorithm and care.'"

This shows that even though it previously worked for Meta with Stories, copying your way to success won't always help you maintain dominance. You still need some original ideas. With that in mind, the news that Meta's experimental apps division is being downsized and told to focus on short-form video feels a little shortsighted.

Meanwhile, Meta is still busy consolidating power in the VR market while it can. After all, it doesn't want too much competition in the metaverse, does it?

Twitter whistleblower Peiter 'Mudge' Zatko had plenty to say when he testified before US Congress this week.

TechCrunch has a good roundup of the hearing (above), which can be summarised by its headings about the key allegations: the FBI warned Twitter it had a Chinese spy on staff; there were apparently thousands of attempts to hack into Twitter weekly; "it was possible that engineers had access to [personal data about users] and would be an attractive target for foreign intelligence agencies", and the US government is too slack at monitoring companies' privacy requirements.

News that there might be a Chinese spy on Twitter's staff shouldn't be surprising - the country is a big market for Twitter and Twitter is an influential platform that spies around the world would no doubt love to tap into. But if Mudge is right, there are some serious security holes at the company that we should all worry about.

Meanwhile, Ronan Farrow at the New Yorker reported on what seems to be a well-funded operation looking to discredit Mudge:

The apparent urgency and aggressiveness of the inquiries around Zatko underscore the enormous financial stakes bound up in Twitter’s dispute with Musk. If the judge rules that Musk must complete the acquisition, it will greatly enhance Twitter’s stock value; if he is permitted to walk away, the stock may crater.

And speaking of the Musk deal, Twitter shareholders this week approved it. This is unsurprising, as it's a good deal for many of them. But the future of the deal still hangs on next month's court case.

Musk's latest 'let me ditch this deal, please' move is to claim Twitter's severance payment to Mudge violates the agreement. Twitter disagrees. Meanwhile, Twitter's former product chief is dodging a subpoena from Musk's legal team because he's currently outside the US.

Staying as far away from this mess as possible isn't a bad idea, tbh.

🤔 Matt's musings

⛔️ It's not just you

Annoying bugs causing headaches for SMM’s everywhere:

This Instagram bug caused frustration this week. Stories were playing with sound even if you had your iPhone on mute. Thankfully it's been fixed now:

📈 Going viral

This 👇 was of the most popular memes doing the rounds this week. It's from a Hulu TV show called The Bear. Know Your Meme has all the info you need to look smart explaining it.

👿 Creepy AF

"Using AI and open cameras, Dries Depoorter is matching influencers’ Insta pics to behind-the-scenes video footage. Not everyone is happy."

📊 Stat of the week

A turning point for TikTok?

❓ Question of the week

Social media managers have to deal with some truly sh***y ideas 😆

...and some of the replies are GOLD:

Top tips: here's some good advice on dealing with this kind of crap.

🤦 Fail of the week

Want to know how this happened? The leaker explained all on YouTube.

👉 On-point memes

👀 Read of the week

"To say something or to stay silent? The death of The Queen posed a unique dilemma for brands’ social media managers, all too aware there’s a fine line between respect and ridicule."

This is smart analysis 👇

🔨 Tool of the week

This is one of my favourite Twitter pro tool. It's seriously good, and well worth a look 👇

💡 New feature spotlight

This is a really neat idea from Instagram to help creators:

📈 Chart of the week

Adobe has put together a report on how America uses emojis in 2022. It's well worth a read.

😆 lol tweet

🔵 Meta news

"Two units will become one under Guy Rosen, Facebook's chief information security officer." The newly combined team will include roughly 3,000 people.

  • Meta has subpoenaed Snap, TikTok, LinkedIn and 132 others in preparation to fight its antitrust lawsuit in the US. [Bloomberg $$$]

  • Meta didn't illegally collude with Google due to their 'Jedi Blue' ads agreement, a judge has ruled. [Engadget]

  • ...but Meta and Google have been fined $71.8m for violating South Korean privacy laws. [TechCrunch]

  • Facebook's automated moderation tools don't work properly, Meta's Oversight Board has warned. [The Verge]

  • Meta has pushed back against a New York Post report that it spied on users who questioned the 2020 US election result. [@andymstone]

  • Meta is courting mobile publishers with rewarded interstitial ads. [The Drum]

  • Meta's PyTorch A.I. project has been spun out as a foundation that will be run by the Linux Foundation. [Meta Newsroom]

  • Meta has launched a metaverse startup accelerator in partnership with India’s IT ministry. It will initially choose 80 startups to attend a bootcamp and receive a grant exceeding $25,000. [TechCrunch]

New features and tests:


  • Facebook now offers lockscreen widgets for iOS 16 showing 'Top Updates' and 'Birthdays at a Glance'. [TechCrunch]

  • Facebook has added an Auto-Create Reels option to Page settings. [@MattNavarra]

  • Facebook has been spotted offering a 'Send in Text' share option for posts. [@SpaceCoast_Mike]


  • Instagram has begun testing its encrypted messaging feature. [@salman_memon_7]

  • Instagram is working on the ability to let fans pay creators with 'Gifts' on Reels... like TikTok. [Insider $$$]

  • Instagram now lets you share a Story as a Reel. [@Social_Pip]

  • Instagram is now promoting ‘official’ Reel effects for special events including the NFL Kickoff. [@MattNavarra]

  • Instagram is testing letting you share your in-app activity with people you're chatting with. [@ahmedghanem]

  • Instagram is developing a Media Kit builder tool. [@alex193a]

  • Instagram has been spotted labelling chats as 'Priority'. [@ahmedghanem]

  • Instagram is testing the ability to run a live video steam for your close friends only. [@hammodoh1]

  • Instagram has been spotted offering a different layout of suggested Reels. [@YasserM86]

  • Instagram's new 'Following' and 'Favorites' feeds are now available on desktop. [@ahmedghanem]

  • Instagram is working on the ability to reply to up to 10 chats at once. [@alex193a]

  • Instagram could soon let you hide your avatar from your profile. [@alex193a]

  • Instagram is working on the ability to gift a subscription. [@alex193a]

  • Instagram could soon launch an 'Artists Program'. [@alex193a]

  • Instagram is still building a Quiet Mode. [@alex193a]


  • Messenger is to launch Discord-like Community Chats. [TechCrunch]


  • WhatsApp is now testing the ability to hide online status. [WABetaInfo]

  • WhatsApp is working on easier imports of chat backups. [WABetaInfo]

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

  • Meta is working on legs for its VR avatars, at least for when other people look at you. [UploadVR]

  • Meta has launched the first-ever officially licensed NFL football game in VR. [Meta Newsroom]

🐣 Twitter news

"Extreme heat in California has left Twitter without one of its key data centers, and a company executive warned in an internal memo obtained by CNN that another outage elsewhere could result in the service going dark for some of its users."

  • Twitter's edit button test in New Zealand will reportedly start next Wednesday. [@CaseyNewton]

  • Twitter has added new thread creation tools to its ‘Twitter Toolbox’ collection of recommended apps. [Social Media Today]

Insights to give you an edge at work:

  • Thinking ahead to Christmas campaigns? Twitter has some tips for you. [Social Media Today]

  • Twitter has launched a Guide for Businesses and Professionals to help them make the most of the platform. [@TwitterBusiness]

  • Want to understand Twitter's role in news? The company has shared its own take. [Social Media Today]

New features and tests:

  • Twitter has added new Midterms-related information to the Explore tab in the USA. [@TwitterGov]

  • Twitter's new audio tab featuring podcasts as well as Spaces is now available to Twitter Blue subscribers on iOS to activate. [@TwitterBlue]

🔺 TikTok news

Researchers at NewsGuard found that nearly 1 in 5 of the videos automatically suggested by the platform contained misinformation.

  • Khaby Lame gets paid about $400,000 for each sponsored TikTok video. [TubeFilter]

  • TikTok parent ByteDance bought a chain of birthing centres. But why? [The Information]

  • ...and that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ByteDance's curious investments. [Insider $$$]

  • TikTok has published a list of punishments for breaking Shop rules. [@MattNavarra]

  • Microsoft Teams has added a remix of its ringtone to the app after its creator first shared it on TikTok. [The Verge]

  • ByteDance's Pico 4 Phoenix VR headset will be unveiled next Thursday. [Protocol]

New features and tests:

  • TikTok now notifies you when someone adds your video to their favourites, and it's not proving popular. [@MattNavarra]

  • TikTok now auto-adjusts volume levels on videos. [@oncescuradu]

  • TikTok will mark Fashion Month with activities including a creator showcase, live stream programming, and new digital effects. [Social Media Today]

  • TikTok has a new Commercial Music 'newsletter', but it's more like an in-app info hub. [@MattNavarra]

💥 More social media news and updates

Meta, YouTube, Microsoft, and Twitch unveiled anti-hate measures at a White House event.

  • ... and social media companies now have to tell California what their hate speech and disinformation policies are. [The Verge]

  • YouTube Shorts generates 30 billion views per day, with 1.5 billion monthly logged-in users. [Variety]

  • ...and YouTube will reportedly launch ads in YouTube Shorts with a revenue share for creators . [New York Times $$$]

  • YouTube appears to profit from hate speech, a new report shows. [Rolling Stone]

  • YouTube will now help turn landscape video ads into YouTube Short-friendly vertical ones. [9to5Google]

  • YouTube’s music royalty system is ‘ripe for abuse,’ according to a report. [Billboard]

  • Substack is courting unhappy Instagram influencers in the hope they'll switch platforms. [Insider $$$]

  • Snap and Twitter both implemented temporary ad bans in the UK following the Queen's death. [The Guardian]

  • Truth Social is hiding many engagement stats, making it difficult to gauge the the success of the platform. [Rolling Stone]

  • Yubo is set to verify the age of all its users using facial age estimation. [TechCrunch]

  • 20 new emojis were approved as part of the Unicode standard this week, meaning they'll show up in operating systems and apps in the coming months. [Emojipedia]

  • Gun licence applicants now have their social media checked in New York state. [Forbes $$$]

Insights to give you an edge at work:

  • Sceptical about AR? Snap wants to convince you of its benefits with a new report. [Social Media Today]

New features and tests:

  • YouTube now lets creators feature comments in their YouTube Shorts on iOS. [@MattNavarra]

  • YouTube is testing new features for its Search Insights in Creator Studio. [Search Engine Journal]

  • YouTube Music now lets you share to Instagram Stories. [9to5Google]

  • YouTube Shorts now lets you save music from videos to YouTube Music. [Android Police]

  • Snapchat for Web is now available to all users worldwide and the app is rolling out a 'Chat shortcuts' feature and Question stickers. [TechCrunch]

  • Snapchat has launched an iOS 16 lockscreen widget that lets you quickly jump into a chat with a friend and see your current streak with them. [MacRumors]

  • LinkedIn's native scheduling feature is taking shape. [@nima_owji]

  • Discord has added Reddit-like Forum channels for chatting about specific topics. [TechCrunch]

  • Discord voice chat is now available on Xbox One and Series X/S consoles. [The Verge]

  • Google has revealed new emoji designs, including animated emojis. [Emojipedia]

📖 Weekend reading

"Bret Taylor is taking point on the most contentious tech deal in decades. But he doesn’t want to tweet about it."

😳 And finally...

It's what she would have wanted...

📅 Back next week...

…And that’s pretty much everything I’ve got for you this week.

Geekout download. DONE. Nice. 👊

Right… I’m heading off to surprise my daughter with this news.

Goodbye, geeks!

– Matt


This newsletter is edited by Martin SFP Bryant

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