Universal puts TikTok on mute

…and Zuck needs more Elmo in his life

Hello, geeks!

Oh lordy… It’s been a very dramatic week in social media land. Brace yourself.

But first… Social media managers, I just saved you HOURS of research with this one LinkedIn post. (hope you find it useful) 👊


So, this week I’ve mostly been feeling anxious.

Back in November, I was asked to appear in a new documentary being produced for Channel 5 (UK). I travelled into London for filming in a stunning house in Fulham. 😲

Well, the documentary is being broadcast TONIGHT (Feb 2) at 9pm on Channel 5. My face will pop up a few times during ‘Nicola Bulley: The Disappearance That Gripped Britain’. You can watch the trailer here.

I might record it and never watch it if I look awful! You lot can tune in and tell me if did a good job... OR… I look like a muppet and best delete the recording, pretend it never happened. 😁

P.S. This is NOT your cue to pause it and share the worst freeze frame of my face on your TV!


On to this week’s news. It’s been a wild week full of social media drama...

… Universal Music lost its shit with TikTok, accused it of being a bully, and pulled all its artist’s music from the platform (spicy!)

… Zuckerberg was told by a U.S senator that he has blood on his hands (ouch!)

… And Linda Yaccarino proclaimed X is an “indispensable platform for the world”

What you been smoking, Linda? I think ‘the world’ is ready to flush X down the toilet at this point in time. 🙄

Let’s get into it.

DON’T MISS… I shared this on LinkedIn and people in the comments replied saying These insights are gold!” Check it out 👇

Psst...! 6 social media strategy secrets for 2024 🤫

2024 is gearing up to be the toughest year yet for social media managers and marketers, when it comes to content. 😩

To make things simpler, the social media scientists at Dash Hudson did some research for you. Nice! 👌

Their latest trends report looked at the Instagram activity of more than 900 top brands during 2023 to reveal content strategy trends you’ll want to know about. 

 Check out the report to reveal…

  • How (and when) to use creators, organic, and paid content  

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The FREE 17-page trends report is full of smart insights and actionable tips to help you optimise your content strategy, based on real-world data.

I just checked out the full report… Seriously, it’s worth downloading now. 👇



Geekout pick of the hottest headlines this week:

  1. Mark Zuckerberg Told He Has ‘Blood on His Hands’ In Fiery Senate Hearing [GUILT-TRIPPING]

  2. Universal Music Pulls Music From TikTok Calling Platform a ‘Bully’ ["NEGOTIATING"]

  3. Taylor Swift Search Terms Blocked on X After Deepfaked Porn Deluge [CENSORING]

  4. TikTok Went Full YouTube Incentivising Creators to Post Horizontal Videos [REORIENTING]

  5. Threads Hits 130 Million Users And Climbs Into Top 10 In App Download Charts [X-PLODING]


  • Geekout has 30,000+ subscribers.

  • Geekout subscribers manage social media for the world’s biggest brands including Apple, Amazon, Disney, Redbull, McDonald’s, Nike.

  • Geekout has an industry-beating open rate of 54% and a 15% click rate!

  • Geekout Ads typically generate up to 4% click-through-rate!

  • Previous advertisers include Morning Brew, Google, Meta, Semrush, and Sprout Social.

  • Limited number of slots still available in February.



Social execs head to DC to be shouted at

Child safety is exactly the kind of emotive, hot-button topic that is perfect for one of the Senate hearings that have become a routine part of holding social platforms to account in the US.

And so we had the usual process this week. First there were the the pre-emptive PR moves, like Meta announcing with would start sharing data with researchers studying online wellbeing (what coincidental timing!).

And then we had the grandstanding from politicians at the hearing (intended to go viral on the very platforms they were criticising). “You have blood on your hands”, Senator Lindsey Graham told the execs at the hearing.

Of course, the execs themselves had a different take.

Mark Zuckerberg’s prepared statement said “teens do amazing things on our services... Overall, teens tell us [using Meta’s platforms) is a positive part of their lives”. He also defended teenage creators’ right to public Instagram accounts.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew pledged $2 Billion to protect kids and other Americans on his app. X’s Linda Yaccarino’s tack was more like ‘we’re not targeting teens so leave us alone’.

The headline moment of this hearing was when Mark Zuckerberg apologised to parents. Senator Josh Hawley, who extracted the apology from him, has since doubled down and asked Zuckerberg to set up a compensation fund for people “vicitimised” by Meta’s platforms.

But for all the talk of what the platform need to do, it’s notable that both Meta and Snap said users don’t use parental controls all that much. For the 20 million US teens that use Snapchat, only 200,000 parents use its Family Center controls

Perhaps it’s not a bad idea (as Mark Zuckerberg suggested) that Apple and Google should manage parental consent for apps, not the platforms. A central age management system approved by parents at app store level would stop under-age downloads dead.

While previous hearings like this have been nothing but theatre, this one might end up meaning something.

Even if Gen Z TikTokers, LGBTQ organisations, and free speech advocates weren’t happy, and grieving parents weren’t impressed either, getting Zuck to apologise was a step forward, at least.

Universal Music Group unfollows TikTok

Music from major artists is a core part of the TikTok experience, but cold, hard business crashed headlong into that experience this week, as one of the world’s biggest music companies removed its artists from the app.

Yes, welcome to the ‘mute-pocalypse’ as videos across TikTok were stripped of their audio, forcing creators to either leave the content silent or pick a new song.

Fans of Universal Music Group artists were not happy that their carefully crafted videos were ruined by the spat, which is neatly summed up by Business Insider:

UMG, the label behind many major acts, published an "open letter" on Tuesday, claiming a range of grievances against TikTok. It accused the app of being "flooded with AI-generated recordings," allowing a "tidal wave of hate speech, bigotry, bullying and harassment," and "selectively removing the music of certain of our developing artists."

A TikTok spokesperson shot back in a statement to Business Insider, describing the letter as presenting a "false narrative and rhetoric" and claiming that UMG "has chosen to walk away from the powerful support of a platform with well over a billion users that serves as a free promotional and discovery vehicle for their talent."

TikTok and the music industry have a symbiotic relationship. The platform can turn new songs into hits or break new artists. But TikTok needs a well-rounded catalogue of music to keep users happy.

Universal might only make 1% of revenue from TikTok by its own (conservative) estimations, but that downplays all the free advertising and reach and distribution, and how it fuels interest in their artists; their tours, merchandise, and more in the future.

Universal probably has more to lose here. That said, as Music Business Worldwide reminds us, TikTok tested removing a lot of its music choices in Australia last year and lost users as a result. Both sides need a deal here.

Turns out X needs moderators after all

Somewhere else that has been removing Taylor Swift this week is X, but for a decidedly more grim reason.

As last week’s Geekout hit your inbox, X was awash with A.I.-generated explicit images of the singer. After seemingly doing nothing for a day or so, the company found a simple solution - block ALL searches for Swift’s name.

The ability to search was eventually restored but the images were still spreading.

As CEO Linda Yaccarino admitted, it turns out X needs moderators after all. Elon Musk’s cost-saving, anti-’woke’, trust and safety wipeout has really played against the platform here.

X is even talking about opening a new Trust and Safety Centre in Texas.

Meanwhile, Microsoft closed a loophole a that might have been used to make the material, and US lawmakers proposed an anti-nonconsensual A.I. p*rn bill.

But let’s face it, this problem isn’t going away, and could get a lot worse. Brace yourself.


Everything else you need to know from the past seven days…

Meta / Quest

Instagram / Facebook

Threads / WhatsApp

Twitter (‘X’)



Snapchat / LinkedIn / CapCut / More…



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

I spoke to BBC News about the political theatre of this week’s Senate hearing.




Axios’ Dan Primack neatly sums up the Senate hearing…

Meanwhile, I posed a question on LinkedIn that got some highly relatable responses… 😆👇



The best thing on the internet this week was Elmo's wellness check, which turned into a mass online trauma dump.

Celebrities, and even Joe Biden’s account got involved.

Want more Elmo memes? Scroll to the bottom of this page for some of the most popular replies to Elmo.




MrBeast says his tweet offering to give away away his $250,000 X ad revenue share is now the most retweeted post on Twitter ever.



Irish butter brand Kerrygold struck lucky organic social… gold when an X user posted this instant classic.

Seems they know how to treat a gift horse, too. They made him a generous offer… [via Rachel Karten]

And you’ve gotta love the Beckhams embracing their meme status in this promo spot for Uber Eats:



The Senate hearings this week spawned some must-watch clips.

Tap through to watch 👇

  • Ted Cruz grills Zuckerberg over Instagram's child sex abuse 'warning' screens

  • Mark Zuckerberg stands and turns to face families at Senate hearing to apologise for the harm his platform caused them


  • Check out Snapchat’s new video claiming it’s absolutely not social media and never has been, nosiree…



“The largest marketplace for predators and paedophiles globally”

– New Mexico’s attorney general didn’t go easy when describing Meta this week



Interviews with top social execs:

Wired has an in-depth interview with TikTok’s CEO Shou Zi Chew to talk about how he’s trying to make TikTok better.

"Is he for real—or just a really good politician?




How do you grab your audience’s attention immediately on social media? Hootsuite has put together a good guide to creating a great hook….



The team behind Twitterrific have launched Tapestry, an app for tracking social media, news, RSS and more. I like the sound of this…



😮 WTF?!

Talking pork: “Ad campaigns from controversial quasi-government programs for pork, dairy, and beef are raising new questions around the checkoff program’s foray into social media.”


  • ‘Disrespectful and demeaning’: Influencers say they were offered payment to create sexually suggestive videos to promote a book

  • Facebook approved pro-anorexia and drug ads targeted at teens, made with its own A.I.



Yikes. If you bought one of Snap’s Pixy drones, stop using it - it’s apparently a fire hazard. But at least you’ll get a refund.


  • X gave a gold checkmark to a Holocaust denier. This is in the Fail section but with Elon Musk it’s sometimes hard to tell what’s intentional and what’s not….



Social media features heading for the graveyard:

This is in the grave before it was born: Meta has stopped work on developing personalised features for future AR glasses:




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

ByteDance has A.I. that lets users instantly speak in another person's voice, which isn’t worrying AT ALL:



1 billion

– The number of members LinkedIn now has. But of course members is not the same as active users



Where brands’ influencer budgets are going in 2024:



  • A former Facebook ad exec says Meta is "not doing all they can" to prevent harm to users caused by A.I. [Rob’s Notes]

  • Mark Zuckerberg isn’t keen on the EU’s new app store policies. [The Verge]

  • Meta's stock market rally could hinge on fortunes of Temu and Shein, which both have been significant contributors to the ad rebound. [CNBC]

  • Meta’s Oversight Board has its eye on how the company will handle the many elections taking place this year. [Wired $$$]

  • Mark Zuckerberg has avoided (for now) testimony in a Texas face scanning lawsuit. [Bloomberg $$$]

  • Instagram’s boss doesn’t sound too enthusiastic about the Flipside feature they’re testing. [Engadget]

New features and tests:


  • Instagram has added a feature called "Welcome Experience" for subscriptions. [@jonahmanzano]

  • Instagram is testing a new position for the image carousel slider, encouraging users to also save the post for later. [@oncescuradu]

  • Instagram is working on an accessibility option to show translated text and audio for Reels created in other languages. [@alex193a]

  • Instagram could soon transcribe voice messages for you. [@alex193a]


  • Threads now signals when a shared post in an Instagram message has two or more images. [@oncescuradu]


  • WhatsApp is working on bringing a new chat lock feature to a future update of its web client. [WABetaInfo]

  • WhatsApp is working on automatic event pinning in Communities. [Android Police]

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

  • Meta has launched a new ‘Engaged View’ attribution option for video ads. [Social Media Today]

  • Meta’s free Code Llama A.I. programming tool is getting better at writing code. [The Verge]


  • More than 50,000 fake X accounts have been found posting against Germany’s support for Ukraine. [The Guardian]

  • Mark Cuban says X is ‘impossible’ to use and has shared barrage of daily antisemitism his account gets. [The Daily Dot]

  • X has admitted MrBeast was using its Amplify ad product, which it plans to offer to more creators soon [Social Media Today]

Insights to give you an edge at work:

  • Do longform posts give you more reach on X? An experiment. [Hootsuite blog]

New features and tests:



  • TikTok is still struggling to keep US data away from China [WSJ $$$]

  • ByteDance’s CEO warned employees that the company risks becoming complacent and slipping into mediocrity as it faces challenges from newer startups. [Reuters $$$]

  • TikTok has completed its deal to take control of Indonesia's biggest e-commerce platform, allowing it to restart ecommerce operations there. [Reuters $$$]

  • TikTok is pitching hard for Super Bowl ad dollars. [Digiday $$$]

  • TikTok has announced a group of Black History Month Visionary Voices for 2024. [Hollywood Reporter]

Insights to give you an edge at work:

  • TikTok has shared tips on how brands can incorporate humour into their marketing. [Social Media Today]

New features and tests:

  • TikTok has introduced a program for live creators called the 'Growth Bonus,' with tiers of rewards based on your subscriber base. [@jonahmanzano]

  • TikTok has a fresh new UI design for live. [@jonahmanzano]



  • Snapchat has broken ranks from a trade group to support a bipartisan bill that’s meant to bolster protections for children online. [Politico]

  • YouTube creators have been targeting Black celebrities with A.I.-generated misinformation. [NBC News]

  • Hate speech proliferates on YouTube in India, according to new research. [Wired $$$]

  • Media buyers have seen promising results from YouTube’s Shorts pilot programme. [AdExchanger]

  • A Pennsylvania man has been arrested after allegedly decapitating his father and displaying his head on YouTube. [NBC News]

  • California has passed a bill requiring creators that feature children in at least 30% of their content to put aside a “proportionate percentage” of their earnings in a trust for the minor. [The Information $$$]

  • A German MP has won a court case against Meta over a fake meme. [Politico]

  • Belgium wants to make sure EU member states get online content creators to behave. [Politico]

  • Riot Games was developing a Twitch competitor but layoff killed the project. [TubeFilter]

  • Wizz, a Tinder-like app for teens, removed from app stores over allegations of sextortion scams. [NBC News]

  • PI.FYI is a new social app hoping to recapture the dream of the early internet. [The Verge]

  • Reddit has announced its first conversions API partner. [Social Media Today]

Insights to give you an edge at work:

  • A guide to the latest influencer marketing legislation in the US, UK, and Europe. [The Drum $$$]

  • A bunch of smart A.I. tips for social media marketers. [Social Media Today]

  • Pinterest has shared tips to help you optimise your in-app product listings. [Social Media Today]

  • Pinterest has published an agency-focused guide to pin marketing in 2024. [Social Media Today]

New features and tests:

  • LinkedIn has launched ‘Website Actions’ tracking to simplify ad response measurement. [Social Media Today]

  • Linktree has added the ability to schedule and archive links. [TechCrunch]





A teen was in court this week after he ‘joked’ on Snapchat that he was on his way to blow up a plane.

Saying “I’m a member of the Taliban” is never a wise move unless you’re in Afghanistan.



…Your weekly social media manager debriefing is done.

A quick hello to the 2,400+ new Geekout subscribers who joined us in January.

Thanks for reading my geeky social media news bible. You’re officially one of us now. 👊

Right folks, I’m heading off to watch Channel 5 through my fingers as i cringe on my sofa.

Goodbye geeks!

p.s. This newsletter is edited by Martin SFP Bryant

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