tiktok is a big shou off

…Are you taking notes, Zuck?

Hello, geeks

Welcome to your weekly debriefing of everything new in social.

Kicking things off this week…This is driving me crazy. Does it bother you? Someone please tell Adam Mosseri to fix it. 😁

Social media news this week has been dominated by two players…

Player 1: TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew

I don’t know who’s behind his social media strategy, but it’s a masterclass in crafting an authentic big tech CEO. His account has rocketed to 3 million+ followers in the last 10 days, or so…. Meta and Mark Zuckerberg should take notes.

Player 2: Pope in a Coat. 😆


Elon’s been busy flushing Twitter down the toilet. I was going to dunk on his latest dumb decision to only recommend Twitter Blue subscribers in the ‘For You’ feed. But Ryan Broderick sums up the stupidity so well. Also…

Elon’s ego got cranked up to 11. He became the most followed person on his hellsite.


It’s been a wild and manically busy week for me over the past seven days. I popped up all over the place:


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…Alrighty, it’s time to Geekout. Here are the hottest headlines in social this week:


  1. Social Media Users Are Addicted to TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew [SHOU-BUSINESS]

  2. Meta to Let Users Opt-Out of Some Targeted Ads BUT Only in Europe [YES PLEASE]

  3. Twitter Reveal Part of its Source Code Leaked on Github [CODE LEAK]

  4. Meta Considering Political Ads Ban in Europe [REGULATION PROBLEMS]

  5. Twitter Will No Longer Only Promote Paid-For Accounts After Backlash [OH ELON]

What else is new and noteworthy in social this week? Lots. But here’s the bits most worthy of your attention:

Meta is considering a political ads ban in Europe… Meta launched a new tool for advertisers to prevent ads appearing next to harmful content… Meta also launched new Reels Ad options…Facebook added a ‘Rising fan’ badge for creators and Pages… Instagram is working on a new app codenamed ‘Barcelona’ (what could it be?).

Instagram rolled out ‘Save post with friends’ collaborative bookmarking feature… Instagram was spotted testing: 1. A birthday selfie effect feature, 2. Share story straight to a highlight option, 3. Ability to reply to a profile bio… WhatsApp is also testing new features, including: 1. New duration options for disappearing messages, 2. A Discord-like audio chat feature, 3. Self-destructing audio messages.

Elon Musk valued Twitter at $20 billion (less than half the $44bn he paid for it)... Twitter has a secret list of VIP accounts it lets bypass visibility limitations… Twitter will grant free verification to its top 500 advertisers and 10k most followed orgs… Twitter revealed its new API pricing (killing off top Twitter bots, apps, tools in the process)... And Twitter is working on a new way to tag all instances of misleading images in tweets.

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Twitter-alternative T2 is offering to verify all legacy verified Twitter accounts on its platform… AOC’s first video on TikTok rallying against the ban went viral (I wonder if TikTok used its viral ‘heat’ button to help 🤔)... LinkedIn is testing a new share a post with multiple members option.

And finally… iOS 16.4 rolled out bringing 31 brand new emojis 😍


  • PRO TIPS: How The Economist Grew Its LinkedIn Newsletter To 2.7m Subs [SHOW ME]

  • EXPERT ADVICE: Should You or Your Biz Pay For Twitter Verification? [ANSWERS HERE]

  • 🔥 LEAKED DOC: Snapchat Deck Reveals Tips For Optimising Snap Stories [TAKE A LOOK]

  • 🤐 INSIDER INFO: 5 Takeaways From Meta’s Secret Instagram University Event [CHECK IT OUT]

It’s time to dive deeper into the stories everyone’s talking about this week…

The Pope in that coat, the latest Elon Twitter drama, and TikTok’s new viral sensation… It’s CEO!

Keep scrolling for Geekout’s analysis coming up next 👇

– Matt

🚨 Everyone's talking about...

Elon Musk had good week for his ego, as he overtook Obama to be the most-followed account on Twitter, with 30% of all Twitter users now following him.

That’s pretty easy to engineer if you own the platform, though. And there are plenty of things that are much harder… like making money.

Ad revenue at Twitter is reportedly down 89% since last autumn, and the new Twitter Blue has made just $11 million on mobile in its first three months, according to Sensor Tower.

And as users’ legacy checkmarks are set to be taken away starting from tomorrow, it doesn’t sound like there’s a rush of verified users desperate sign up to Blue.

Some celebrities aren’t keen, and many big news organisations are refusing to pay for checkmarks. In fact, Semafor is one of the only outlets that seems interested at all.

Twitter will reportedly grant free verification to its top 500 advertisers and 10,000 most-followed organisations, so it seems there will be plenty of gold checkmarks floating around, but probably not many being paid for.

One problem is Twitter Blue has a bit of a naff image.

Third-party analysis shows that half of all Twitter Blue subscribers have less than 1,000 followers, and 17.6% have less than 100 users following their account.

While there’s nothing wrong with that, you can see why it doesn’t exactly look appealing to accounts with big followings, when most current subscribers are people who are subscribing because they want big followings.

And although Musk told William Shatner that paid checkmarks were about “treating everyone equally”, the existence of a secret VIP list of boosted accounts–including LeBron James, Glenn Greenwald, Ben Shapiro, AOC, and Marc Andreessen–shows that equality only goes so far at Twitter.

Throw in the new API access prices that are angering developers and pricing apps out of existence, AND the headache of Twitter source code being leaked on GitHub, AND the confusion over what Twitter would show in the For You tab

…well, it’s no wonder that Twitter is worth–by Musk’s own admission– less than half what he paid for it mere months ago.

Shou Zi Chew might not have impressed Congress last week, but it certainly seems TikTok users are smitten with him.

His TikTok account has rocketed from 20,000 to 3 million followers in the past week. But as with Elon Musk above, it’s quite easy to manufacture this kind of success when you run the platform.

Chew’s social media fame might be short-lived though, as a number of US bills move forward with the aim of banning TikTok one way or another.

Hollywood and the music industry are bracing themselves for disruption as the possibility of a TikTok ban looms, while AOC is one of the few politicians to speak out against a ban.

But in the week when London City Hall joined the TikTok ban-waggon, France banned all recreational apps, not just TikTok, from government devices. That’s a far more sensible option, given you can rarely be certain what any app is really doing with your data behind the scenes.

TikTok continues to work on building trust by moving all American users’ data into the USA but ‘Project Texas’ is progressing very slowly for technical reasons. I can’t imagine politicians will take that as an excuse.

If there is a total ban though, TikTok’s parent company ByteDance appears to have a backup plan. It’s Lemon8 app is growing in the US, and they’re hiring a US-based creator team for the app.

But that might not be enough. A TikTok ban could lead to broader problems for China’s international tech ambitions, and any app from the country getting a foothold in the West.

But hey, at least TikTok will still work in Mexico. I’m picturing Americans lining up to get a sweet, sweet TikTok fix south of the border!

The Pope in a big coat went viral twice over the past week. Firstly as a fun image people couldn’t help sharing, and secondly as an example of just how easy it is to fool people with A.I.-generated images.

Yes, it was a fake (apparently a shroom-fuelled idea!) but it showed just how quickly A.I. tools like Midjourney can be used to create fake images that help create an alternative reality where Trump has already been arrested or the Pope wears wild-looking togs.

Yes, Photoshop has existed for years, but the barrier to creating images that (at least at a glance) look real is now much lower. It’s going to be a moderation nightmare at a time when social media companies are looking to cut costs.

As Sara Morrison at Vox wrote, this stuff could take over the internet:

There are people who are happy enough to take what they see at face value because they don’t have the time or perhaps the knowledge to question everything. As long as it comes from a trusted source, they will assume it’s true. Which is why it’s important that those trusted sources are able to do the work of vetting the information they distribute.

We might not be anywhere near A.I. super-intelligence (as some fear) but we are entering a world where your friendly neighbourhood moderator is going to have their wits about them more than ever.

😆 LOL tweets

Fake LinkedIn features will never stop being funny:

The more things change, the more they stay the same…

📈 Going viral

Balenciaga Pope was the main attraction in memeland this week…


🐣 Brand Twitter

I loved Innocent’s social team throwing shade on content thieves this week…

💡 New feature spotlight

I really like the new TikTok 'Play Next' button.

If you watch a video in your FYP that's from a playlist, just tap the 'Play Next' button and it queues up the next video in the playlist to auto-play next…

😮 WTF?!

Can’t make enough weapons? Blame… cat videos?!

👀 Must-reads

This is a wild story about a scammer who tricks Instagram into banning influencer accounts 😮

And don’t miss:

🗯️ What he said 👇

👍 Pro tips

Instagram boss Adam Mosseri had some useful pointers for your Instagram strategy this week…

And: third-party editing tools DON’T impact your reach… unless they leave a watermark.

🗣️ Industry chatter

The sheen of hype has come off the metaverse as everyone gets excited by A.I. instead.

Just this week, Disney eliminated its 50-person metaverse team. But according to Nick Clegg, Meta is still very much focused on the metaverse… it’ll just take some time to get there.

🐾 Tracking…

ByteDance’s Lemon8 is getting fizzy in the US. The Instagram-style app could be the company’s backup plan if TikTok gets banned.

👥 Top interview

This is a really interesting chat with Mastodon CEO Eugen Rochko as the decentralised platform stands to gain from Twitter’s flailing.

💬 You can quote me on that

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

I spoke to the Wall Street Journal about the death of the blue checkmark badge as a status symbol.


📊 Stat of the week

Amazing what you can do when you own the platform:


📈 Charts of the week

Time to start paying more attention to YouTube Shorts?


Meta News

  • Meta has stopped advertising remote jobs as Mark Zuckerberg pushes for work to take place in the office. [Insider $$$]

  • Meta is said to be cutting some employee bonuses as it continues to watch its spending. [Wall Street Journal $$$]

  • Meta has been sued in its own back yard over social media addiction. [Bloomberg $$$]

  • Meta has beaten an antitrust case that alleged the company drove a rival photo app out of business. [Reuters $$$]

  • Meta is reportedly considering a ban on political ads in Europe, to avoid having to comply with new EU rules. [Financial Times $$$]

  • Meta looks set to block news in Canada if the country enforces revenue sharing with publishers. [Social Media Today]

  • Australian TV networks have criticised Meta over its ‘inadequate’ response time in dealing with scam ads. [The Guardian]

  • Facebook provides the news industry with a considerable economic benefit, according to a report commissioned by… Meta. [Meta newsroom]

  • Meta’s new hand tracking feature impressed the Verge’s reviewer. [The Verge]

New features and tests:



  • Instagram now lets you ‘Save posts with Friends’. [TechCrunch]

  • Instagram is expanding its Sharing to Reels programme to more developers. [Meta News for Developers]

  • Meta Verified now shows as a separate tab on Instagram. [@jonah_manzano]

  • Instagram has added an activity status indicator on its call icons. [@ahmedghanem]

  • Instagram now highlights unread messages as ‘Chat’, not ‘Messages’ in the app account switching menu. [@ahmedghanem]

  • Instagram has added ‘Edit Profile’ to business settings . [@ahmedghanem]

  • Instagram is working on a birthday selfie feature. [@alex193a]

  • Instagram has been spotted offering Gmail-style auto-filtering of messages. [@chrismessina]

  • Instagram is developing a ‘reply to bio’ feature. [@alex193a]

  • Instagram is working on a mysterious new app called ‘Barcelona’. [@alex193a]

  • Instagram could soon let you share a story directly to highlights. [@alex193a]


  • WhatsApp is working on self-destructing audio messages. [Android Police]

  • WhatsApp could soon offer 15 more durations for disappearing messages, up to a year. [WABetaInfo]

  • WhatsApp is developing a Discord-like audio chat feature for communities. [Android Police]

  • WhatsApp is still working on a newsletter feature. [WABetaInfo]

VR, adtech, and more:

  • Meta has launched new Reels ads options, including click-to-messenger ads and WhatsApp conversion optimisation. [Social Media Today]

  • …and advertisers can now better separate their Facebook and Instagram ads from harmful content. [Meta Newsroom]

  • Meta is testing new ad tools for retailers. [Social Media Today]

Twitter News

  • …and Twitter has blocked the Pakistan government’s account from being viewed in India. [Reuters $$$]

  • The FTC knocked back Elon Musk’s request to meet with chair Lina Khan over its investigation into Twitter’s data and privacy practices, it has been reported. [New York Times $$$]

  • Elon Musk claims Twitter is working on improving its customer service. [Insider]

New features and tests:

  • Twitter could soon attach Community Notes to images, no matter who shares them on the platform. [@nima_owji]

  • Twitter has added a 'Verified Organisations' menu item. [@MattNavarra]

  • Twitter is working on new designs for displaying replies. [@ehikian]

  • Twitter’s text formatting will likely support keyboard shortcuts. [@nima_owji]

TikTok News

  • TikTok is addictive for many girls, especially those with depression, a new study has found. [Washington Post $$$]

  • A Norwegian arms manufacturer claims power consumption from data centre that hosts TikTok is preventing it from making ammo. [Financial Times $$$]

New features and tests:

  • TikTok has launched a Branded Effects platform for marketers. [TechCrunch]

  • TikTok’s beta app on iOS has a new custom app icon. [@MattNavarra]

💥 More social media news and updates

  • YouTube is now the number one streamer on American televisions, having overtaken Netflix. [The Media Online]

  • YouTube says 100,000 channels are now linked to stores. [TubeFilter]

  • LinkedIn's App Store revenue rose from $10 million in January 2022, to more than $27 million in January of 2023, according to new third-party data. [AppFigures]

  • Reddit is banning more users than ever, its latest transparency report reveals. [Social Media Today]

  • Chinese-style live shopping continues to be a dud in the USA. [Wired $$$]

  • China is planning a crackdown on social media short video content popularised by platforms like ByteDance's TikTok. [Bloomberg $$$]

  • Japan could ban social media apps if they are used for disinformation campaigns. [Reuters $$$]

  • WPP has acquired New York agency Obviously to expand its social influencer marketing business. [Reuters $$$]

  • MrBeast has stirred more controversy after giving a waitress a car with his logo on it. [Insider]

New features and tests:

  • YouTube will let advertisers target Gen Z based on trending music. [ Marketing Brew]

  • YouTube is rolling out its community posts 'Quiz' feature to more users. [@oncescuradu]

  • YouTube has launched new analytics for music artists. [TechCrunch]

  • LinkedIn has added an option to share a post with multiple members at once. [Social Media Today]

  • Woolly is a new Mastodon app inspired by Twitter and TweetDeck. [TechCrunch]

  • BeReal could soon let you hare your birthday publicly. [@alex193a]

  • Twitter alternative T2 now lets old-school verified Twitter users port their verification over. [TechCrunch]

📖 Weekend reading

😳 And finally...

Considering what the real Kanye is like these days, maybe this A.I. version is actually better…

📅 Back next week...

…Good news. You’ve made it to the end of this week’s Geekout. 👏

Before you go… Don’t forget to check out Geekout PRO.

I would love your support. ❤️

Right, I’m getting outta here!

Goodbye geeks

– Matt


This newsletter is edited by Martin SFP Bryant

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