the nightmare before christmas



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Geekout Newsletter for Social Media Managers
Issue #75 • View online
*Read this newsletter on the web for the best experience*
Hello, geeks!
Get ready for a jam-packed edition of Geekout this week!
  1. Revealed: How TikTok’s algorithm really works [LINK]
  2. Instagram is bringing back chronological feed [LINK] 
  3. Meta finally opens Horizon Worlds in VR [LINK]
  4. Twitter acquires Quill to improve DMs [LINK] 
  5. Facebook launched ‘Professional mode’ for profiles [LINK]
My TweetDeck, RSS, and news feeds were full of new (and weird) updates this week. Here are the best bits [takes deep breath]…
Twitter admitted it keeps a secret list of VIP users who get enhanced protection from trolls… Instagram made a frustrating change to the Stories viewers list… More details about why Jack quit Twitter were revealed… The person behind RyanAir’s popular TikTok account was unmasked… This Facebook bug confused social media managers… Facebook added a bunch of useful new features for live video and gaming
Instagram conveniently rolled out new tools to protect teens on its platform the day before its boss was scheduled to be quizzed about the topic by U.S senators… Over a million people are “Going” to a 10 Downing Street Party posted on Facebook… I discovered Facebook’s scheduled ‘Quiet mode’ feature… A boss fired 900 people via Zoom… AND this new Facebook warning message was a bit awkward for Mark Zuckerberg. 😬
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Check out Emplifi to discover if it’s a good fit for you too! [FIND OUT MORE]
It’s that time of year again… All the major social platforms have published their end of year top/best/most popular lists. 
Here’s a round-up of some of the more interesting ones:
🏅 TWITTER 1: The top tweets and trends on Twitter in 2021 [LINK]
🏅 TWITTER 2: The best tweets by brands in 2021 [LINK] 
🏅 GOOGLE 1: The biggest Google Search trends in 2021 [LINK] 
🏅 GOOGLE 2: Google’s Chrome extensions of the year for 2021 [LINK] 
🏅 TIKTOK: The most popular videos, trends, creators, music on TikTok in 2021 [LINK] 
🏅 REDDIT: The Reddit Recap for 2021 [LINK] 
Right then… Time to dig into the stories making the most headlines this week.👇
— Matt
P.S. Join me later for your weekly Geekout Debrief on Twitter Spaces at 4PM (UK) today (Fri 10 Dec)
We will discuss all the week’s BIG social media hot topics, breaking news, new features, and more. [Get a Reminder / Listen to replay]

🚨 Everyone's talking about...
If you were expecting Instagram chief Adam Mosseri’s US congressional grilling this week to be the usual, largely useless, performative Q&A session, you’d have been mostly right.
In terms of controversy, all we got was Mosseri revealing that teens were currently able to skirt the platform’s ‘private by default for teens’ rule by using the web version, but he said they were working to close that loophole (if they can tell who are kids in the first place).
At least the hearing prompted Instagram to unveil a bunch of new safety tools aimed at teenagers. As NPR reported:
They include tools to help users manage how much time they spend on the app, place limits on both unwanted interactions with adults and exposure to sensitive content, and offer optional parental oversight of children’s accounts.
Years overdue perhaps, but steps in the right direction. Of more interest to many users will have been Mosseri’s disclosure that the company plans to bring the chronological feed back.
But algorithm haters shouldn’t celebrate too much. As Social Media Today pointed out, there’s no reason to think the good old days of old-school, time-sorted Instagram are coming back:
Instagram’s coming chronological feed option is very likely going to operate the exact same way that Facebook’s feed sorting option does right now, in that you can choose to view the posts from Pages and people that you follow in time order, but you can’t set it as a default, and have the app open to that reverse chrono feed every time you come back.
As I noted in this newsletter last week, Alessandro Paluzzi has spotted a toggle buried in app code that will likely let you switch to a chronological feed. But the chances of it being the default are almost zero. The algorithm is just too valuable for pushing monetisable content and the most engaging posts to users to give it up. Sorry!
TikTok has opened up about the workings of its algorithm in the past, but the New York Times this week revealed previously unreported details of the tech with the uncanny ability to learn what you like and give you lots more of it.
The document says the algorithm—cooked up in Beijing where it seems many of TikTok’s product decisions are made—is optimised for user session retention - keeping you watching for as long as possible. But it’s not just about how long you watch videos for:
The document offers a rough equation for how videos are scored, in which a prediction driven by machine learning and actual user behavior are summed up for each of three bits of data: likes, comments and playtime, as well as an indication that the video has been played….
“The recommender system gives scores to all the videos based on this equation, and returns to users videos with the highest scores,” the document says. “For brevity, the equation shown in this doc is highly simplified. The actual equation in use is much more complicated, but the logic behind is the same.”
As Martin wrote in this week’s Tech Revolution, this new reporting underlines how the TikTok algorithm is nothing particularly unusual, and is likely very similar to how Instagram sorts the content you see. He argued that it was TikTok’s feed design—immersive, often intimately shot, full-screen videos with vertical scrolling—that is just as important to the way we think of TikTok as ‘magic’.
So perhaps it’s not a surprise that other platforms are starting to copy TikTok’s feed design. Twitter announced this week that it’s testing a ‘For You page’ style redesign of the Explore tab, while Instagram has been spotted offering a vertical scrolling navigation style for Stories.
Can TikTok keep its status as something special when everyone else copies it?
We seem to have been on the cusp of an AR glasses revolution for years. We took a step closer to the day when genuinely useful AR glasses are a commercial reality this week, as Snap let journalists try its first AR-enabled version of Spectacles.
These glasses were seeded to AR developers earlier in the year, and while Snap still has no plans to sell them to regular folk, it’s clearly comfortable enough with its progress to let the media have a play.
With the current device’s 30-minute battery life a chief concern, Snap doesn’t seem to think a mainstream breakthrough is coming any time soon. Meta has indicated similar concerns that we could be years away from donning truly great AR glasses and making them part of our everyday life.
Interestingly though, Apple is reported to be working on a seemingly quite mature AR headset for release next year. Apple doesn’t tend to take the ‘release a developer version first’ route with hardware. But it’s hard to see that whatever Tim Cook unveils next year—if indeed he does—will be much more than a tech demo with limited practical functionality.
Until the day AR glasses are truly great, mobile AR is coming on in leaps and bounds, as Snap’s Lens Fest event this week proved. Smartphones provide plenty of opportunities for diving into AR today, whether you’re a consumer or a marketer.
🌟 New feature of the week
Instagram Adds Custom Text to Link Stickers, New Color Options for Your Stories Links
🔨 Tool of the week
Social Scroll for Twitter
📈 Chart of the week
It’s hard to understate how important TikTok is to the app landscape of 2021…
🤔 Thought for the week
Matt Navarra
TikTok-style vertical feeds are the new stories

every platform is going to add one
🔵 Meta news
All the latest from Meta brands: Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, and beyond:
Meta opens up access to VR social platform Horizon Worlds
  • Messenger boss Stan Chudnovsky is the latest senior leader at Meta to announce his departure. He plans to leave in Q2, 2022. [Bloomberg $$$]
  • Instagram has confirmed that it’s merging all video formats into Reels. [@hammodoh1]
  • Meta has big plans to take on Shopify, according to leaked documents. [Insider $$$]
  • More academic researchers have complained that Meta is making it difficult to study the company’s impact. [Financial Times $$$]
  • Instagram pushes drug-related content to teenage users, researchers say. [NBC News]
  • Stanford University has launched its first ever class taught entirely in VR, using Quest. [Stanford Daily]
  • Instagram is running a series of celebrity-led live shopping events for the holidays. [Social Media Today]
  • Meta has explained the thinking behind its rebrand’s visual identity. [Design at Meta]
  • Meta has built A.I. to adapt to evolutions in harmful content over time. [Meta AI]
  • The Meta Oversight Board has overturned a decision to remove a post about ayahuasca, saying the company should be more respectful of spiritual rituals. [The Verge]
  • Facebook is very poor at automatically identifying political ads, researchers claim. [Protocol]
  • Instagram has been criticised for removing images of beer from breweries’ pages, [Independent]
  • Meta is surveying users about the success of its rebrand. [@JackHorwood]
  • Facebook has announced a ‘Stars Fest’ event to promote its Stars virtual currency. [Social Media Today]
Insights to give you an edge at work:
  • Want to make the most of Facebook Marketplace over the holiday season? Facebook has a guide for you. [Social Media Today]
New features and tests:
  • Meta has launched personalised Year in Review features on Facebook and Instagram. [Social Media Today]
  • Facebook is testing a ‘professional mode’ for profiles in the US. [Meta for Creators]
  • Reels will come to Facebook in the EMEA region in the first half of 2022, having already launched in the US. [Meta Newsroom]
  • Facebook Gaming has announced Play Watch Connect, a framework to make games more social. [Facebook Gaming]
  • And Pac-Man Community has launched to show off the potential of the Play Watch Connect framework. [Facebook Gaming]
  • Facebook is rolling out new Live features like Featured Links, Polls, Live in Stories, Badges and Front Row. [@alexvoica]
  • Facebook is testing a new way to create videos from the top of the Facebook Watch interface. [@alexvoica]
  • Facebook has acknowledged it is testing the ‘Spotlight Conversations’ feature I spotted a few weeks ago. [@alexvoica]
  • Facebook has added a ‘follow’ button on content from creators you don’t already follow. [@alexvoica]
  • Facebook has been spotted flagging up when it has removed hate speech or comments that promote violence from a post. [@MattNavarra]
  • Facebook is testing a small change to shortcuts on iOS. [@MattNavarra
  • Instagram now lets you customise the text and colour of links in Stories. [@instagram]
  • Instagram has been spotted offering a ‘Supersync’ option that syncs multiple photos and videos to any music track. [@MattNavarra]
  • Instagram is working on a warning screen for when comments on a live video are being moderated. [@alex193a]
  • Instagram is still working on a ‘Collectibles’ NFT feature. Now the ‘connected wallets’ section has been updated. [@alex193a]
  • Instagram appears to be moving the Music sticker to a main nav button in the Stories editor screen. [@WFBrother]
  • Instagram has been spotted offering an updated Story tab. [@WFBrother]
  • And an updated Reels layout has also been spotted. [@WFBrother]
  • Instagram has been spotted showing users’ profile names rather than usernames in Stories analytics. [@wongmjane]
  • Instagram could soon let you automatically ‘dancify’ your video along to any music. [@alex193a]
  • Instagram has been spotted working on a ‘Create Canvas’ option. [@alex193a]
  • Instagram could soon support Meta’s Novi wallet. [@alex193a]
  • Messenger is testing a ‘split payments’ feature in the US. [TechCrunch]
  • Messenger for Kids now has dark mode and a ‘fun expressions’ feature. [Messenger News]
  • Messenger’s settings appear to have a feature called ‘Orders’ for some users. [@uyangoda_]
  • WhatsApp is testing cryptocurrency payments in the US, with Meta’s Novi wallet. [The Verge]
  • WhatsApp now lets you set all chats to disappear by default. [The Verge]
  • WhatsApp is testing new voice waveforms for chat bubbles on iOS. [9to5Mac]
  • WhatsApp may log you out of linked devices as part of a security fix. [XDA Developers]
  • Horizon Workrooms now offers more room customisation and a lectern for easier presenting. [UploadVR]
  • Portal now has enhanced Facebook Assistant support. [Tech@Facebook]
🐣 Twitter news
Twitter acquires Quill, a would-be Slack rival; team will work on DMs as Quill shuts down
  • Twitter is already reviewing its controversial private information removal policy. [The Guardian]
  • Parag Agrawal has begun making a mark as Twitter’s new CEO. He has rolled out a reorganisation of senior roles at the company. [Engadget]
  • And Jack Dorsey asked Agrawal to prepare to take over as far back as last year, it has ben reported. [Bloomberg $$$]
  • Twitter has a secret list of VIP users who get enhanced protection from trolls. [Bloomberg $$$]
New features and tests:
  • Twitter is testing a new reporting process, based on ‘human first’ principles. [Twitter blog]
  • Twitter is testing a ‘sensitive content’ flag users can add to their own photos and videos. [@TwitterSafety]
  • Twitter could soon have a ‘+’ button so you can follow a user directly from the timeline. [@alex193a]
  • Twitter’s tip jar may soon support even more payment services. [@alex193a]
  • Access to TweetDeck’s Teams feature appears to be moving to the forthcoming ‘Delegate’ feature in Twitter’s settings. [@nima_owji]
  • All Twitter users on iOS, Android, and the web can now listen to recorded Spaces. [The Verge]
  • Twitter is still working on a Topics navigation bar. [@wongmjane]
  • Communities admins can now change their visual colour theme via Settings on the web. [@HiCommunities]
🔺 TikTok news
TikTok's UK live shopping event tests its success
  • TikTok will be title sponsor of VidCon 2022. [Variety]
  • TikTok will attend next month’s CES tradeshow, which has the metaverse, social commerce, and NFTs among its focuses for 2022. [AdAge]
  • LinkedIn has joined TikTok to help young people with career advice. [Adweek $$$]
  • Luxury brand Chanel has denied deleting its TikTok account after an influencer on the platform criticised its advent calendar. Chanel says the account has never been activated. [The Guardian]
New features and tests:
  • TikTok has launched a new app for sellers using its shopping features, although it’s only available in Indonesia for now. [TechCrunch]
💥 More social media news and updates
Report: iOS Users Who Opt-Out of App Tracking Continue to Be Tracked by Facebook and Snapchat
  • Donald Trump claims to have raised $1bn for the tech and media company behind his new social network. [The Guardian]
  • ContentCal has been acquired by Adobe. [Adobe blog]
  • YouTube will hold a new ‘Escape2021’ event, replacing the traditional Rewind, which was recently cancelled for good. [The Verge]
  • YouTube says 2.2m videos were hit with copyright claims that were later overturned in 2021. But that’s still only 1% of all copyright claims this year. [The Verge]
  • Snapchat brought in Kim Kardashian to promote its latest $100k Spotlight Challenge. [TubeFilter]
  • Snapchat has recognised top AR lenses on its platform in its first Lens Fest Awards. [VR Scout]
  • 75% of girls in a study said they had been sent sexual images via social media apps. [The Guardian]
  • Pinterest has acquired a video creation and editing app called Vochi. [TechCrunch]
  • Pinterest is having trouble hanging onto users. [Wall Street Journal $$$]
  • Pinterest has revealed its predictions for the trends of 2022. [Adweek $$$]
New features and tests:
  • Snap has introduced more advanced AR tools in its Lens Studio. [TechCrunch]
  • YouTube is bringing video chapters to smart TVs and games consoles. [Android Police]
  • YouTube is testing ‘Collections’, to let users sort creators and channels they subscribe to into specific categories. [TubeFilter]
  • Discord has launched Premium Memberships so server operators can charge money for membership and features. [The Verge]
  • Clubhouse now lets you hide NSFW rooms and see a room’s cumulative audience count publicly, among its latest updates. [@Clubhouse]
  • Clubhouse is working on a room recommendation feature. [@alex193a]
  • Telegram has released a big update, including protected content, ‘delete by date’, device management, and more. [Telegram blog]
  • Tinder and Spotify are partnering to launch a new Music Mode that lets users add an ‘anthem’ to their profile. [TechCrunch]
💬 You can quote me on that
When I’m mentioned in the news, you’ll find it here…
Instagram announces changes ahead of political grilling
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📖 Weekend reading
Birds Aren’t Real, or Are They? Inside a Gen Z Conspiracy Theory.
😳 And finally...
This ad on Instagram brilliantly taps into people’s concerns about targeted ads 👇
📅 Back next week...
…Stop the clock! You’ve reached the end of this week’s Geekout!
Before you go…
Geekout will be taking a break for Christmas. (I need a digital detox!)
  • Final edition of Geekout for 2021: Friday 17th December 2021
  • Geekout returns: Friday 7th January 2022
Right… I’m off to chat with ‘Alex’ on Bumble. She says she’s a geek. Hmmm. We’ll see.
Goodbye geeks!
— Matt
This newsletter is edited by Martin SFP Bryant.
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