Created as a way for Gen-Z to stay in touch in a more authentic way, the BeReal app has taken off and is now the second-fastest-growing social media app of 2022. But how has this single app managed to challenge the major Instagram and TikTok platforms of today?
We look at what makes BeReal different and whether brands should be wary about using BeReal. Also in light of TikTok’s new ‘TikTok Now’ update, we explore how brands can now tap into the BeReal movement and we question whether true authenticity is ever possible.
Where did BeReal come from?
Recently ranking #1 app in the Social Networking category in several countries including the UK, BeReal has been downloaded over 53 million times as of October 2022. Although it originally surfaced in December 2019, it took 2 years for BeReal to see an incredibly sharp rise to over 10 million daily active users.
Former GoPro employee Alexis Barreyat and Kévin Perreau built the app in France (where its headquarters are now located). Barreyat would collaborate with influencers in his prior job and would gain an inside scoop of influencer culture. He would have noticed the obvious contrast between the influencers’ on- and off-camera behaviour. This would be key factor that led Barreyat to start BeReal.
It’s possible that BeReal arrived just when it was needed, especially in light of recent complaints regarding Instagram’s algorithm. In our ReSet Generation research, we have already seen that people are reducing the time spent on Instagram the most since TikTok came onto the scene. Today, the social media landscape is now more controlled by forever changing algorithms, hot debates and dominated by influencers and brands hoping to win our attention through non stop advertisements.
BeReal, however, seems to stand in a league of its own.
Another secret behind the BeReal hype?
Guerilla marketing strategies that specifically target US campuses have also contributed to BeReal’s initial downloads – making it a true Gen Z app. With its marketing strategies such as providing students with free gifts in exchange for installing the app, this could have potentially planted the early seeds for BeReal’s future explosive growth later on.
How the app works: The app requests users to share an unedited photo once per day after receiving a push notification:
After that, you have two minutes to capture what you’re doing in a photo, both front and back. You cannot see anyone else’s post until you post your own. Everyday at a different time, everyone is notified simultaneously to capture and share a photo in 2 minutes, making the app is easy to use.
The app even calls you out when you are not being your most real self by disclosing how many retakes you took or how many hours you posted late. After 24 hours, everything is deleted, though you can still browse your earlier posts.
How is BeReal different to other social platforms?
BeReal prides itself as “not another social network” so could say it’s similar to Instagram without the editing and to Snapchat without the filters. The app’s main purpose was for users to interact with friends and family without worrying about followers, likes, and other vanity metrics.
The simple instruction is: Take a picture. Be who you truly are. Be honest.
Casual apps like BeReal also promote simple interactions and minimal usage as it’s less about grand announcements and pop culture updates we can be bombarded with on other platforms. With this being a less intensive version of social media, BeReal decreases the pressure to perform but also the temptation to scroll mindlessly (shoutout to TikTok).
Is there room for brands on BeReal?
As it stands, there may be a chance for brands and companies to leverage BeReal as a tool to close their ‘authenticity gap’. Based on the nature of the app however, many may conclude that there is simply no place for marketing on BeReal. This is literally true as BeReal does not currently allow any official advertising at this time, according to the platform’s Terms and Conditions. Despite this, there can be other ways to use the platform.
Though brands must be willing to think outside the box and present their unfiltered and real selves to adhere to the values of BeReal. Then, surely there is space for brands to capture the attention of the BeReal audience – but it’s worth considering whether brand consumers and target audience are actually using BeReal.
Which brands are making the most of BeReal?
BeReal seems like a no brainer for beauty companies, like Elf, to market the ‘real’ behind their brand. Rare Beauty, who launched their BeReal account over the summer see BeReal as an alignment of their brand ethos as they “aim to break down the unrealistic standards of perfection”.
BeReal has restrictions that may deter brands though. Marketers aiming to build a large following on the app won’t work as BeReal limits the number of connections you can make to a few thousand friends. Given that it’s an app for friends to connect, BeReal champions the fact that it won’t make you “famous.” So if that’s the aim, you may as well forget about using the app.
Rare Beauty has encountered this issue before and blogged about it on TikTok (see above).
Alternatively, while some brands might not have active BeReal accounts, it doesn’t stop them from participating in the BeReal movement. To highlight the brand’s carefree spirit and promote their newest clothing line, PacSun shared a BeReal-inspired photo on Twitter. This is a great way for brands to make the most of the trend now.
Should brands approach the app with caution?
Since the app is based on authenticity, users are likely to be less receptive to brand marketing. As a result, promotional content may not be well received. Perhaps BeReal is a bit of a gamble for brands: throw it out and see what sticks? On the other hand, some marketers may prefer to use more time-tested platforms rather than newer apps like BeReal.
Is TikTok Now BeReal?
Is there a possible remedy to BeReal’s limitations and uncertainty for brands?
Introducing ‘TikTok Now’.
In an effort to capitalise on BeReal’s growing popularity, TikTok is the latest app to introduce a dual camera capability.
The new ‘TikTok Now’ function performs almost identically to BeReal: A “Time to Now” notification once every day, prompting the user to record a 10-second video or a static snapshot to instantly share what you’re up to. There’s also a 3 minute window to capture this content as opposed to BeReal’s 2 minute deadline. The new “Now” option is in the app’s bottom tab bar whilst blending the standard TikTok posts from your friends with “Now” postings.
TikTok has long been regarded as a pioneer in the field…and so its interesting to see TikTok really imitating another app for the first time. Though some may not be entirely surprised as large social media platforms seem to always be copying one another or introducing comparable features. We can only take a trip down memory lane when Instagram followed on after the popularity of Snapchat’s Stories.
TikTok’s iconic endless scrolling video content adopted by Instagram Reels – and YouTube Shorts.
Even Twitter Spaces following on from social audio competitor, ClubHouse.
So, will we be posting a “Now” on TikTok or a BeReal?
Can We Finally ‘BeReal’ on Social Media?
Whether brands are using BeReal or creating BeReal like content outside the app, or will perhaps flock to TikTok’s Now feature eventually – one thing is certain. There’s a fight for brands and platforms to be considered authentic – TikTok, Snapchat, and now BeReal… each social media app aims to position themselves as genuine and authentic.
However, some may argue that when that ⚠️Time to BeReal⚠️ notification comes up, we are all ultimately choose when to reveal our ‘true selves’ to whoever’s watching. Regardless of whether we take a photo or not, are we deciding when to ‘Be Real’? It makes us question whether BeReal is really the antidote for social media perfectionism. Some may even go onto say if you want to more authentic, you don’t have to post about it. Ultimately the choice lies in the hand of users.
Does BeReal deliver on its promise for true authenticity? Is this ever possible online?
The Future of BeReal
Overall, BeReal is a great shift towards a filter-free, anti-Instagram world and so far it’s the most successful attempt at establishing a certain level of transparency on social media. Previously, apps like Clubhouse had their moment to shine, but they eventually plateaued. This leaves us to question whether ‘TikTok Now’ will diminish BeReal’s chances of flourishing further. It will be exciting to see what the future holds for BeReal.
You can also request the ReSet Generation Research at STUDIO BLUP.
Written by Anna-Marie Uzokwe –
Anna-Marie Uzokwe (she/her) is a content writer, multidisciplinary creative and law graduate from University of Surrey. Anna-Marie is also a tech enthusiast and interested in intellectual property law around the creative industries and community building. Find her on Linkedin here.