It’s the moment every marketing manager dreads: there’s a new social network in town. BeReal was founded in 2020 as a sort of Insta-antidote, but only recently entered public awareness thanks to a drive to sign up university students across the United States (à la Tinder and Bumble). Here’s how it works: you download the app, and then once a day at a random time, all users are notified that they have 2 minutes to capture and share a photo. The idea is that you don’t have time to do the contouring/ blow dry/ 10 push ups that some deem necessary before taking a photo for Instagram—instead, BeReal provides “a unique way to discover who your friends really are in their daily life.”
Welcome to the age of authenticity
It’s a nice idea in theory, but there are a few glaring loopholes in the logic. First up, Gen Z have spearheaded a new way of using Instagram: instead of painstakingly curating your highlight reel, the new kids on the block are all about unfiltered and authentic. The new ‘messy’ Instagram is such a cultural phenomenon that it’s been covered extensively in the media: Dazed refers to it as “digital anarchy; refusing to fall into the social media pressure trap to present yourself as perfect.” If we're already using Instagram in this way, do we really need to download yet another app? Secondly, I’m trying my best to break up with my phone, and BeReal’s daily 2 minutes of allotted posting time feels like a FOMO red flag. I’m also just not that interested in what my friends happen to be doing at 11.27 on a Thursday morning—I’m guessing just sitting in front of their laptops like the rest of us? There’s something of a gimmicky feel that I’m just not sold on yet.
What would brands who want to join the platform even share? Their stressed-out intern desperately trying to come up with content ideas within 120 seconds? Behind-the-scenes content only has so much mileage, and even worse than over-glossy brands is brands who think they’re being authentic, but totally miss the mark. Ugh. Let me tell you: Gen Z are singularly unforgiving.
It feels like every day, more and more posts on Instagram stories pop up (ironically) along the lines of “I’ve caved and downloaded BeReal. Add me!”. But before you start planning a meeting with your supervisors to scrape together and get sign-off for your new BeReal strategy, let’s take a look at whether it’s really necessary for brands to sign up (spoiler alert: I say you’re better off directing your focus elsewhere).
To BeReal or Not To BeReal?
(Ten points to me for this genius heading.)
In the interest of balance, there are of course a number of ways investing in a BeReal presence could work out well for companies. There are always brands whose content will resonate, no matter the platform. On BeReal, Mexican grill chain Chipotle is one such brand. They’ve won industry-wide recognition for their BeReal presence, with The Drum noting that Chipotle ran one of BeReal’s first ever brand activations. Last month, they shared a limited-offer promo code on the app, providing the first 100 code-users with a free meal. It’s a smart way of making use of BeReal’s time-limited content—and could be refreshing for consumers to interact with brands on a platform that hasn’t yet become deluged with influencers. BeReal’s audience is overwhelmingly Gen Z, so it’s worth noting that if that’s not who your brand is targeting, you’re exempt from this shiny new platform.
But even when it comes to marketing to younger audiences, the question remains as to whether the BeReal approach will work for other less-established brands, especially since BeReal’s audience is still relatively small. By definition, content on BeReal is hard to plan, which in some organizations will pose issues when it comes to necessary pre-approvals. At the end of the day, it’s worth thinking about why your brand wants to join BeReal: if it’s just to join in the hype, it’s probably not worth it. If you’re aiming to capture the hearts of consumers born after 1997, and you and your team are capable of creating fun, agile content without too many people in upper management glancing over your shoulder, by all means give it a go.
Generally speaking, if you’re a brand looking to explore newer forms of content creation, TikTok is a great place to direct your resources and focus. Notable Instagram content creators (Belgian entrepreneurs FastForward Amy and Jessica de Block, to name a couple) are shifting gears and trying their hand at sharing on TikTok—both are documenting their progress on Instagram. It’s a trend that many are following: content lasts longer, often leads directly to an increase in followers (unlike on other platforms) and has high potential for that elusive viral fame. At the same time, it’s a great place to hone in on authentic content. It tends to perform better than the ultra polished variety, and as has been extensively documented, Gen Z audiences love nothing more than engaging with brands that are raw and real.
It’s hard to predict the future of BeReal. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s just a fad—I give it until the end of 2022. I may be totally off with this one, in which case I’ll happily eat my words. Will this be a crash-and-burn trend in the vein of Clubhouse? (Wow, remember how much time we spent on that last spring?) Or is BeReal going to provide new opportunities in the world of social media, until Elon Musk snaps it up in 2027? Only time will tell.