Time to BeReal: The New “Anti” Social Network

Ben Woollams
Sep 5, 2022

Many people may quickly be becoming familiar with a growing phenomenon. Picture the scene: maybe you’re in the queue for the bar with a friend, or sitting opposite them at an unassuming brunch place. They’re idly swiping away at their phone until they exclaim “Oh! BeReal time!” – and suddenly you’re plunged into a photoshoot that’s over before you realised it had even begun. 

Welcome BeReal, a new and youthful social media image-sharing platform that has just taken a seat at the table where a plethora of more venerable players already dine. As of August 2022, BeReal has just 10 million users. Compared with the more jaded social media giants, platforms that seem to have been around since time began – Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat – TikTok is a new kid on the block. Yet this new kid has already amassed over 1 billion users. And although TikTok seems as though it’s only been around a couple of years, even that was actually created way back in 2016. In contrast, BeReal was founded in 2020. While BeReal may only have 10 million daily active users at the moment, this is up from 7.9m in July and 2m in January. It’s also worth noting that the other social media platforms are keeping an eye on it, with Meta announcing Instagram’s latest feature, "Dual", which allows users to take a photo or video using both the front and back cameras simultaneously in a given 2 minute window. While it’s closer to the start of its growth trajectory, although BeReal is competing in a crowded space, it’s shown it has big potential already. 

Remember that phrase – crowded space. There are already a lot of social media platforms out there, so for an app to resonate with potential users as an app worth downloading, it needs to differentiate from what else is available on the market. And BeReal strives to do exactly that. BeReal aims to capture what its users are doing in real-time. At a different time each day, the app sends everyone who has it a notification prompting them to take a photo from their front and back cameras. The catch? Users only have 2 minutes to take and upload these photos, and uploads made by members of their networks are inaccessible until they do. The stringency of this process encapsulates BeReal’s ethos. As the name suggests, it provides its users with a space to share snapshots of their lives, as they actually live. In contrast with other social media giants, it’s not a place for airbrushing.

The whole concept and mission driving BeReal is centred around authentic community, where friends are able to update each other about what they’re doing without the pressure of having to add flashy editing to or strike professional poses in their uploads. Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube, have become vehicles for advertisers, who sponsor individual content creators to feature and place their products in their uploads, or pay the platform's fees for advert placements on people’s timelines and stories. BeReal positions itself as the antidote to this commercialisation of social media – going so far as actually banning explicitly commercial uses of the platform. Obviously, this throws up plenty of challenges for marketers looking to leverage the next big thing. 

Nevertheless, marketers for some brands have seen these challenges as nothing a bit of creative thinking can’t solve. One well-documented case study involves Chipotle, the American chain of Mexican Grill fast food restaurants. The Chipotle account uploaded a photo with the code “FORREAL” written on a Chipotle paper bag, along with instructions explaining the code would be valid for 100 unique uses and would entitle customers to claim a free entrée. An article published by The Drum explains that the codes had all been used within 30 minutes and that the Chipotle account generated around 2,000 friend connections as a result. 

Although it’s fairly difficult to see how Chipotle’s use of the platform doesn’t slightly ignore BeReal’s prohibition of commercial uses of the platform, it does demonstrate that the platform can currently be leveraged to market products and brands. Furthermore, an article published on LinkedIn by MikeWorldWide makes the valuable point that although the app opens up a new channel for marketers, the onus is on them to figure out how to appropriately use the platform. The article states that “marketers need to consider the reality of how their brand looks and feels “unfiltered.” If a brand’s core image relies heavily on touch-ups, editing, or flashy content, BeReal may not be a natural fit.” This is great analysis that underlines the fact that any advertising they do feature on the platform blends in – not only so the content doesn’t stand out like an embarrassingly swollen thumb, but also so they don’t get banned. As the Chipotle case study shows though, BeReal definitely offers marketers a channel they should be keeping a close eye on.