Is it Time for Brands to BeReal?

Molly Jones
October 4, 2022

By now, you’ve probably heard the hype around BeReal, the photo-based anti-Instagram social media app that currently holds the number one spot at the top of the App Store.

For those who haven’t taken the leap to download it yet, here’s how it works. Once daily, at a random time each day, a very time-sensitive notification goes out to every user of the app: ⚠️Time to BeReal. ⚠️

At this moment, you have two minutes to capture a photo of whatever you’re doing. As you snap your photo, the front-facing camera simultaneously takes a selfie of you. There’s no way to edit. There are no filters. And while you can post late, doing so is frowned upon—the expectation is to capture what’s happening in the moment instead of waiting until you’re doing something brag-worthy.

“BeReal is your chance to show your friends who you really are, for once. BeReal won’t make you famous. If you want to become an influencer you can stay on TikTok and Instagram. BeReal doesn’t care if you have millions of followers or if you’re verified on other platforms.”
proclaims the description in the App Store

Fighting words. But BeReal is by no means the first to make these sorts of claims. In fact, you could categorize BeReal into a long list of challenger platforms over the past decade, many of which we’ve talked about here on the Sparkloft blog. Remember the “more authentic” Vero in 2018? Or “Facebook killer” Ello in 2014? More recently, Dispo was the “next Instagram” of last year, before it quickly flamed out.

Every year or so, these challengers shoot to the top of the App Store by explicitly positioning themselves as the opposite of whatever social media giant is dominant at the time. And whenever one of them takes off, we commonly get two very natural questions from our clients: “Is this going to replace Instagram?” and “Should our brand be on BeReal?”

Let’s explore these questions in the first half of our two-part series on BeReal:

Will BeReal replace Instagram?

If history is any indication, probably not. The lifespan of platforms whose main selling point is “not Facebook” or “not Instagram” tends to be relatively fleeting. Not only is the choice to aggressively market themselves as an escape from advertisers and algorithms antithetical to a platform’s ability to monetize, but Meta has a long history of dominating its competitors by blatantly copying their most popular features.

The one exception to this rule seems to be TikTok, which Meta has so far tried and failed to imitate successfully. Importantly, TikTok’s success never involved explicitly positioning itself as the more authentic alternative to Instagram. On the other hand, BeReal’s anti-Instagram stance is likely to lose some of its power when Instagram releases a copycat version of BeReal’s key features, a tactic that we know is already in the works for Instagram (and already live on TikTok).

Does your brand need a BeReal presence?

As with any channel, it depends on your brand, your audience, and your goals. Jumping on a new platform early can be a great way to make a splash if headline-grabbing stunts are your aim, but there are some logistical challenges if you’re in it to build a community on BeReal in the long term. 

First, it’s important to note that using BeReal for “commercial or advertising purposes” technically isn’t even allowed in its terms of service. This hasn’t stopped brands from getting creative, but there’s always a risk of crackdown by the platform. For example, if you try to send a friend request to Chipotle, one of the more successful brands on BeReal, a notification pops up: “Chipotle has too many friends, your friend request couldn’t be sent.”

Plus, the functionality of BeReal requires a significantly larger investment in community management than other platforms. As the two-minute posting window occurs anytime at random every 24 hours, posting daily requires near-constant monitoring and a reliable source of real-time content ready to be shared at a moment’s notice.

Another consideration when deciding whether your brand is a fit for the platform is to consider whether your audience even wants to hear from you in this space. While brands like Chipotle, Trident Gum, and e.l.f. have managed to meaningfully reach new audiences here, a platform that’s explicitly anti-advertising often attracts users who are hostile to marketing messages.

So, should every brand jump to join BeReal?

Again, probably not. But while not every brand needs a presence on BeReal, every brand should be considering what it means and how they’ll adapt.

More than a buzzy app or even a content trend, the popularity of BeReal can tell us a lot about the shift in social media and internet culture we’re seeing right now as the future of the internet changes hands to the next generation of tastemakers.

Tune in next week, for part two as we explore how BeReal represents a lasting shift in social media culture, and how your brand can adapt.

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