The rise of BeReal: why brands should choose connection over perfection

The growing popularity of photo-sharing app BeReal reflects a thirst for authenticity that marketers shouldn’t ignore, writes Suzie Shaw, CEO at We Are Social.

If, like me, you have Gen Z children to inform you about the latest internet trends, then I’m sure you’ve heard of BeReal. It’s a photo-sharing app that, once a day, at a random time, prompts users to post a photo of themselves and what they’re up to, with a two-minute deadline. Since users don’t know what time the BeReal notification will go off, they can’t really ‘plan’ for a post: the reverse camera takes a picture of you as you snap your surroundings, leaving you with no time to stage the perfect photo of the exciting slice of life you’d want to share with your followers.

BeReal invites users to enjoy “a new and unique way to discover who your friends really are in their daily life“. The French-developed social media platform is all about unapologetically embracing authenticity. As there are no appearance-enhancing filters available, all photos are unaltered and usually have bad lighting and unappealing compositions. Quite a departure from the polish of Instagram. But people keep coming back for more. Why?

With the app now reportedly up to 10 million daily active users, rising from just 10,000 a little over a year ago, its momentum is obvious. It has also exploded in popularity in Australia, with more than 1.4 million downloads since April. BeReal is the most authentic way of being present on social media, and that’s increasingly valued by all people online, especially Gen Z.

Social giants such as Meta are keeping a close eye on it, naturally. Instagram has introduced a ‘Dual’ feature to the Reels camera, which allows users to record videos with their device’s front- and back-facing cameras simultaneously. Sound familiar? At Menlo Park, they know very well that, now more than ever, people want to see more unfiltered, unedited content, and they are testing the waters as part of their constant attempt to maintain relevance and knock off competitors.

How brands are using it

Currently, BeReal prohibits advertising on its platform, but this has not stopped brands from testing the waters.

In May, a Chipotle employee snapped a simple BeReal of a fork and a reusable promo code for free food available to the first 100 users. Within 30 minutes, all promo codes had been claimed, and Chipotle made more than 2,000 ‘friends’.

Similarly, beauty brand e.l.f. Cosmetics activated on BeReal by giving the first 150 users who sent a friend request a promo code for a free skincare kit.

More recently, Tourism Fiji became the first national tourism body in the world to join BeReal, celebrating and sharing the ‘real’ Fiji by uploading one unedited photo each day, giving potential holidaymakers a break from the overly saturated and often highly altered #travelporn on Instagram.

Ultimately these experiments are at a micro-scale compared to the audience available on other social platforms, and the ‘free product’ approach used by Chipotle and e.l.f. Cosmetics raises questions about the ongoing value of the ‘friends’ they attracted. However, they deserve a nod for breaking new ground so quickly – particularly Tourism Fiji for its insight-driven approach to travel marketing through social media.

Influencing authentically

Another unique aspect of BeReal is that all connections on the app are two-way, referred to as ‘friends’. There’s no following of people you don’t know, which makes it trickier for influencers to build a sizeable audience without reducing their feed to noise.

Brands can partner with influencers to engage with their audience on BeReal, but this requires a certain amount of trust between the brand and influencer as content must be shot and posted in near real-time, rather than endlessly tweaked and uploaded.

However, rather than being an obstacle to establishing a partnership, this could be an opportunity. Gen Z embraces content that feels real to them, especially when it’s generated by people they see as their peers, and this drives their purchase decisions. More than four in ten say they’ve bought a product based on recommendations from influencers on social media. So an unfiltered approach to influencer content could go a long way in establishing a connection with this audience. BeReal may be the catalyst that creates newer, more flexible partnerships, which in turn will reshape industry guidelines for influencer relationships.

Should brands jump on BeReal?

The short answer is, for now, there’s no need to rush onto BeReal.

Brands should certainly keep on top of the latest innovation and platforms where their audience might engage, but this doesn’t necessarily mean diverting their effort and attention to the new kid on the block.

However, the growing popularity of BeReal reflects a thirst for authenticity that marketers shouldn’t ignore. An important takeaway for brands would be to think about what their audience wants to see more of – the unfiltered truth. This can be achieved by making content more relatable, giving insight into the real ‘behind the scenes’ people don’t often get to see, building trust and earning audience attention, rather than simply buying it.

Suzie Shaw, CEO at We Are Social


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