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BeReal Is Bringing Back Social Media From the 2000s

bereal app gen z social media authentic platform

At this point, you’ve either heard about BeReal, or you’ve already jumped on the buzzy app yourself. The platform is touted as a space for you and your friends to authentically connect with each other, away from the airbrushed facades of Instagram and the algorithm-ruled feeds of TikTok.

But does BeReal live up to the hype? Is the app actually going to stick around? And is it a platform that content creators should add to their repertoire? Here’s what you need to know about the new kid on the block, and how it measures up against the old guard.

What is BeReal?

BeReal is one of the latest social media platforms that have seen a huge surge in popularity recently. While the app was first launched in 2020 by Alexis Barreyat, an ex-GoPro employee, it only just reached over 10 million daily users this August. The app aims to go against the grain by promoting authenticity, encouraging users to capture real snippets of their lives rather than picture-perfect images you’d see on a platform like Instagram.

BeReal has no filters, no followers, and no ads. It’s almost as if the people behind the app created a checklist called “things Instagram does” and decided to do the exact opposite.

How does BeReal work?

The concept of BeReal is really simple, in a way that’s quite different from the social media platforms most people are used to.

First off, there are no followers on the app, just friends. That means when you join BeReal, you’re expected to go and find your friends — your real friends — and create this pod of people who exchange posts. Only your friends can see what you post, and you’ll only see what they post.

So what do you post exactly? Every day, you and your friends will get a notification from BeReal. Once you get the notification, you’ll have two minutes to take a picture and post it. But instead of choosing between a selfie and whatever happens to be around you at that moment, you capture both. Every BeReal post is a combination of whatever your front- and rear-facing cameras see, so your friends will get a snapshot of whatever you’re doing at that moment, and how you feel about it.

Another major difference between BeReal and other platforms? No likes. Instead of hitting a heart or a thumbs up and seeing the numbers climb, you react to your friends’ posts with what BeReal calls a “RealMoji.” A RealMoji is essentially a snapshot of your face that gets sent to your friends. Whether you’re smiling at a picture of your best friend’s pup, or furrowing your brow because your buddy missed an important meeting, your friends will see your genuine reaction.

Other than that, the app has some of the standard features you’d expect anywhere else. You can add a caption to your BeReal posts, comment under someone else’s posts, and see a history of everything you’ve posted to the app.

As with many things on the internet these days, people seem to agree that BeReal blew up because of “those damn Gen Zers!” For older millennials, BeReal harkens back to a time when social media was much more simple. In the 2000s, people posted about their lunch, vlogged about nothing particularly interesting, and collectively created a feed that represented what everyday life looked like for most people. Plus, there were no ads, no brand deals, and no airbrushed influencer posts.

For many Gen Zers used to browsing Instagram and TikTok, BeReal is a refreshing experience. Having a dedicated app to share candid moments with friends, without the interruption of advertisers and sponsored content, is a breath of fresh air. That novelty alone is a great motivator for the app’s recent ascent to the top of Apple’s App Store.

That’s not to say that there aren’t other forces at play. BeReal has launched an ambassador program at college campuses to increase awareness of the app among Gen Z, and it seems to be paying off. We’ve also seen brands like Chipotle make the news for taking baby steps on the app as part of their marketing efforts. So while there’s genuine interest in the app, BeReal’s current popularity isn’t necessarily entirely organic.

Is BeReal the next big platform?

Right now, it’s too early to tell if BeReal will continue to grow steadily. While the app has seen a huge spike in its user base in the last few months, that doesn’t mean it’s going to last. While the promise of authenticity is an enticing one, it’s easy for a social media platform to be “real” when there isn’t any money to be made through it yet. Opinions from industry insiders differ on whether BeReal can give Instagram and TikTok, the two standout social media platforms for Gen Z, a run for their money.

When speaking to Fast Company, Brendan Gahan, partner and chief social officer at creative agency Mekanism, didn’t seem too convinced that the platform would last: “I’m not bullish on the long-term outlook of BeReal. While the idea of ‘authenticity’ is intriguing, that isn’t enough to sustain a platform.”

Meanwhile, Karen Freberg, social media expert and a professor of strategic communication at the University of Louisville, has a different opinion. “There is a demand for apps like BeReal because of the growing need for authenticity,” she told The Drum. “Everyone wants to see what is really going on — without the filters, edits and changes.”

It’s also worth mentioning that Instagram is currently developing a feature aimed at completely killing BeReal, while Snapchat has just introduced a new dual camera function reminiscent of BeReal. With competition from more established platforms, only time will tell if BeReal can not only survive, but also thrive.

Are there ads on BeReal?

Yes and no.

Currently, there’s no way for brands to create ads on BeReal. That’s because, unlike Instagram and TikTok, sponsored posts and videos don’t exist on the app at all. Most other social media platforms have a complete toolset that brands can use to publish ads and serve them to a specific demographic. BeReal doesn’t have any of that.

Still, that hasn’t stopped some brands from creating a presence on the app. Chipotle has been posting promo codes on BeReal that can be exchanged for a free entrée, and it’s been pretty successful so far. More recently, beauty company e.l.f. became the first cosmetics brand to use BeReal for marketing purposes, giving away free products to the first 150 users that friended its account.

That said, BeReal seems to offer a nice break from the endless deluge of sponsored posts you’ll find on other platforms.

Should content creators jump on BeReal?

At the moment, there’s no rush to get on BeReal. While there may be some value in joining the app when everyone’s talking about it, it’ll be challenging for a creator to build traction. That’s mainly because you aren’t supposed to have followers on BeReal, but your actual friends. The app’s whole vibe is about authenticity, which is more present in the relationship between two friends than between a creator and their audience. Things may change, however, as BeReal is reportedly developing a new feature for users to discover “friends of friends.” Such a feature does seem to deviate from the app’s original purpose, but it will certainly help users grow their profiles.

Currently, there isn’t a straightforward way for a creator to monetize their content on BeReal. Sponsorships and other brand deals are essentially non-existent on the platform, and there’s no ad revenue. That means if you expect to make money from the content you create on BeReal, you’d need to have some existing product — whether physical or digital — that you can promote on the app. For example, you can direct your “friends” to book coaching sessions with you, or to purchase your merch.

If you’re a content creator, where you put your time and energy is ultimately up to you. But if you’re doing this as a career, there are probably better platforms worth your attention.

Keep it real

Is BeReal going to radically change the social media landscape? Or will it just get killed by a copycat feature from Instagram? It’s hard to say right now. But what’s undeniable is that a lot of Gen Zers have found something refreshing in the platform’s promise of authenticity, and how that’s helping them get closer with their friends. And hey, maybe that’s really what a social media platform should do.

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Nicholas Bouchard
About the author

Nicholas Bouchard

Nick is a content writer and marketer with a passion for creation. His hobbies range from writing fiction to slamming folks around the wrestling ring. He can only be photographed in national parks and on mountains, and pictures of him usually come out blurry. Some wonder if he even exists at all.
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