26th August 2022
A new generation of social media companies offering more personalised, authentic experiences are rising in popularity to compete with the highly curated and produced content from Instagram and TikTok. One of these is BeReal, a photo sharing app which asks users to post unfiltered photos of themselves once a day and as of mid-August was the No.1 free iPhone app.
Launched in 2020 by French entrepreneurs Alexis Barreyat and Kévin Perreau, BeReal is a photo sharing app marketed as a more candid and authentic alternative to mainstream social media platforms. Once a day at a random time, it urges users to take a photo (both a rear-facing photo and a selfie simultaneously) and share with their contacts, wherever they are and whatever they are doing and gives them 2 minutes to do so.
The format is supposed to encourage the sharing of authentic images from people’s days, in contrast to the overly curated feeds of other apps. BeReal has been a hit with GenZ who have embraced the format and been flocking to the app this year, as it appears to fulfil a need to connect with friends throughout the day and in a more relatable and authentic way. The app now has over 10 million daily active users.
BeReal’s growing popularity comes as established social platforms have been accused of becoming more impersonal, driven by a desire to monetise and so have been evolving beyond their original remit, which hasn’t always gone down well with users. Instagram saw a backlash recently following changes introduced (and then rolled back) to make it more video centric with an algorithmic main feed pushing recommended videos, which resulted in users struggling to find content from friends and family.
In addition to helping to create meaningful connections with friends, platforms like BeReal also claim to be an antidote to the increasing pressure to perform, grow a following, and become an influencer on TikTok and Instagram. BeReal isn’t a platform for users to grow a following and in fact it limits the number of people you can add as connections and doesn’t show the number of friends an account has – something that other platforms have played with in the past as society becomes more aware of the mental health impact of social media.
BeReal doesn’t allow any formal advertising either, but some brands have been experimenting with the platform. Chipotle was one of the first major brands to join the app and build an audience of young users by sharing behind-the-scenes photos and sharing reusable promo codes for a week. The codes were apparently redeemed in less than a minute.
In response to the growing popularity of this new wave of social media app, this week Instagram started internal tests of a feature called ‘Candid Challenges’. Instagram users participating in Candid Challenges will get a random prompt each day to snap a photo of their surroundings. The Instagram camera will also open both front and rear-facing cameras and give users a two-minute window to take a picture. The content will be shared on their Instagram Story. The feature is not yet testing externally so there is no timeline for when, if at all, it would be publicly available.
Whether BeReal can sustain its initial success is hard to predict, is it just a novelty that users will tire of and that brands might try and exploit while it lasts, or will it evolve and stay relevant for the long term? Social media platforms are driven by innovation, but that innovation must be constant as features are quickly replicated into existing platforms.