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How Real Can You Be on Social Media?

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One Green Bean's Toby Rutherford joins the gen z's on BeReal and ponders the opportunity for brands

How Real Can You Be on Social Media?

As a creative, I often joke with friends that a large part of my job revolves around scrolling through social media channels looking for inspiration and staying up-to-date on what’s trending.

So, when the resident gen zs started talking about a new app called BeReal, I must admit I groaned a little on the inside. ‘Another one to keep track of?! When will I have time to work?’.

To my surprise, BeReal turned out to be a chance to be just that. Real.

How does BeReal work?

The premise is simple. Take a photo with both the front and back cameras on your phone simultaneously every day, at a specified time. No filters, no gifs, stickers, or additional text. Just a selfie of you and whatever it is you’re looking at - right that second.

BeReal prompts are sent to every user at the same time each day. Leading to a range of photos from the earliest of morning runs, through to last calls at the end of a night. Curation goes out the window in favour of weird angles and funny facial expressions.

The app also has FOMO built in, with only those who have uploaded their daily BeReal able to see what their friends have posted, creating an incentive for users to ‘share or miss out’ – that I admittedly find irresistible.

Can you be creative?

Yes, within the restrictions of the app. Given the two-minute posting window, creativity needs to come quickly, often using angles, interesting crops, or quick camera actions to create interesting compositions of yourself and your surroundings. As the English writer, G. K. Chesterton, remarked: “Art consists in limitations,” so I expect we’ll see more creative ways to break the rules of BeReal the longer we spend in the app.

I have been playing around with what’s possible between the moment the first photo is taken and the second. Can I be sipping that coffee I’ve just taken a photo of? Could I turn the camera around quickly enough to capture myself twice? Where’s the humour or truth in this shot I’m about to post? It’s been fun to experiment as I’m sure many real content creators are also doing right now.

What’s it like in there?

The more I use BeReal the more I’ve noticed that posts by my friends, and those in the ‘Discover’ tab, tend to drift into similar territories. Lots of computer and TV screens, work desks, living rooms and bedrooms. I’ve only taken one BeReal on the loo (for the lols) but there have been plenty of other opportunities if I’d stayed true to the two-minute time limit, but no one wants that.

This isn’t a sad thing, as one of my co-workers has said: “I actually just want to see how people have arranged their houses.” It is a frank and honest snapshot into your friends’ lives, as banal and regular as those lives are, without the filters of other social media apps. It gives a sense of camaraderie as we all go about our daily REAL lives.

It can, however, get very repetitive depending on who your friend group is. There was one period where my co-workers were in all my posts and I was in theirs, leading to Feed Inception of sorts. As more of my friends join the app, these situations have diminished and I’m now seeing what friends all over the world are up to at the same time as me.

Is there a space for brands?

There have been stories of brands already dipping a toe in the BeReal waters.

Chipotle in the US is growing followers through timed discount codes that utilise the FOMO leanings of Gen Z. Tourism Fiji has joined BeReal with the intention of showing a more ‘real’ side of the islands, which I find interesting and it’s a clever way to help potential travellers discover spots they might otherwise have missed.

However, I have yet to see these examples in app and in the case of Tourism Fiji I wonder at the coordination of having a singular BeReal account for an entire country. But it’s intriguing. Perhaps it might have been better to encourage the population to join BeReal and show their side of the country, inviting people into homes and communities across the islands. But it’s too early to call it just yet.

Ultimately it depends on how you want your audience to perceive your brand. There is a real opportunity for organisations to let their people take the reins of a social media account, giving a glimpse under the polished hood, or behind the heavily stylised curtain. It’s not for all brands, but it could work very well for some.

And in saying that, it’s still EARLY. BeReal has 21.6 million monthly active users, 2.93 million daily app visits and 74.5% of the app’s total downloads occurred in 2022, so the audience is there and growing quickly for marketers looking to show a different side of their brand.

Is it the next big thing?

Honestly, maybe, but I don’t think it’s all that likely (feel free to bookmark this sentence for a ‘poorly aged comment’ dig in a few years’ time). With serial copycat offenders Instagram developing a ‘candid’ filter right now, that is eerily familiar to the BeReal premise, we’ll see other social apps jump on this bandwagon as well.

So, my plan is to have some fun with BeReal while it lasts and enjoy the uncurated insights into my friends’ lives, even if it is just them on the loo. Because how real is that?


Toby Rutherford is a creative at One Green Bean.

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Havas UK, Thu, 29 Sep 2022 15:39:49 GMT