Brands, BeReal and balancing authenticity

Words by Mick McConnell
Date 2022-08-26

Let's face facts. Social media hasn't always been the best place for establishing the truth. Fake news, face-altering filters and fluffy metrics usually on the menu of most newsfeeds and homepages. Most users will present themselves in the best light possible. Social media is a home for the highlights of life - not the daily realities.

But there is growing backlash - particularly among Gen Z - of this hyper-selective showreel. Social media users are increasingly conscious of the negative mental health impact that platforms can have - particularly concerning false beauty standards set by superstar celebrities and influencers.

Consumers are much more wary, and arguably much less interested, in the overly edited. This is why platforms like BeReal have soared into prominence. BeReal is a photo-sharing app that allows users to post one photo each day to show their followers what they are doing in real-time. No filters, no edits.

It encourages users to perfect the art of being themselves. It's an expression of the authentic user - radical transparency communicated naturally.

But being yourself isn't as easy as it sounds - especially for brands and businesses.

And even for the platform itself.

A propositional paradox

BeReal is very hot right now. A 29,200% year-over-year uptick in users sort of hot. But it’s also at risk of going up in flames. The issue is simple: if it doesn’t invite brands onto the platform, it will run out of the funds it needs to survive. However, if it does invite brands, then it will have ‘ruined’ – or at least drastically changed – a space purported to be a safe, authentic space for users to stop curating their lives and engaging with illusions.

The app’s competitors, including photo-sharing apps like Dispo and Poparazzi, have experienced a similar dilemma, evidencing that this problem is not unique to BeReal. So how does a platform built on authenticity embrace advertising without ruining its image? The answer is simpler than you think.

"BeReal needs to embrace advertisers. But it doesn’t need to embrace advertising. Look at the brands getting the most success out of platforms like TikTok. They don’t make promotional ads. Instead, they make fun TikToks that fit seamlessly into the content that real users are making and consuming.

BeReal needs brands – but just like with its users, it needs brands to be their authentic selves. No filters, no high-end production. Just content that naturally fits into a feed."

— Mick McConnell, CEO, North America

Brands like Chipotle, which launched its ‘For Real‘ campaign this past spring, are leading with experimentation and testing how they can ‘be real’ with audiences. Truth be told, the brand has to navigate the same hurdles that users do – meaning it’s also subject to a daily notification highlighting a deadline for content. And this is a good thing. It keeps things somewhat spontaneous and inspires creativity.

This begs the question of how other brands and organizations might follow suit. What would Nasa post? Something interstellar, perhaps? How about Delta Airlines? Something from among the clouds? The potential is thrilling, to say the least.

First published in The Drum.