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Social Media Marketing

Brands, BeReal and balancing authenticity

By Mick McConnell, Chief executive officer of North America

August 23, 2022 | 7 min read

BeReal is promising something different. But without advertisers, it faces an uncertain future. The platform needs to find a way to open its doors to brands while maintaining its ethos of authenticity, argues Superunion exec Mick McConnell.

Hand taking photo on mobile phone of breakfast food

/ Helena Lopes

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 are 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 just 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.

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.

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Keeping it real

“You wanna know 'ow I make diz country better? Iz simple, two words: keep it real!” - Ali G, Ali G in Da House (2002)

To make the most of the platform, brands have to be a part of the BeReal experience and put more than just their most polished foot forward. If BeReal opens the door for brands to simply peddle products on the app, with or without BeReal’s cooperation, the user experience will be irreversibly changed. There’s a clear risk for brands that invade a safe, authentic space for users. Just ask Instagram and Snapchat.

For brands, authenticity reigns supreme, and that’s where BeReal is making its mark. But it also means the platform will need to find a way to authentically make a profit sooner rather than later – and unfortunately, aligning purpose with profit is rarely easy.

BeReal can put brands in the daily frame – as long as they’re required to follow the same rules as everyday users.

Mick McConnell is chief executive officer for North America at Superunion.

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