Can brands BeReal?

To get the most out of social, brands need to listen as much as they speak.

Stock art of the BeReal app
BeReal tries to catch users as they're being their authentic selves. (Photo credit: Getty Images).

BeReal is a rising counterculture force in social media.

It has a radically different proposition from the traditional social platforms. It asks users to post unfiltered photos of themselves once a day at a time randomly selected by the app.

The result is tightly woven groups of friends sharing more authentic versions of themselves: the daily realities, as opposed to a hyper-filtered version of reality.

This experience juxtaposes itself against that of the incumbent social media behemoths – where sponsored content and opaque algorithms divine what appears on a feed. It can feel like the interests of brands and users are at odds in environments designed to hold attention hostage.

This rejection of the traditional social media experience is attracting users and investors alike. The app recently hit 10 million active daily users, and its latest funding round values each user at $100, which is twice as much as Pinterest.

Part of what makes BeReal’s audience so valuable is the fact it is hugely popular with Gen Z. It allows these users to form genuine connections with friends and family, forming tight-knit communities fused together by authenticity. 

Liberated from the pressure of perfection, BeReal is attracting users at a rapid pace. But a rejection of the values of traditional social media platforms is not a rejection of the presence of brands on social.

In fact, it is an opportunity to understand what social really means.

The rules of engagement

Gen Z has different preferences and values to its predecessors. These values are forcing brands to make their content work harder. And in the long run this is a good thing.

Social isn’t a linear experience. The traditional narrative arc communicated by brands doesn’t make the most of the free-roam nature of people on digital platforms. Tactical activations offer diminishing returns, and bombastic broadcast messaging is skipped.

Successful engagement on social media requires much more than just throwing some money behind a sponsored video. Social media is a forum. It is a place for discourse – not just a billboard. Appearing twice a year and repeating propositional rhetoric isn’t effective. To get the most out of social, brands need to listen as much as they speak.

And by listening, you can learn. Brands can understand, adapt and tailor their content to match the bespoke values of each online community to ensure they resonate effectively.

Brands need to think like publishers. Social-first publishers live at the coal face of culture – shaping and reflecting attitudinal and behavioural shifts. No research study or insight solution can deliver the living and breathing reality of audiences more clearly.

Social is where the modern customer journey begins and ends. It isn’t just a storefront – it is a cinema for your brand story. And so it needs to be central to the brand experience, not an afterthought.

Authenticity should be table stakes

BeReal is attracting users and headlines in equal measure. But it’s important to remember that just because one app is rising, it does not necessitate others fading. Audiences are spending more and more time on social. There is a huge appetite for content and connection, which can be served in different ways by different platforms. 

TikTok growth hasn't slowed. BeReal isn't the newest kid on the block stealing lunch money, it's another kid in an ever-growing population on the block.

It's true that the authentic nature of the platform speaks to the appeal for authenticity to these audiences. But authenticity has always been the name of the game on social.

Brands can succeed only when they understand the unique cadence of communities, and create content which is tailored to the individual preferences of these spaces.

BeReal is different. But it hasn’t changed the rules. It’s just made brands realise where they have been going wrong.

Melissa Chapman is co-chief executive of Jungle Creations and The Wild Agency. This column first appeared on campaignlive.co.uk. 


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