BeReal: Why Gen Z's new favorite photo app is shaking up social media

No influencers, no ads, no edits, and one post per day to “be real” — that’s the basis of BeReal, a new social media app making waves with Gen Z.

A polar opposite of Instagram in concept, the app — which was launched by French entrepreneur Alexis Barreyat in 2020 — has amassed nearly 2.7 million downloads in the U.S. alone as of May 2022, followed by its birth country of France.

Users can post once a day within the two-minute window allotted by the app, and content disappears after 24 hours and is stored in the private archive of the user. After clicking on the once-a-day notification, two pictures are clicked, one with the back camera and one with the front camera.

“BeReal won’t make you famous,” the company’s team said in a statement to Yahoo Finance. “If you want to become an influencer you can stay on TikTok and Instagram.”

There are no photo filters available, and no amount of friends will give the user an upper hand in using the app. Friends can comment and react with ‘RealMojis’, which prompt the user to take a mini selfie instead of reacting with regular emojis. Retakes on any post will appear as text with the picture notifying the viewer.

“Gen Z values authenticity and rejects social norms,” Maria Beatriz Lopes, a London-based PR representative and early Gen Z user of BeReal, told Yahoo Finance. “Whilst Instagram is promoting an 'ideal' of living, BeReal instead shows the "real" us, no filters. We feel more natural and have more connections to our peers, which is essentially what the generation values.”

'Changing how we interact with social media'

BeReal’s popularity compared to Instagram can be reflected through its App Store ranking, as it is currently beating both Instagram and Meta (META).

Instagram seemed to have recognized its competition, as it introduced a front-and-back camera feature similar to BeReal last week.

“There will always be newness to how we’re communicating digitally and if Meta is taking notice and adding similar features, then yes, BeReal is changing how we interact with social media,” Sarah Keeble, marketing director at Verb, a digital marketing agency, told Yahoo Finance. “The interesting thing to watch will be if consumers continue to use the platform or the similar features.”

Data from Apptopia indicates that BeReal downloads grew by 315% since the start of 2022, making it the second-most downloaded free app on the iPhone in the U.S.

The app is challenging the traditional revenue generator in social media. Many in the social media community have labeled it the “anti-Instagram,” particularly since Instagram relies on ad revenue with the U.S. being the leading social media ad market, according to Statista.

“Meta has monopolized the social media space for over a decade,” Keeble said. “They have innovated quickly to keep up with their competitors. We saw them introduce stories and VR filets when Snapchat was overtaking them on the app charts.”

Screengrabs from the BeReal app. (Photo: App Store)
Screengrabs from the BeReal app. (Photo: App Store)

Brands cashing in on BeReal

BeReal has also started picking up steam among major companies.

As of 2018, more than 97% of Fortune 500 companies use social media as their main marketing platform, according to Entrepreneur.

Mexican fast-food chain Chipotle (CMG) has begun using BeReal to reach its majority-Gen Z user base, as it advertised a promo code for a free entree on the app to its first 100 customers.

PacSun, an American retail brand, has also utilized the app for marketing purposes.

A screengrab of Chipotle's promo through the BeReal app. (BeReal)
A screengrab of Chipotle's promo through the BeReal app. (BeReal)

“In reality, not many will change their marketing,” Keeble said. “However, there is already a movement in the industry to share more authentic and human content. This has been led through the humor and lo-fi nature of TikTok. Again, we can take this back for the need for human connection — perhaps an impact from the pandemic.”

If BeReal's platform continues to grow, there will likely be more ad opportunities for innovators, she said.

However, Keeble added, “I suspect the majority of brands will be laggards. We’re still encouraging brands to get on TikTok.”

Tanya is a writer for Yahoo Finance.

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