Digital Publishing Platforms
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53M installs, 2254% jump in monthly active users: BeReal could be a powerful new tool for building engagement with readers

Photo-sharing app BeReal has caught the fancy of Gen-Z and is registering consistent, rapid growth. Its focus on authenticity attracts a younger audience and makes it potentially useful for publishers looking to build engagement and deeper connections. 

Young people are “critical audiences for publishers and journalists around the world, and for the sustainability of the news,” notes this year’s Reuters Institute report on the news habits of younger audiences, but cautions that they “are increasingly hard to reach and may require different strategies to engage them.” 

This includes understanding and working with platforms that attract them.

“500,000 new installs daily”

BeReal, a photo-sharing app launched in December 2019, has become very popular among youngsters this year. It has crossed 53M installs globally across the App Store and Google Play and its worldwide MAUs in September were up 2,254% compared to January, according to Sensor Tower. 

Mobile app data firm, 42matters estimates that the app is seeing approximately 500,000 new installs daily with the US leading the growth. Investors are seeing value as the startup raised $60M in its Series B funding earlier this year driving valuation to €600 million, reports TechCrunch. 

The app’s appeal lies in its focus on authenticity. It aims to foster deeper connections among users by encouraging them to post candid photos of themselves and their surroundings once every day. The photos are a combination of the front and back camera shots. So in most cases, it’s a selfie combined with what’s in front of the user. 

Source: App Store

“A magnetic idea”

The catch is that the notification to post a photo can come at any time during the day, and a user has only two minutes to do so. There are no filters or other tools to enhance the images. Retakes and late postings are allowed but not encouraged. 

Friends are notified in both instances. Users can choose not to post their photos but they can only see, and comment on, what their friends have posted after doing so. The idea is to take pressure off users to appear their best and the need to keep posting throughout the day. 

“BeReal combines the ephemeral quality of a Snapchat photo with the spontaneity of an early TikTok, or ad-less 2010s Instagram,” writes Joan Kennedy for Business of Fashion. “Users often say they see it as a respite from endless feeds, filters and FaceTune.”

BeReal’s limited approach to posting and perusing is an alternate to apps such as TikTok and Instagram, which count more than a billion active monthly users apiece and plow money and engineers into making products more engrossing for users. BeReal has a different pitch: Post quickly, scroll and go live your life. For some Gen Z users, that is a magnetic idea.

Dalvin Brown and Cordilia James, The Wall Street Journal

“It may have staying power after all”

Although its user base is much smaller compared to TikTok and Instagram, they have already launched, or are in the process of introducing similar features. In September, TikTok announced a new feature called TikTok Now which sends users a daily prompt to capture a 10-second video or photo—using their devices’ front and back cameras—and share with their friends. The feature can be accessed in the TikTok app in the US. It is also available via a dedicated TikTok Now app in some countries. Snapchat rolled out its dual-camera mode earlier, and Instagram is testing a similar feature called IG Candid Challenges.

The fear of the incumbents is that this becomes the next TikTok. So they’ve all scrambled to launch their own version” in hopes of heading off a competitor before it goes mainstream.

Mark Shmulik, MD, Senior Analyst – US Internet, AB Bernstein

“There is one aspect of BeReal that Big Tech can’t replicate: not being part of Big Tech (at least not yet),” says Will Oremus, writing for The Washington Post. “If people really are using it as an antidote to the addictiveness of TikTok, the impersonality of Facebook, or the performative pressure of Instagram, it may have staying power after all.”

“The numbers appear to indicate that despite efforts from competing social apps to reproduce the core of the BeReal experience,” add TechCrunch’s Sarah Perez and Ingrid Lunden, “it ain’t nothing like the real thing, so to speak.”

“Connect with fans in new, creative ways”

While publishers are yet to join the app, some brands and marketers have dipped their toes. “Major brands like Chipotle and e.l.f. Cosmetics have already launched brand accounts on the app,” reports Kimeko McCoy, Senior Marketing Reporter, Digiday. Publishers looking for new avenues of growth may find some of their strategies useful.

One of our clients, [e.l.f. Cosmetics], is the first beauty brand on BeReal, because we’re following it, we’re looking at it and we’re educating, just like we did with TikTok. 

Evan Horowitz, Co-founder & CEO of creative studio, Movers+Shakers

Discount codes, limited secret promotions, and behind-the-scenes looks are all potential BeReal ideas that could work, suggests Brandon Biancalani, Head of Paid Advertising at ad agency Modifly.

Source: Adweek

Restaurant chain Shake Shack has more than 800,000 followers on Instagram and over 97,000 on Twitter, however, it sees value in exploring BeReal. The company is experimenting with organic behind-the-scenes content. These include real-time, behind-the-scenes posts, featuring photoshoots, menu tastings, and events. 

“We’re always pushing ourselves to connect with fans in new, creative ways — and we also want to tap new audiences,” says Amanda DiAntonio, Senior Manager of Social Media at Shake Shack. “When we think there’s promise in an emerging channel, and it aligns with our brand, we want to be there early.” She adds that they see potential to include more behind-the-scenes looks from international partners, suppliers and customers, as the platform grows.

“The next platform that pops”

Shake Shack’s strategy might work for publishers and journalists. Sharing behind-the-scenes content can help stoke engagement and build deeper connections. Some publishers already do this in different ways – slow news publisher, Tortoise, gives readers access to editorial discussions and conferences through their Thinkin events. The Guardian gives some of its paying supporters the opportunity to attend morning editorial conferences with it’s Editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner.  

“A lot of brands want innovation as part of their story and part of their brand,” Tom Hyde, VP of Strategy, Movers+Shakers tells Business of Fashion. “Being a first mover to a new platform can give you credibility for some consumers.” 

People are often seeking to go behind the scenes and get closer to the designers, the creative process and production. Sometimes being part of it is better than being perfect.

Tom Hyde, VP of Strategy, Movers+Shakers

While it’s too early to predict how well BeReal will work out for publishers, Noah Mallin, Chief Strategy Officer, IMGN Media expects functionalities to be added in the future that’ll make It more useful for brands. “Clearly, BeReal is top of mind for marketers who are trying to figure out what’s going to be the next platform that pops,” he comments

“You can test and learn things,” says Leslie North, EVP and Head of Strategy at creative agency, Swift. “And you can fail quietly. Failing is not a bad thing because you’re learning from the things that you’re doing. Right now, it’s a good place to try to learn different behaviors that people are doing.”

What is tough with newer platforms is that brands have to figure out how to utilize it to share their brand narrative and story. We have seen firsthand how brands that are early adopters of new platforms can win and in a very organic and meaningful way. 

Victoria Bachan, MD, Whalar Talent