“Marketers should take note”: BeReal, the ‘anti-Instagram’ app

BeReal or TikTok: who really wins the authenticity war and what does it mean for social media marketers?

Launched in 2020 and marketed as a ‘real’ app prioritising raw, unedited content, BeReal has achieved almost 10 million subscribers by providing an alternative to highly-curated content. 

Authentic, unfiltered content is surging in popularity and has been helped by Tiktok’s rise to fame, casting a shadow over the more curated ‘grid post’ style of Instagram. With mental health and relatability becoming an important concern on social apps, does ‘anti-Instagram’ BeReal disrupt the social media landscape or will its popularity plateau like Clubhouse and Houseparty? 

PMW spoke to Sprout Social and Influencer Intelligence to understand what threat BeReal imposes on TikTok, what the latest social media phenomenon reveals about consumers and what this means for performance marketers.

Cat Anderson, Head of Marketing for EMEA, Sprout Social said: “The rapid rise of BeReal gives us remarkable insight into what content wins young consumers over. They want content that provides authentic, real and unfiltered glimpses into the lives of the people and brands they love. 

“Marketers should take note. As they develop their content and influencer strategies, they have a tremendous opportunity to separate themselves from competitors by lifting the veil and giving their audiences the content they desire. The trend towards authenticity is echoed in Sprout Social’s UKI Index, which revealed that a third (32%) of consumers rank authenticity on social as the most important detail when influencers and creators are sharing brand content.”

“Teething problems with influencer marketing monetisation”

“It’s too early to say,” replied Sarah Penny – Content and Research Director, Influencer Intelligence – on whether BeReal poses a threat to TikTok. “As we’ve seen, TikTok had monumental growth with usage, far beyond other platforms. However, it has had teething problems with influencer marketing monetisation. 

“If growth on BeReal is consistent and sustainable over the next six months to a year then it has potential to be a competitor to TikTok.”

However, the greatest opportunity that BeReal lacks, is the potential for influencer marketing, which will keep it firmly behind TikTok in marketers’ interests.

“One of the main reasons for this is that with TikTok there are opportunities to post multiple times a day, as well as going live or taking part in ‘TikTok shop’ whereas BeReal only offers the chance to post once a day,” explained Penny. “Additionally, the algorithms on TikTok means that far more people can be reached, and the content people see is targeted to them. This is not the case for BeReal.

“With so many platforms already around, a new one would have to offer something new to make it worth an influencer’s time. So far, this distinction is not clear enough.

“Whilst BeReal is undeniably making waves, there is no evidence to suggest it is going to replace any of the other top performing platforms. Currently, it is not allowing much scope for influencer involvement but it is certainly an app to watch.”

“It’s no longer enough for brands to broadcast to customers”

The unedited, raw content that BeReal promotes, provides users with an invitation to engage with brands through user-generated content (UGC). This direct engagement with brands marks the success of an effective social strategy whereby their community is not only involved, but visible to other consumers.

Anderson said: “It’s no longer enough for brands to broadcast to customers, they must collaborate with customers and, through that engagement, brands can also create content which is not only unique, but which says a lot more about the brand itself than a one-way interaction with their customer ever could.

“UGC can provide brands with a constant buzz in, around, and outside their campaign ‘moments’ and a huge pool of resources well beyond your in-house marketing team. But to leverage UGC most effectively, brands must actively listen to their audience, or they’ll be a long way from creating the kind of brand-love that’s key to this type of content – which sits in shared values, and a sense of community.” 

How authentic is it really?

Penny argued: “Authenticity on social media isn’t new, and we’ve seen the term used repetitively within the influencer marketing industry over the past five years. With topics such as body positivity and mental health awareness increasing on social media in the last few years, more and more influencers are posting natural and unedited content. 

“BeReal promises to be far more authentic when compared to all other social media platforms but, how true is this really?” questioned Penny.

“Raw/unedited footage has been growing in popularity for the last few years and BeReal is just a continuation of this. Not only this, but, if the app is designed to show its users’ most authentic, unfiltered selves, why does it allow unlimited retakes? Originally only allowing one retake, the update proved that the appetite for a ‘no retake’, one chance app is not large enough.

“We saw a movement a few years ago for content to be more raw, particularly with the fast growth of TikTok and marketers felt that this ‘authenticity’ would perform better. BeReal feels like an extension of this.”

Being #relatable during a cost-of-living crisis

The gap between consumers and mega-influencers had widened for some over the pandemic, with a sentiment of distrust emerging as now 41% of Brits never trust the products and services being promoted to them by mega influencers. This widening gap of relatability can be seen again now, as flashy, aspirational Instagram posts appear tone deaf amidst public struggle. 

BeReal might be a champion for unedited content but TikTok’s short-form videos have paved a new era of social media in how brands interact with users through fun, unfiltered content.  

“Relatability was an important shift in the social media landscape during the COVID pandemic and resulting lockdowns,” commented Anderson. “It showed a collective recognition that picture-perfect and highly curated posts were no longer hitting the mark – after all, social media at its best is all about connection. 

“The cost-of-living crisis has once again brought this shift to the fore, with people connecting to content that they find relatable. Furthermore, platforms like TikTok with its short-form and video format not only lends itself well to more relatable content, but is part of the move away from filtered grids towards real and unfiltered content.

Penny also emphasised the importance of relatability in troubling times: “With the cost-of-living crisis leaving no industry unscathed, it’s important that people are sensitive to lower budgets than previously accepted.

“In the current climate, consumers may have less disposable income, so it’s important that brands are sensitive to this with their marketing strategies. Brands could also find their budgets are tighter as inflationary pressures reduce margins, meaning they will need to be savvier with their spend and ensure they are applying effective targeting. 

B2B: unfiltered insights into business

“We would expect to see trends in the B2C market mirrored in B2B,” stated Anderson. “At the end of the day, B2B marketing is all about people. It’s the people within a business that you are trying to connect with. Businesses which do B2B marketing best are the ones who manage to show the human side. Whether this is through employee advocacy on social media, or demonstrating your company culture through posts and videos – authentic content drives strong engagement and connection with your brand by amplifying the voice of true advocates for your business. 

“Platforms like LinkedIn and TikTok lend themselves particularly well to this kind of content as they can offer unfiltered insights into business. As marketers develop their B2B strategies, they have a tremendous opportunity to separate themselves from their competitors by providing the authentic content their audience wants and expects.”

45% of marketers intend to focus on TikTok over the next 12 months, according to the Sprout Social Index, and nearly a third of consumers say TikTok is in the top 3 platforms that they anticipate using in the same time span. There’s clear potential for brands to stand out – if they produce the right content. But even TikTok can learn from its up and coming competitors.

“Since the record-breaking rise of TikTok, brands have been searching for ways to create content that will break through and captivate the platform's incredibly engaged and growing audience,” said Jamie Gilpin, CMO, Sprout Social. “BeReal gives us remarkable insight into what content wins these young consumers over. They want content that provides authentic, real and unfiltered glimpses into the lives of the people and brands they love. As marketers develop their content and influencer strategies on TikTok, they have a tremendous opportunity to separate themselves from their competitors by lifting the veil and giving their audiences the content they desire.”