2020 is not a year many of us want to remember. But since it’s part of the history books now, it holds emotional merit. If we had to summarize the year in 1 sentence? “We were all glued to our phones.” We all faced losses, many being financial or career driven. But we also gained time. Time to plan, to strategize, to do something new. And the life of a developer in 2020 was no different.
Any app launched just before the devastating pandemic had its work cut out for them. Our phones became a source of global, and local connection. It’s how we spoke, networked, worked, and learned. Already-established social media apps gifted followers the social life we desperately needed.
TikTok experienced rapid growth during this period – mainly due to the allure of much-needed dopamine in a time of crisis and enhancing that feeling of mutual suffering – we learned dances along with celebrities and baked banana bread with only 2 ingredients. We were given the feeling of being accomplished enough to share pandemic content on the emerging app along with good old faithful social media platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram.
2020 birthed more than just this though, it gave rise to BeReal, a platform so authentic, so real that it quickly highlighted the false nature of competitors.
BeReal’s tagline, Your Friends for Real, outlined their plan – to host users wanting a less curated and fake version of daily happenings, returning to real life and unplanned authenticity. Trudging through an abysmal 2020 must have been a death-defying act with the lack of shareable content, but here they are, still doing the new-app dance against the odds. Ironically, among a generation that publicizes their affinity for authenticity, the platform’s Gen Z following seems to be declining.
Will they stay, or will they go?
The photo-sharing app was founded by Alexis Barreyat and Kévin Perreau in December 2019, encouraging users to share an unedited dual post once daily.
Their vision? To give users an outlet for posting honest insight into their daily lives and activities. And how would they do this? Sending the user one push notification, allotting them two minutes to share a photo of what they are up to.
I already feel limited. Almost claustrophobic. “Now, this could just be the opinion of a cynical Millennial, but I downloaded the App, you know - for research purposes. On the surface, it seems appealing enough. But, vanity appeal doesn’t last. The reminders (pushes) to post something real within a certain time limit didn’t entice authenticity for me. It did the opposite. In a flurry of panic, I felt the need to create the perfect picture, to be somewhere new, to be doing something exciting. It’s not real life. It’s a reminder of the mundane. “
Jayde Robertson, Creative Strategist
How it works
The app ensures you stay authentic and holds you accountable too. You’re given an entire two minutes from receiving your push notification to upload a front and back camera post. (Wait, Instagram dual, is that you?)
The kicker? The time you receive your notification differs daily. But that is the idea - BeReal encourages you to share the unfiltered, poorly curated, and wonderfully authentic world around you. Now for someone who lives an exciting life (much like the people who flood the feed), it seems easy enough. But what about the people who work, all day - you know, not moving much? The images would all be much the same. Sure, that shows the world that not everything is picturesque. But, it’s also quite depressing too.
As a concept, it works. But BeReal pressures users to post as soon as they have received their notification. If you don't like the first snap, you get to take another - at the peril of telling your friends the number of retakes. Yes, BeReal rats on you to your friends.
You can post outside the two-minute window, but friends are informed about late posts because it may mean you changed your surroundings or took your sweet time to look presentable. OUCH.
Who uses BeReal?
Demographically, BeReal is most popular in the United States. The app also has an avid following in France and the United Kingdom and experienced rapid growth in 2021 with over 500,000 active users.
55% of BeReal users are between the ages of 26-44, which means Millennials (surprise, surprise) are the most avid BeReal users. Gen Z follows (16-25 years) with a solid rate of 43%.
Like TikTok's early days, BeReal appeals to women more than men, with a 58% to 42% ratio.
Where have the followers gone?
Sure, 2021 was a good year for the platform, but BeReal is losing followers. Pitched as a haven for authenticity trailblazers Gen Z, the app seems to have lost its appeal quickly, with monotony touted by some for the lack of intrigue it holds.
Followers have quickly grown bored of seeing the same messy apartment, laptop screen, or limp salad for lunch, and the spell broke. The statistics tell the tale.
In October 2022, BeReal downloads reached an average of 15.2 million worldwide, seemingly enjoying success. But downloads for February 2023 have decreased to 4.2 million, according to Apptopia data.
Active daily users have also dwindled, decreasing by nearly 52% from around 14.7 million in October to 7.7 million in February.
BeReal and education marketing
When I downloaded BeReal. I was surprised to find that 17 of my contacts have profiles. Nice!
However, none were actively using the platform to upload their daily lives. To see what this app was about, I had to go into Discovery mode and quickly realized the limiting capacity of the app.
It was pictures of strangers and what they were doing, unfiltered, as promised. The authenticity was there, but I found the browsing tedious and grew bored quickly.
BeReal doesn’t offer paid ads. The content was not interactive, enticing, or engaging. Due to the lack of connection, it’s fair to say that this is not the place to engage with prospective students.
Brands with a solid social media presence across other platforms seem to be the only ones using BeReal as a creative platform for marketing purposes. For emerging brands though, BeReal is unlikely to drive sales unless there are extensive changes to the app.
What we think
It’s too early to write off the app completely. With the new Spotify feature allowing users to share what they are listening to along with their posts, BeReal may have a few interactive cards up their sleeves, allowing them to compete against other social media platforms.
The unfortunate trend surrounding Meta giants Facebook and Instagram “lending” ideas from other platforms can eradicate the need for followers to try alternatives. Although we love spending time scrolling, having multiple features on one app is convenient and frankly addictive.
The decline in Gen Z followers proves authenticity is rare – while the idea behind the BeReal is inspirational, it must attract more users and retain current ones. It seems to be failing at both.
BeReal doesn’t seem addictive and won’t keep me entertained for hours. But with the controversy surrounding how much time we spend on our devices, isn’t that the point?