BeReal Exploded in Popularity. But Is the App Here to Stay?
Itf you’re not already a BeReal convert, you might soon find yourself curious to see what all the buzz is about. An increasing number of users are turning to BeReal to share a single snapshot from their daily lives every day.
BeReal is being called the anti-Instagram because of its candid photos policies. It has seen a surge in popularity over recent months. July was BeReal’s biggest month yet, with digital analytics platform Sensor Tower reporting that the number of times it was downloaded increased 86% month-over-month from June for a total of 7.8 million. Global downloads of the app have reached 22.8 million to date (still a fraction of Instagram’s roughly one billion monthly active users), with U.S. downloads accounting for nearly half that total, according to data platform data.ai. BeReal has been mentioned on many other social networks, including the #BeRealTikTok tag which received nearly 685,000,000 views. BeReal memesWe laugh at the posts of fictional and famous characters that have received tens or thousands of Likes on Twitter.
“BeReal’s popularity, like the ascent of TikTok, proves that it’s still possible for newcomers to the social media space to make an immediate impact,” Sensor Tower CEO Alex Malafeev says.
Learn more What It’s Like to Use BeReal, an Instagram Rival That Lets You Post Only Once a Day
BeReal’s rise comes at a time when the dominance of social media giants like Facebook, Instagram (both owned by Meta), and Twitter is being challenged by the likes of TikTok. But BeReal isn’t without its own issues. Not only has the app been plagued by technical problems, but it is likely that soon there will be many challenges associated with rapidly growing in size.
BeReal did not respond to TIME’s request for comment on its plans for adapting to an influx of new users.
To attract more users—and keep them—during this time of uncertainty, BeReal will have to prove it’s more than a fleeting trend.
It’s hard to keep it real.
BeReal asks you to send un-filtered, natural photos of your daily life. Every user gets a daily notification alerting them that they have two minutes to click a button within the app to simultaneously take a photo with their phone’s front and back cameras and then share the resulting post to a feed that can only be seen by their mutual friends. The app doesn’t allow for any editing, and if you miss the two-minute window, your post will be labeled as late. You also can’t view any of your friends’ posts until you’ve shared your own, a feature that’s intended to prevent “lurking.”
The platform’s efforts to promote more authentic and less-frequent posting are particularly resonant among Gen Zers and millennials, with data.ai reporting that, as of June, 55% of the app’s users are in the 16-24 age group and 43% are in the 25-44 age group. In April, Maxwell Zuanich, a 19-year-old college student at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, told TIME that BeReal’s main appeal is the way it’s set up to alleviate the pressures of appearing “perfect” online. “You’ll be doing something cool and start thinking, ‘I hope I get the notification right now,’” he said. “But that just shows how you usually want to only post the highlights of your life. It keeps you in the moment.”
If they’re able to continue to operate successfully after carving out a niche, platforms like BeReal that “debut with a bang have hopes of establishing a foothold from which to grow,” Malafeev says.
However, Niklas Myhr, a clinical associate professor of marketing at Chapman University known online as “The Social Media Professor,” says that while BeReal’s core premise of a more authentic social media experience has staying power, the app’s current method of implementing that idea may need to evolve. “The premise of countering the stylized, staged, manicured, perfectionist, big-time influencer post is sustainable,” he says. “But the idea of taking a photo in a random two-minute time slot could get old.”
As BeReal grows larger and users’ friend lists expand, Myhr says it will be necessary for BeReal to find ways to keep things fresh so users’ feeds don’t stagnate. “After a few months or years on the platform, you may be happy with the friends you have and stop looking to grow your network,” he says. “But then your engagement may go down if you don’t see that much novelty.”
Myhr points to Clubhouse and Snapchat as examples. He says once an idea is popularized, others tend to make their own version. “Clubhouse is having difficulties now that five or six networks are doing the same thing with social audio,” he says. “A lot of people might feel that they can do [what they’re doing on BeReal] on other platforms.”
Issues of this ilk could also grow increasingly glaring if BeReal doesn’t sort out its technical bugs. The first two weeks of July saw a 254% increase in the number of negative reviews for BeReal’s performance, according to data intelligence platform Apptopia.
Social media and the conundrum of business
Myhr says that as BeReal attracts investors based on its prospects for retaining a large user base, it’s going to have to start generating profits—whether that’s through selling ads, monetizing subscriptions, or another method. BeReal claimed that it had received $30 million from Accel Partners, DST Global and Andreessen Horowitz in summer 2021. Insider first reported in May that BeReal had closed a $85 million funding round, which was led by DST. This would triple its value to more than $600 million.
“Since they’ve gotten investors, people are going to inevitably start asking the big questions: How are you going to generate revenue? How is this business model sustainable?,” Myhr says. “They’re going to face pressures. And there’s only a few ways you can make money online.”
These are issues that other social media giants have had to face.
Over the past year, the Facebook Papers have led to a cascade of allegations, congressional hearings and news reports about how Meta’s platforms prioritize profits over people. Meta, which has just suffered its first quarter-end revenue decline, is now attempting to streamline both Facebook, and Instagram, in an effort to keep up with TikTok. However, these changes caused significant opposition from some users.
Myhr said that BeReal is not certain if it will survive financially while remaining culturally relevant. “It’s easy to dismiss them based on their current implementation,” he says. “But if they’re able to refresh ‘how to be real’ in new formats, I think they can stay around a while longer.”
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