BeReal: The app’s missed entertainment-fandom opportunity
Photo: Josh Withers
By the end of 2022, the novelty of BeReal’s uniquely ‘authentic’ take on social media was spreading like wildfire across the internet. Consumers and the industry alike were watching closely to see if the app could one-up itself and compete with the seemingly unseatable Instagram and Snapchat, in the already-oversaturated attention economy. BeReal’s daily active users (DAUs) peaked in October 2022 (20 million), with users eagerly waiting for updated features to appease their developing interest in the anti-influencer app – but none came, and the novelty is wearing off.
In February 2023, DAUs dropped to 10.4 million, and it is only recently that BeReal has incorporated new features onto its platform. But is it all too little too late for the app to succeed? And has the company missed a key opportunity to uniquely integrate entertainment fandom into its platform as a result of colouring too carefully within the “authenticity” lines?
Feature versus product
BeReal hit the market as the antidote to the filtered, influencer contagion that was proliferating across the internet. Its USP was the randomised two-minute time slots it would give its users to drop what they were doing to take a front- and back-camera picture, which they could then either upload onto their ‘friends only’ (private) or ‘discovery’ (public) feed. During its hype, the app relied heavily upon cross-pollination with other social media apps, notably TikTok, through viral BeReal-themed trends – it also benefited from the involvement of celebrities, like Lewis Capaldi and Niall Horan, promoting the app by participating in fan BeReals.
However, the platform did not strike while the iron was hot and update its features during the height of its popularity, even when its concept was adopted by other social platforms. For example, Snapchat, Instagram (Dual) and TikTok (Now) rolled out the BeReal-inspired dual-camera and random notification features in 2022, with the addition of video and layout / overlay options – which BeReal still does not have.
It is only now that the platform has started adding extra features, but arguably, none of them give the impression of longevity or relevance to its USP. Updates include “Bonus BeReals”, allowing users to post an extra two BeReals if they upload their original post within the designated two-minute time slot (i.e., not posting late), links to Spotify and Apple Music, plus the launch of its “RealPeople” discovery page. The latter update is a curated discovery feed that will consist of BeReal users who the app deems “inspiring and intriguing”, thus making the decisions of who the user will see on behalf of the user (without profiles to allow the user to discover who they are and potentially become fans), instead of allowing them to follow the celebrities they know and are inspired by themselves.
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What once began as a unique concept that other platforms were copying, applying similar features to their own model, BeReal now appears to be leaning on familiar (and overused?) features from its more mature counterparts. Leading to the question: can BeReal be considered more of a feature than a product? There is currently not much reason for BeReal users to visit the app more than once per day (or three times per day, if you choose to use your “Bonus BeReals”), and if the app was to retire tomorrow, there are several other platforms where users can experience the same content (and more). So, how does BeReal transition to become a product instead?
The entertainment opportunity
BeReal has the potential to make itself the go-to platform for behind-the-scenes content and fanbases. While still playing in favour of its ‘anti-influencer’, unfiltered, authenticity ethos, the app could strike deals with artists, musicians, models, production companies, labels and brands to become the exclusive platform for fans to access content they would otherwise not have access to.
Allowing fans to actually choose to follow the accounts of their favourite celebrities and shows, with the intention of getting to know them better than their followers on other apps like TikTok and Instagram, which encourage filters and pre-edited content, can only deepen fandom. And with the growing authenticity crisis, this is something the industry is wanting to tap into already – especially since over a quarter (26%) of music streaming weekly active users would subscribe to a $5 monthly subscription club to their favourite artists if it supplied behind-the-scenes content, and a further 33% and 30% would subscribe if early ticketing and exclusive merch was offered, respectively (MIDiA Research Consumer Survey, Q1 2023). With this new fandom focus, BeReal has the capacity to become the intimate ‘fandom nurturing’ app, while others would be used more for discovery, thus making it stand out from the crowd and be an asset to the entertainment industry – all while maintaining its original “unfiltered” USP.
"Ritual social" and BeReal’s entertainment alternative
BeReal is attempting to play into “ritual social” development, where, instead of being “habitual social” (aimless daily doom scrolling through a social app until you are either bored, run out of content or become aware of the time), users are encouraged to consciously participate in a daily task. This is a similar method to Wordle, which created a new word game every day. However, this too has lost momentum. In today’s oversaturated climate, where everyone is competing for consumer attention, the only way to maintain “ritual social” is to constantly change not only the content of the daily task (i.e., the word or the time of day to take a photo), but also the daily task itself, in order to keep it fresh and prevent predictability and boredom.
Alternatively, including friends in the daily task would help drive motivation to continue, promoting camaraderie and encouraging responsibility to not let the team down. This is successfully demonstrated through Snapchat streaks, where users will go to great lengths to maintain a streak record and feel a great sense of achievement in being able to do so. BeReal could apply this method to its own platform while incorporating its USP, through allowing users to choose the BeReal time slot with friends or something of a similar nature. This would, however, push BeReal to compete with the already established Snapchat, which offers more creative freedom and direct messaging options that BeReal does not have.
The best course of action for BeReal is to go down an avenue where there is a gap in the market: an authenticity-focused entertainment fandom platform. While this may have been a more effective initiation during its hype era at the end of 2022 / early 2023, there is still time to implement this new direction and become the fandom app the industry has been waiting for.