Will BeReal’s embrace of brands and celebrities pay off?

Will BeReal’s embrace of brands and celebrities pay off?

BeReal is launching features aimed at attracting brands and celebrities to the platform.

The social media company is rolling out official accounts for individuals and companies — dubbed RealPeople and RealBrands — globally on 6 February.

Whereas RealBrands is a new announcement, RealPeople was first launched in beta in the UK in May 2023, but is now expanding to other markets.

Analysis: ‘They don’t have the numbers’

The move is significant for BeReal, which rose in popularity in 2022 as young people sought a more authentic social media experience away from the increasingly performative Instagram or entertainment-focused TikTok. The company says it currently has 23m daily active users, but growth has decelerated over time.

According to data estimates from Apptopia, monthly usage of the app peaked in August 2022 with 73.5m users and has since fallen to 25m by November 2023. Such figures pale in comparison to dominant apps like TikTok, which can boast of 900m global daily actives.

BeReal’s move to promote celebrities and brands can therefore be seen as a strategic move to keep people engaged and, perhaps, begin to monetise the business.

Source: BeReal

BeReal has previously been backed by two rounds of investor funding totalling $90m, but amid higher interest rates it is plausible that the company is being pushed to beef up its business case and prove it can generate revenue.

Eb Adeyeri, vice-president of paid social at Jellyfish, told The Media Leader in May that he wouldn’t be surprised if BeReal dived into influencer advertising and partnerships “down the line”.

Speaking about the latest news, Adeyeri offered scepticism. “From an advertiser perspective, they don’t have the numbers still,” he told The Media Leader, adding that the new features are not particularly innovative compared with what other social media companies offer.

Helen Clow, growth director at Brainlabs Influencer, agreed that BeReal’s relatively small audience size dampens her excitement, but noted that RealPeople and RealBrands provide “a clearer avenue to commercialise the platform and reach audiences” than what was on offer before.

Clow suggested the new features could lead to interesting opportunities for certain brands or celebrities, such as a clothing brand like Nike teaming up with an athlete to wear its gear for the weeks leading up to the Olympics, or a beauty influencer sharing makeup tips, or quirkier brand personalities like Duolingo leaning in to community-building possibilities.

But, she noted, because of the way BeReal works as a brief way to check in with friends, “the longevity of the content is limited and to use it elsewhere would be inauthentic to the purpose of the platform”.

How ‘real’ can brands and celebrities be?

Inviting celebrities, influencers and brands on to the platform is anathema to users who go to BeReal for quick, honest snapshots of their friends.

Yet, as Adeyeri said, BeReal’s real audience is now marketers and brands, given the company needs to drive revenue. To that end, it makes sense for BeReal to pivot its focus, even if doing so undermines its unique selling point.

“The honest blunt truth is that the average person sharing their authentic self isn’t that interesting to other people,” said Adeyeri. Attracting big-name influencers could offer a boost to business and user engagement.

BeReal appears to be aware that its positive brand association could be affected by welcoming more commercial interests. The company wrote in a blog post: “We know what you’re thinking… ‘How does something like this fit in with BeReal’s mission?’

“We believe that by showing that notable people and brands are actually people just like us — equally boring and interesting at different times — we help reset and improve some of the negativity that has come from modern social platforms.

“People want to see more of the faces behind the filters, the people behind the brands and the chaotic moments that make life so human. Official account holders will have to post on time, just like everyone else… no filters… just spur of the moment authentic BeReal.”

BeReal says it doesn’t want ads… But should it?

The post insisted that welcoming celebrities and brands will not change its focus and that BeReal “will always be about friends and close connections first”.

Still, after years of similar messages from other social media companies that then took steps to harm the user experience in favour of appealing to advertiser interests, it would be hard to blame users for being wary.

Because even if brands and celebrities go about posting in ostensibly “authentic” ways, there is still a sheen of fakery inherent in performing a message to a crowd.

Media Jobs