Social Media, Thoughts

How TikTok and Instagram are responding to the threat from BeReal

Reading time: 6 min

For years, the big social media players seemed unassailable. Their massive user bases and the network effect that created shut out competitors. They had also built a highly responsive advertising system brands loved around the goldmine of demographic data they had. Social media was a licence to print money, money which they could use to protect their dominance.

But, in the past two years, two serious competitors have emerged, neither of which come from Silicon Valley. One comes from China, TikTok and the other comes from Paris, BeReal. The latter has been downloaded more than 50 million times from the Google Play Store and iOS App Store in 2022 alone.

In this article, we look into the following: 

  • What BeReal is, its popularity and its strengths and weaknesses
  • How other social platforms have reacted
  • What opportunities there are for luxury brands on BeReal

What is BeReal?

What many people post on Instagram about their lives is seen by many as a manicured, curated version showing just the side of themselves to the world they want to see. This has led to a “pressure to be perfect”. 

This pressure to be perfect has afflicted young girls’ and women’s lives long before the internet but Instagram may yet be compounding it. If that were not bad enough, reports suggest that body dysmorphia syndrome is just as high now in young boys and men whereas before it wasn’t particularly widespread.

None of this was Instagram’s wish or intention, of course. 

BeReal sees itself as an answer to the effects of Instagram and other social media platforms. It wants its users to take unfiltered, authentic pictures of themselves hence why some refer to the platform as “anti-Instagram”.

How does BeReal work?

Users receive a notification once every day generally within waking hours for your particular time zone. The timing is random.

You then have a two-minute window in which to take two photos of yourself, one from your selfie camera and one from your main camera.

Your friends may only view an image for one day. It is possible for them to take a screenshot of the image to retain it longer. You see how many of your followers do this but not their names. Your personal photo history is available in full whenever you want it via the app.

There are no filters. You can’t add music, lenses or stickers to images. You can retake photos a number of times a photo but users see how many retakes. If you don’t post images within the two minutes, you won’t be able to see others’ images until you’ve uploaded them.

What else is different? You can’t upload videos. BeReal does not display the number of followers you have. And there is no “Like” button – instead, you post an emoji which mimics your general reaction to a photo.

How many users does BeReal have?

Interest in BeReal has grown significantly since February 2022. See the Google Trends chart tracking worldwide searches of “BeReal” in just one year.

Google Trends’ analysis of the popularity of “BeReal” search term Oct 21-22

Courtesy: Google Trends

These are the BeReal download figures in 2021 and each month so far in 2022…

Number of downloads in millions of “BeReal” (link to source)

Courtesy: Mobile Marketing Reads

Compared to 1.8m downloads in 2021, there have been 49.7m downloads in the complete months of 2022.

According to Influencer Marketing Hub, 21.6 million people use the platform every month with 2.93 million using it every day. The app has been downloaded more than one million times in the States, the UK and its home country of France. 

BeReal growth – threats to other social media platforms

BeReal is losing money every day it’s open. 

BeReal does not currently offer an advertising platform for brands although the company places no restrictions on firms that want to promote themselves on the platform. There are rumours that they are investigating a subscription model or asking users to pay for certain features but none of these has been confirmed.

It also seems beset by recurring technical issues that restrict users’ access to it.

Threats to BeReal growth

There are two major threats to future BeReal success. The first, which we cover shortly, is competitors piling on to replicate the functionality of BeReal within their own apps. They’ve got much wider user bases already as well as the funding needed to create a better product.

Second, although its daily user rate of 2.93m might sound fantastic, that represents the engagement of only 5.8% of users*. Compare this to 39% of Instagram users and 29% of TikTok users and this may cast doubt over the long-term value of the service to users.

* methodology: daily users divided by installed base

How other social platforms have reacted

Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat have all taken inspiration from BeReal’s core functionality and incorporated elements of it into their own apps.

BeReal vs Instagram

We’ve written about Instagram’s identity crisis lately here at VERB. A petition at called “Make Instagram Instagram again” has attracted over 310,000 signatures. Disappointingly for campaigners, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri recently said in a video message that “more and more of Instagram is going to become videos.” 

As they did with Snapchat’s arrival, Instagram has added a new feature to help them compete with BeReal called “Candid Challenge”. Users record video with both cameras at the same time. Presentation-wise, these “dual” stories look very similar on the screen to BeReal with the selfie image reduced to around one-sixteenth of the screen size.

BeReal vs TikTok

TikTok’s new service “TikTok Now” has replaced the “Friends” tab.

As with BeReal, users get an on-screen notification telling them that it’s time to post a 10-second video. Instead of having two minutes to comply, TikTok users have three minutes instead. Videos are, by default, shared with friends but you can push them out to the TikTok community in your area. You can add music and on-screen graphics and text to your TikTok Now moment.

BeReal vs Snapchat

Unlike with BeReal, Instagram and TikTok, there is no alert to tell you that now is the time to create content. You can use the feature at any time. Like TikTok, you can add music and onscreen effects as well as filters.

Snapchat’s main point of differentiation is its four frame settings – vertical (one image stacked on top of the other), horizontal (both cameras take up half the vertical width of the screen each with a blurred section above and below), picture-in-picture (similar to BeReal) and cut-out (cuts out face and body from the selfie camera and places them on top of the reverse camera image).

BeReal marketing for luxury brands

Gen Z and Millennials want authenticity and believability from brands. BeReal’s stripped-down, filter-free approach offers arguably more authenticity and believability than any other social media platform.

Speaking to WishU, Amber Coleman, New Business Manager here at VERB Brands, said “posting behind-the-scenes snapshots from meetings, shoots, or everyday office life can help customers view the brand in a different light.” Brands can’t control when their 2 minutes are allocated thus complicating content creation.

Currently, you also have to earn your way off-platform to find followers. Chipotle tried this by offering a free entrée to the first 100 people to use a code. It got a lot of publicity but, according to Morning Brew, it only earned the brand 2,000 followers.

We believe there is substantial scope for luxury brands to build loyalty among Gen Z and Millennials on BeReal. It will require a completely different way of generating new followers and communicating with them, very much like when brands and their agencies were figuring out how to get the most out of Instagram and TikTok in the early days.

To talk with us about evolving your social media strategy, please get in touch. We’d love the chance to work with you.