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How to help brands be authentic in a BeReal era

Challenges and opportunities faced by BeReal and similar platforms, plus five strategies to stay relevant in an era craving realness.

Profile picture of Joe O Connor


5 min read

BeReal, the French photo-sharing app that tapped into a desire to reimagine the social media experience, is at a juncture.

After a year that saw the app downloaded a whopping 93.5 million times and consistently top the Apple and Google App charts, user stagnation has set in, leading some to believe it’s destined to become the next Clubhouse.

Centered around authenticity, BeReal’s core feature is a daily notification that encourages users to share a “genuine” photo of themselves and their surroundings within a randomly selected two-minute window every day.

While its candid concept undoubtedly struck a chord with people – particularly Gen Z – BeReal has failed to move beyond its initial idea nor launch a model that can be monetized. This impasse presented an opportunity for incumbent platforms to step in and copycat its feature, resulting in the likes of TikTok Now and Instagram’s Candid Stories, leaving BeReal, its investors, and users wondering what’s next.

Some brands such as American Eagle Outfitters, e.l.f. Cosmetics and Chipotle have dabbled in the platform, offering promos and discounts but with limited success because, ultimately, BeReal provides no functionality for marketers.

“A few well-known brands are still using it,” says Matt Navarra, a leading social media consultant who has previously advised the likes of Google, Meta and Pinterest. “But its own terms of service say an advertiser is not permitted on the platform, and it has no features to help brands. In fact, it inhibits brands because you have a limited number of friend connections you can make.”

Shachaf Rodberg, Wix’s marketing trend analyst, says people’s growing disenchantment with brands portraying an always-positive, inauthentic side helped catapult BeReal’s popularity. That coincided with an increasing desire by people to be part of – and restrict their content to – smaller online circles, a trend further driven by Covid-19 when most of us were stuck at home yearning for meaningful human contact.

“People are moving towards smaller social groups, and posting and sharing in DMs or on WhatsApp, and not showing everything to the public,” explains Rodberg. “You can see it particularly with Gen Z. They have a public persona different from what they share with close friends. This has contributed to the drive towards authenticity. People are getting fed up having a public display, and even those who want to become influencers are still looking for closer relationships.”

While it remains to be seen if and how brands can use BeReal meaningfully in the future, the platform’s phenomenon – and the rise of other apps like Poparazzi, Locket and Slay – tells us that people are longing for a more intimate and real experience online.

With this in mind, Rodberg shares five ways you can help clients be relevant to those consumers seeking authenticity.

Show your vulnerable side

People connect with brands that show a human side, according to Rodberg. And humans are not polished or perfect. He highlights the case of Amercian olive oil startup Graza, which recently disappointed customers by delivering their holiday gifts late and poorly packaged.

Rather than get PR executives to pour over the most suitable response, company chief executive Andrew Benin wrote a lengthy email entitled “Learning from our mistakes” and hit send to over 35,000 customers. Littered with grammatical errors and typos but expressing genuine regret, the correspondence received an overwhelmingly positive response.

That’s not to say every company head should be given free rein on crisis communications, but it’s a lesson in how it can pay to be raw and honest with your words rather than stiff and safe through corporate speak.

Put your people in front of your brand

Companies that put their founders or employees front and center make real people an extension of the brand. According to Rodberg, it’s an excellent way for brands to resonate with consumers by making them feel they have a direct relationship with the company.

He cites AI platform Gong as a company whose employees produce engaging content and become thought leaders on social media. Customer communications platform Intercom is another company that knows how to put a face to its brand.

Editor-in-chief of Entrepreneur magazine, Jason Feifer, believes companies can successfully utilize their people externally and show authenticity by nailing their thought leadership strategy.

Inject personality where you can

Humor and personality can go a long way for brands and give consumers a sense that they’re engaging with companies on a human level. Rodberg sees brands like Burger King, Air, Wendy’s, and Ryanair as leaders in this space, winning over audiences with their smart, timely and sometimes audacious social media content.

“It's like when you go on Twitter, and it feels like the person in charge of the Twitter account is running the whole company,” he says. “They just happen to do it through a brand’s account. It can be tough for brands to let go and trust an employee or team with that freedom, but if done right, it’s a great way for them to connect.”

Before injecting personality into your social content, know your platforms and behave according to the channel. Your Twitter persona and its content might not resonate with the LinkedIn posse. However, keep your tone of voice consistent throughout to build familiarity with your audience.

Take your audience behind the scenes

To deliver a product or service, every company undergoes a process, whether in production or through a supply chain. Rodberg believes this offers brands an opportunity to bring people behind the scenes to show how they do things and create a sense of transparency between brand and consumer.

Software company 37signals does a great job showing users under the hood, creating videos such as ‘A week in the life of a product designer’ where an employee shares their screen and goes into fine detail about their day-to-day work. A glance at the comments section tells you it’s highly relatable content. This transparent approach to marketing, championed by founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, is becoming ever more embedded in the 37signals brand.

Think about how your clients can let the outside world in and make their audience feel like they’re getting a rare glimpse of something special.

Encourage customers to share their stories

User-generated content created and shared by a community of brand advocates is a surefire way to show authenticity and build trust among your audience.

Workspace platform Notion has an extensive community shouting about its products, which it files under the Spotted on YouTube section of its YouTube channel. Then there’s the super creative wheelchair cover design company Izzy Wheels, which has built a massive following of happy online customers (cleverly called ‘spokes-people’) who proudly share their purchased designs on social media.

User generated content also fits nicely with the lo-fi content trend being adopted by both small and large companies, something Wix Partner Daniel Azarian foresees continuing beyond 2023.

Consider these tactics to get your clients’ authentic expression out into the world. According to Rodberg and Navarra, irrespective of whether BeReal finds its place within the social media landscape, people’s desire for authenticity will remain.

“For the next few years, I don't see it changing,” says Rodberg. “In fact, I think it will come into sharper focus because that’s the expectation of the market. More and more brands will have to adjust their strategy to connect with these customers.”

Navarra predicts a similar outcome. “Being ‘authentic’ has become a bit of a cliché or an overused buzzword in the past few years,” he says. “But the need for brands and creators to build an honest, deeper connection with their audience is an ongoing requirement.”

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