Iif you are not already a be real convert, you may soon find yourself curious to know what the fuss is about. An ever-increasing number of people are flocking to social media one (and only one) sharing app snapshot of their lives every day.
Touted as the anti-Instagram due to its outspoken photo policies, BeReal has exploded in popularity in recent months. July was BeReal’s biggest month to date, with digital analytics platform Sensor Tower reporting an 86% month-on-month increase in downloads over June for a total of 7.8 million. The app’s global downloads have reached 22.8 million to date (still a fraction of Instagram’s approximately one billion monthly active users), with US downloads accounting for nearly half of the total, according to data platform data.ai. Mentions of BeReal also exploded on other social platforms, with #BeReal TikTok hashtag garnering nearly 685 million views and BeReal memes poking fun at what various celebrities and fictional characters might post, garnering tens of thousands of likes on Twitter.
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“The popularity of BeReal, such as the rise of TikTokproves that it is still possible for newcomers to the social media space to make an immediate impact,” says Sensor Tower CEO Alex Malafeev.
Read more: What it’s like to use BeReal, an Instagram competitor that only lets you post 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 waning caused by the likes of TikTok. But BeReal is not without its problems. The application was not only plagued by technical problemsbut it is also likely to soon face a myriad of challenges related to rapid size scaling.
BeReal did not respond to TIME’s request for comment on its plans to adapt to the influx of new users.
To attract more users – and keep them – during this time of uncertainty, BeReal will need to prove it’s more than a passing trend.
The problem with keeping it real
BeReal calls on users to share unposed, unfiltered photos of everyday life. Each user receives a daily notification alerting them that they have two minutes to click a button in the app to take a photo with their phone’s front and rear cameras at the same time and then share the resulting post in a shareable feed. see only from their mutual friends. The app doesn’t allow any editing, and if you miss the two-minute window, your post will be marked as late. You also can’t see any of your friends’ posts until you share your own, a feature that’s meant to prevent “stalking.”
The platform’s efforts to encourage more authentic and less frequent posting have particularly resonated with Gen Z and millennials, with data.ai reporting that as of June, 55% of the app’s users were in the 16-24 age group, and 43% are in the age group 25-44. In April, Maxwell Zuanich, a 19-year-old student at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, told TIME that BeReal’s main appeal is the way it’s set up to ease the pressure to look “perfect” online. “You’ll be doing something great and you’ll start thinking, ‘I hope I get the notification right now,'” he said. “But it just goes to show how you usually only want to post the highlights of your life. That’s what keeps you in the moment.”
If they can continue to operate successfully after carving out a niche, platforms like BeReal, which “debut with a bang, hope to establish a foothold from which to grow,” says Malafeev.
However, Niklas Myhr, clinical associate professor of marketing at Chapman University, known online as “The Social Media Professor”, says that while BeReal’s basic premise of a more authentic social media experience has power, the app’s current method of implementing that idea may need to evolve. “The premise of going against the stylized, staged, manicured, perfectionist, high-impact public is sustainable,” he says. “But the idea of taking a photo at a random two-minute time interval can get old.”
As BeReal grows and users’ friend lists expand, Myhr says BeReal will need 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 satisfied with the friends you have and stop looking to expand your network,” he says. “But then your engagement might decrease if you don’t see as much new.”
Pointing to apps like Snapchat and Clubhouse, Myhr says that once an idea becomes popular, other platforms tend to create their own versions of it. “Clubhouse is struggling now that five or six networks are doing the same thing with social audio,” he says. “Many people may feel that they can [what they’re doing on BeReal] on other platforms.”
Problems of this kind may also become increasingly apparent if BeReal doesn’t fix its technical bugs. The first two weeks of July saw a 254% increase in the number of negative reviews of BeReal’s performance, according to data intelligence platform Apptopia.
The social media business conundrum
Myhr says that as BeReal attracts investors based on its prospects of retaining a large user base, it will need to start generating profits — whether that’s through selling ads, monetizing subscriptions or some other method. In the summer of 2021, BeReal said it received $30 million in funding from Andreessen Horowitz, Accel Partners, DST Global and others. Then, in May, Inside man announced that BeReal is closing a new funding round of $85 million in fresh equity led by DST, which will quadruple its valuation to over $600 million.
“Once they’ve found investors, people will inevitably start asking the big questions: How are you going to generate revenue? How is this business model sustainable?” says Mir. “They will be under pressure. And there are only a few ways you can make money online.
These are challenges other social media have faced.
During last year, Facebook documents led to a cascade of indictments, congressional hearings, and news about how Meta platforms prioritize profits over people. Now that I’ve recorded it the first-ever quarterly revenue decline, Meta continues its efforts to revamp Facebook and Instagram to compete with TikTok. But these changes have resulted in some significant ones user feedback.
Whether BeReal will be able to survive commercially while remaining culturally relevant is still very much in question, says Mir. “It’s easy to dismiss them based on their current performance,” he says. “But if they can refresh ‘how to be real’ in new formats, I think they can stick around for a while.”
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