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BeReal or the paradox of authenticity on social media in 2022

BeReal or the paradox of authenticity on social media in 2022
Written by
Joël Cain

Joël Cain

A few months ago, we wrote an article about the social platform TikTok their target audiences. The positive response we received from readers demonstrated the importance of keeping an eye on the changing use of digital platforms and the importance of continually observing user behaviour in order to stay ahead of the game.

Today, we repeat the experiment with an analysis of a digital platform that is still little known in Canada, but which has experienced phenomenal propulsion since its launch: BeReal.

With just over 21.6 million downloads since its founding in 2020 and an estimated value of just over $600 million, BeReal is a social platform that focuses primarily on creating "authentic" content. In other words, its aim is to provide its users with the possibility of publishing and accessing content without filters, without advertising and above all: real-time content.

How does it work?

Once an account is created, BeReal users will receive one notification per day at a random time of day. Once they receive the notification, they will have two minutes to "capture a moment", taking a picture of what they are doing at that moment. A unique feature of the concept is that the application takes two photos simultaneously, using cameras on the front and back of the users' smartphone. So you can see what your friends are doing and see their reactions. Watch out for latecomers! Those who take their photos after the two minutes have elapsed will have to post a Late BeReal and subscribers will be notified that you have posted late.

In the two minutes you have to capture your moment, you can retake your photos as many times as you like, however your subscribers will see how many times it has been done. Your post will remain active until the next notification and only you will have access to your old posts.

In other words, BeReal does not encourage the production of "aesthetically beautiful" or "aesthetically ugly" content. If the notification comes at the time of a beautiful sunset on the shore of a lake, so much the better, but that is not BeReal's mission and that is not why users use the application.

A taste for authenticity

If TikTok's slogan is "Real people, real videos" BeReal's is "Your Friends for Real". The emerging social media all have the notion of authenticity at the heart of their missions. The question is: why does authenticity trump entertaining, dynamic or simply aesthetically pleasing content?

An American survey of 10,560 Facebook users in 2020 has shown that there is a correlation between the well-being of users and the authenticity of the content published on their social platforms. The study's findings show that presenting an idealized person on social media requires much more effort than presenting someone who publishes content that is more in line with their self-perception.

Does this necessarily mean that we have moved beyond the performative "like & follow" culture associated with traditional social media? Several analyses show that even if BeReal presents itself as a social media "unlike the others", there is still a desire among users to create content that will increase the chances of generating engagement with their followers. In the end, if we wanted to be 100% authentic, some would suggest to simply not publish on social media.

An opportunity for brands and organizations?

It is too early to tell if the BeReal craze is real or just a bubble. For the time being, it is not possible to place BeReal ads and the app is too recent for any concrete analysis to be done. However, we can certainly see this as a lesson for organizations and brands, as it reconfirms this trend of users seeking authentic content on social media. The question remains: How can companies and organizations adapt to this trend?

Brands and organizations must first determine how they will present themselves on social media and what type of identity they will adopt. Users who identify with a community are more likely to engage with the message or advertisement that matches the chosen identity. It is therefore important that the identity reflects the values and lifestyles of the target audience. This is where the authenticity of a brand or organization becomes fundamental.

The development of an authentic identity for a company on social media is complex and consists of two main elements: the existence (or absence) of the essential and fundamental characteristics of a desired identity, and the company's ongoing and interactive performance with its audience. For example, a company such as McDonald's on Twitter, which chooses to adopt a more 'detached' identity, where the production of content that is closer to the average user's content is fully assumed, is a form of authenticity because it humanizes the company.

Humanize the content of your brand or organization

Authenticity on social media for a brand or an organization starts with humanizing it.

A recent study by Social Sprout reveals that when a CEO has an active social presence, 70% of consumers feel more connected to that brand. In the same study, nearly two thirds (65%) of respondents said that when a CEO regularly uses social media, consumers feel like real people are running the company. Finally, the study clearly shows that the more companies give a voice to their employees, the more consumers (72%) feel a strong connection to the company.

That said, as we await the next digital sensation, whether it's on BeReal or elsewhere, brands and organizations can already tap into this trend towards authenticity. Whether it's putting a face to our content, telling human stories, talking about our downfalls and learning from them, there's nothing like the real and true to make our content authentic.

If you need help navigating through the changes in the digital world, our team of experts is here to support you.

——— Joël Cain is a former Consultant at NATIONAL Public Relations