Salzman says the presence of brands and celebrities on his platform will not be characterized by grandiosity. Instead, the app’s spontaneous nature will strip these idolized figures and brands of their glamor and larger-than-life personas.
Timing Is Everything
Jeremy Goldman, Senior Director at the marketing research firm Insider Intelligence, compares the objective of BeReal’s new features to that of Instagram’s Stories. While Stories were meant to highlight casual, spur-of-the-moment snapshots of everyday life, the presence of public figures and corporate entities reshaped their impact. “When celebrities and major creators got involved, Stories became a lot more curated,” Goldman says. “It would be a surprise if there didn’t wind up being a degree of curation [on BeReal] if this all goes ‘to plan.’”
Brands have been experimenting with BeReal for a while. And February 6 won’t be the first time celebrities will log on. Public figures—including Billie Eilish and Joe Jonas—have used the app informally, and BeReal has (presumably also informally) toyed with casual celebrity partnerships.
For example, one daily BeReal photo prompt went out at the exact same time as the release of Taylor Swift’s highly anticipated album, 1989 (Taylor’s Version). Salzman, recalling the surprising serendipity of this timing, coyly asked, “Who would have thought,” subtly implying that this synchronization was intentional. (This is despite the app’s official statement claiming it “truly does not know” when notifications are sent).
“It was beautiful because you could see millions of Swifties taking their BeReal of the moment where they discovered the new album,” Salzman says. “In the future, you could imagine them tagging Taylor Swift for that moment, and then potentially getting reshared.” Salzman imagines that the new feature will add to the fan experience, but declined to answer whether he plans to time future BeReal notifications with celebrity and brand announcements.
Brands in particular will have to be especially calculated in their use of the app, says MaryLeigh Bliss, YPulse’s chief content officer. “It has to be, in some way, a promotional moment,” she says. If the timing of the notification is truly unknown to brands, they’ll have to work hard to correct for the unpredictability of the notification—a given brand’s social media manager can’t be caught at a competitor’s store, after all.
“I think there’s a lot of construction that can go around these moments,” says Bliss. “And I think if you are a public facing figure, you’re likely going to be really strategic about what you’re showing.”
The BeReal experience so far has differed dramatically from that of TikTok and Instagram. Both typically host feeds saturated with heavily filtered faces, digitally altered bodies, tightly edited compositions, wordy graphics, and branded content, all curated in such a way that often prioritizes the platforms’ most impersonal posts. In contrast, BeReal, with its charming dullness, seeks to combat some of legacy social media’s toxicity by discouraging the false glorification of everyday life.
French entrepreneur Romain Salzman came on board as BeReal’s COO in 2021, about a year after its initial launch, and a year before activity on the platform peaked—in November 2022, 21 percent of North Americans ages 13 to 17 reported using the app, and it was named Apple’s “App of the Year” the same year.
Now, its grip on the public consciousness is slipping; just 10 percent of that same demographic still use the app. BeReal has been slow to adopt new features, possibly in an effort to maintain its reputation as a people-first platform. “They’re realizing that their market penetration a few years in is just not where it could be,” says Goldman. “The platform has just been a bit slow to take that money and to be receptive to it.”
But the primitive model is not sustainable from a business standpoint, Goldman says. “It’s very difficult to get more money from any investor when you say, ‘We’re totally fine where we are. We’re an afterthought in the social media world and we’re cool with that,’” he says, noting that as of 2023, four percent of Gen Z and just one percent of the overall population used BeReal, according to his firm’s research. “Good luck raising a little bit more to launch new features if that’s what your MO is.”
While eventual monetization is certainly part of the plan, according to Salzman, it’s “definitely not a priority today.” Nevertheless, he is committed to preserving the app’s unpretentious reputation.