Why Gen Z’s new favorite photo app is shaking up social media

No influencers, no ads, no edits and one post per day to ‘be real’ – that’s the foundation of BeReal, a new social media app making waves with Gen Z.

The app – launched by French entrepreneur Alexis Barreyat in 2020 – is the polar opposite of Instagram in concept, and has amassed nearly 2.7 million downloads in the US alone as of May 2022, followed by its native France.

Users can post once a day within the two-minute window allocated by the app, and content disappears after 24 hours and is stored in the user’s private archive. After clicking the notification once a day, two pictures are clicked, one with the rear camera and one with the front camera.

“BeReal doesn’t want to make you famous,” the company’s team said in a statement to Yahoo Finance. “If you want to be an influencer, you can stay on TikTok and Instagram.”

There are no photo filters available and no amount of friends will give the user the upper hand in using the app. Friends can comment and react with ‘RealMojis’, which asks the user to take a mini selfie instead of reacting with regular emojis. Retakes on any post will appear as text with the image alerting the viewer.

“Gen Z values ​​authenticity and rejects social norms,” ​​Maria Beatriz Lopes, a London-based PR representative and early Gen Z adopter of BeReal, told Yahoo Finance. “While Instagram promotes an ‘ideal’ for living, BeReal instead shows the ‘real’ us, no filters. We feel more natural and have more connections with our peers, which is essentially what this generation values.”

“Change how we interact with social media”

BeReal’s popularity compared to Instagram can be reflected through its App Store ranking, as it currently beats both Instagram and Meta (META).

Instagram seemed to have recognized its competition, when it introduced a front- and rear-facing camera feature similar to BeReal last week.

“It will always be new in how we communicate digitally, and if Meta takes notice and adds similar features, then yes, BeReal is changing the way we interact with social media,” Sarah Keeble, director of marketing at Verb, a digital marketing agency, told Yahoo Finance. “What will be interesting to see will be if consumers continue to use the platform or similar features.”

Data from Apptopia indicates that BeReal downloads increased by 315% since the start of 2022, making it the second most downloaded free app on iPhone in the US

The app challenges the traditional income generator in social media. Many in social media have called it the “anti-Instagram,” especially since Instagram relies on ad revenue with the U.S. being the leading social media ad market, according to Statista.

“Meta has monopolized social media for over a decade,” Keeble said. “They’ve innovated quickly to keep up with their competition. We saw them introduce stories and VR fillets when Snapchat overtook them on the app charts.”

Screenshots from the BeReal app.  (Photo: App Store)

Screenshots from the BeReal app. (Photo: App Store)

Brands making money on BeReal

BeReal has also started to gain momentum among large companies.

As of 2018, more than 97% of Fortune 500 companies use social media as their primary marketing platform, according to Entrepreneur.

Mexican fast food chain Chipotle ( CMG ) has started using BeReal to reach its majority Gen Z user base, as it announced a promo code for a free entree on the app to its first 100 customers.

PacSun, an American retail brand, has also used the app for marketing purposes.

A screenshot of Chipotle's promo through the BeReal app.  (Be real)

A screenshot of Chipotle’s promo through the BeReal app. (Be real)

“In reality, not many people want to change their marketing,” Keeble said. “But there is already a movement in the industry to share more authentic and human content. This has been led through the humor and lo-fi nature of TikTok. Again, we can trace this back to the need for human connection – perhaps an influence from the pandemic.”

If BeReal’s platform continues to grow, there will likely be more advertising opportunities for innovators, she said.

However, Keeble added, “I suspect the majority of brands will be reluctant. We still encourage brands to come on TikTok.”

Tanya is a writer for Yahoo Finance.

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