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In today’s ever changing news cycle where almost nothing is guaranteed, one thing is, the constant influx of some new social media app trying to make its mark in a world increasingly focused on social networking.
Every once in a while amongst this flurry of wannabe Facebooks and Snapchats, a bright new face stands out.
BeReal is built on the premise of users being encouraged to share authentic content.
At a specified time everyday, users are asked to take a BeReal, which clicks a picture using both the front and back facing camera as pictured to the right. Users can retake the BeReal how many ever times they want and can then post the BeReal to their feed for their friends on the platform to see and react to. There’s a limit of 1 BeReal per day, and unless you post yours you can’t see anyone else’s.
Let’s take a look at the stats.
BeReal grew from 200,000 users in 2020 to 1.8 million users in 2021, an 800% increase, and to 27.9 million users in 2022, a 1,450% increase.
If we’re looking at the early growth patterns of successful social media giants like Instagram, these numbers aren’t that far off. So let’s take a look at what is propelling BeReal forward at a time when society is much more critical of social media on the whole.
The app actively puts users at its forefront, not influencers, brands, or addicting content, but users. By adding restrictions to the type of content that someone can post and how often someone can post, BeReal evokes the same feeling that one might get when video chatting a friend or flipping through an old photo album.
By requiring simple and limited posting from its users, the app tackles what most people today see as the biggest problem with social media today — fake and curated content.
On that note, let’s dive a little deeper into how the main fixture of the app, the “BeReal” , has been designed. You’ll see that one of the pictures takes up the main frame while the other picture sits at the corner in the top and users can toggle between the two. There are no filters available to apply on the BeReal to enhance it in any way, really driving home the message to users that this a place for authenticity. You’ll also notice that the background is dark. Typically dark UI patterns are used to increase the focus on the content itself as opposed to what may lie in the background.
BeReal leverages common design patterns meant to foster a sense of virtual intimacy.
The design is simple, effective, and you may be surprised to learn; not all that new.
In fact, the UI is actually what apps like Facetime and Messenger have been using for years. You can see below a comparison of platforms, where both have smaller frames nested inside main frames. If you think about it, video chatting is one of the intimate forms of online connection available since its commercial rise in the early 2000s, keeping alive long distance relationships, friendships, and primarily remote companies. By leveraging a prominent UI that is really the pinnacle of online connection, BeReal has subconsciously fostered a closer sense of community amongst its users.
Custom emojis on BeReal enable users to mimic one of 6 popular emojis and post it to their friends’ posts, as opposed to standard emojis. This element adds a touch of intimacy to the concept of “reacting” to something. For years now, users around the globe have been trained almost mindlessly to “hit that like button”, “subscribe”, or “comment”.
In a way, the motions of using all social media has become the same repetitive mind numbing process of reacting to posts with the same 15 emojis, no matter the platform. BeReal forces users to be more thoughtful of how they interact with others posts because users are literally “putting their face on it”. It removes the feeling of anonymity and adds a feeling of closeness.
BeReal also has a way for its users to look back at their history. Having a history of photos is not a new concept to us as users, we’ve seen it with basically every social media and cloud storage application to exist whether it be Facebook reminding us of memories from seven years ago or Google Photos creating animations of several photos from our latest trip.
BeReal however has an innate advantage that every other photo storage system lacks, the benefit of limited content.
A limitation on posts per day naturally lends itself to a more consolidated history over a longer period of time. After years of seeing thousands of pictures, photos sometimes seem to lose meaning these days. But BeReal manages to capture that magic of looking at an old photo all over again.
BeReal is great but it would be amiss to not point out some of the glaring improvements needed for the platform to stay relevant.
MAKE IT SMOOTHER.
First and foremost, BeReal is glitchy to the point where users can consistently expect an inconsistent user experience. Logging on to BeReal is like spinning the wheel of fortune, you could be blessed with a beautiful experience or you could end up having to pay the spinner 50$. There’s no other nice way to say it, but the biggest threat to losing users that BeReal is facing right now is the fact that users get frustrated because they’re unable to USE the app.
MAKE IT A LITTLE BIT NICER TO LOOK AT.
Secondly, certain parts of the UI take Microsoft Office 2006 a little too seriously. While I understand the appeal of a stripped down aesthetic, there are simple tactics that could be leveraged to elevate the experience while retaining the vibe. Take for example, the comments section. Replying to and interacting with comments doesn’t have to be so static. Through introducing some leveling and engagement mechanisms like comment reactions, the platform could probably up their usage of the comments sections and thereby the app as a whole.
FEATURE SUGGESTION: CREATING BEREAL COMMUNITIES.
The core design paradigm of BeReal is centered around authentic interaction. What’s more authentic than recreating the communities you surround yourself with everyday whilst online? As humans, our interactions with others follow a hierarchical pattern; we have various types of friends and groups of friends, each of which we interact with slightly differently. To more closely mimic how friendships exist in real life, allowing users to create groups of friends to BeReal with and share specific content with might be the next milestone in authenticity for this app.
FEATURE SUGGESTION: ACTIVITIES BASED CONTENT.
BeReal could introduce activities based channels where you can post specific type of content. For example if you join a “gym channel”, you would see content of people around the world posting their “Gym BeReal” everyday. It would both inspire motivation in users and also facilitate connections over a shared bond. It’s not all that different from Facebook groups but with the advantage of limited content. It’s also not that different from searching “#gymreels” on instagram except that there’s no sense of competition over a need to get more views or like. The inherent advantage of BeReal is that users are, in a sense created equal, as they can only post one post a day in a standard format. The people with the best video camera or most time on their hands to create a reel don’t automatically have a leg up.
With a concept like BeReal, success hinges mainly on one factor — daily user participation. What is currently preventing a user from only posting once a week or not posting at all? Nothing. Social incentives are lacking on the platform. Messaging like “12 people have interacted with your friend Ana’s post, post your own BeReal to see it” would be much more effective at persuading users to post than the current once a day notification system that simply tells users “Time to post your BeReal!”.
In a world that is drowning in content, BeReal is like coming up for a breath of fresh air. The real question ends up being, how does BeReal maintain its core virtues on its journey to profitability. It then prompts an even bigger question, is it possible for a social media app to become successful without selling its soul? Only time will tell.
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