I regret to inform you that there’s yet another social network that matters.
BeReal now has more than 10 million active users, a huge jump from 10,000 just a year ago.
The premise behind BeReal is simple – once a day, you get a prompt to create a post. This happens by going into the app, which will take a photo from the front and back of the camera. The idea is a real time glimpse into someone’s life, free from the excessive filters and setups that now pervade perfectly edited Instagram feeds. As an extra incentive for people to participate, you can’t see your friends' posts unless you have posted a BeReal of your own that day.
The rise in the app’s popularity is part of a greater trend, one worth considering for its implications for short and long form communications.
One caveat – I’m of a vintage where I’m a suspect deliverer of the message. See this tweet from August – “If you’re over 30 get off BeReal and go BeThere for your wife & children.”
I’m less interested in the mechanics of what makes a perfect BeReal –Should the forward facing shot always be taken exactly the same time as the rear facing one? How often should I sacrifice being ‘late’ for the sake of a more interesting snap – and more in the larger challenge it represents for communications.
To oversimplify things, social media teams generally started as experimental, lightly staffed departments with an emphasis on iteration. They slowly evolved into larger institutions, with more systems, rules and procedures. A single Tweet can require the approval of three, five or more executives across departments.
Creators are even getting meta about the approval process – there have been a few TikToks where the social media managers of corporate accounts use months old pieces of audio after ‘finally’ getting approval to post from the legal team.
Financial firms can have an even more difficult time wading through the morass of posting, as they are required to comply with a thicket of regulation around communications and disclosure. There have been years long debates, for example, about just how much information companies have to squeeze into a single image attached to a Tweet.
If we look at the last three major social media trends to really break through to a massive audience – TikTok, Clubhouse and now BeReal – they all are in part or entirely an attempt to push towards direct, simple creator-led communications.
This is incredibly challenging for people in both internal and external marketing positions. Marketing is expected to operate on the same timescales of the rest of the company – monthly reports, quarterly plans and annual reviews. But that’s not the way communications works today. Attempting to post according to an artificial cadence can mean – at best – missing out on important conversations or sending transmissions into an unnoticed void. Even worse is risking your brand’s reputation with content or tone that’s out of sync with what’s happening in the world.
That’s the problem – the challenge is moving towards solutions. I’m not suggesting that financial brands need to totally move away from planning and move towards a completely improvisational style. Rather we need to bring in more space for reacting to mood and message that feels appropriate in the moment.
Here are three thoughts about what that new approach might involve:
Interrogate your audience’s media use. This needs to go beyond where people create posts but also networks where they might be lurking and absorbing information. I’ve not tweeted in 18 months, but I’m generally quite familiar with the current imbroglio enveloping the platform. When deciding where to go next, look for gaps in places where people are increasingly gathering. Don’t be afraid to ask customers or prospects what they are doing – simple, subjective surveys can be the start of a more concerted effort.
Consider building tests into development. Even though Cognito stopped our sessions on Clubhouse after six weeks as interest plummeted, I don’t see jumping into live broadcasting to be a failure. We took ideas from Clubhouse production to streamline how we create podcasts for clients and the agency. We were then able to talk informatively to clients about how the platform worked and its benefits, as well as its challenges.
Embrace the concept of agile development and execution. See how the time to publication can be streamlined. Consider moving to an instant publication model as long as certain parameters and rules are followed. Instead of spending time exhaustively reviewing each post, consider spending that time discussing the strategy and what you are trying to convey with communications – and then ensure you have the technology stack, guidelines, and training to empower your social team to activate quickly.
These new social networks have plenty of utility in attracting business talent. A clever TikTok or an account takeover from a friendly employee can be a huge boon in the quest to stand out in a crowded market for employees.
I cannot pretend to know whether BeReal is the future of how we are communicating. For now, I’m giving it two minutes a day. But I do believe it is a sign of a direction of travel for how we share information and an early warning for those too slow to adapt.
Jon Schubin is a director in Cognito’s London office