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When will BeReal become an advertising machine?

BeReal, if you have not come across it, is a social media platform that has ravaged American college campuses this past year and has naturally infiltrated the general public. Originating as a French social media platform developed by Alexis Barreyat and Kevin Perreau, BeReal has come to dominate the American mediascape through its secure college ambassador program, which promised to pay out $50-100 to its special marketers. 

As an idea, BeReal is one of those odd social media platforms, the success of which is secured through its novelty; the consumer being allowed the spotlight only once a day while still allowing for a constant scroll and contact with those one cares about. On BeReal you receive a notification and are meant to take a photo within a two-minute window and then see others that you follow on the app commence in the same thing; the philosophy being that you will post a photo of yourself living as you actually do in the real world, and that is somehow entertaining, useful or necessary. 

Over the past several months, there has been a discussion about the usefulness of the application, or whether or not one is even real as portrayed on the application. Now, I am not here to ask these questions or question whether or not BeReal as an idea is unethical or poses a serious risk to individuals; rather, I wish to ask the question that actually decides the fate of this seemingly fledgling application, and many more to come — how will the company make money?

This question always seems to pop into my head when I think about the rise of a social media platform with a novel twist. Similar to many other platforms, such as Snapchat, Facebook, TikTok and YouTube, BeReal started out as an idea that could conceivably be forged into a free package let loose for the public to consume. BeReal, being perceived positively and profitably in the eyes of investors, received $30 million ushered in by Andreessen Horowitz, a venture capital firm founded in part by the literal egg-head Marc Andreessen, and Accel, a private equity firm, in April 2022. Then in May, BeReal registered $85 million ushered in by DST Global, another venture capital firm. Just as Facebook and Snapchat did in 2007-2009 and 2011-2014, respectively, BeReal is currently in the business of accumulating users who will then help to collect  more users. Soon, in the eyes of investors, BeReal will be one robust and welcomed platform, and it will be time to begin generating revenue, which begs the question: which path will BeReal inevitably embark on?

The company could opt for the standard advertising scheme that shows the same belated movie trailer or risque, poorly produced iPhone game that has the same advertising model. Moreover, if the company was feeling friskier, they could go for a more targeted advertising scheme that allows for a myriad of competing material to personalize the message for the consumer, akin to what Snapchat has adopted. Maybe BeReal could demonstrate the real life of select celebrities, athletes or internet personalities, with completely organic portrayals of brands being used. If BeReal wanted to select the ultimate, advanced package, pioneered by the likes of Facebook and Google, they could tap into that sweet market of private data collection and selling. 

BeReal is simply on its way to being a strong advertising machine in its own right, or having a logic that is compelling or idiosyncratic enough to be adopted by another strong advertising machine. The question remains, what is wrong with this destined path?

While the application may appear silly and idle enough to do away with a heightened inspection, there exists a heedless and deceitful rationale that must underlie all of these ideas if they are to be realized. As their Privacy Policy, updated as of August 2, 2021, brilliantly displays, “by accepting the Terms of Use, you confirm that you have read and accept without limitation or qualification this Privacy Policy, which forms an integral part of the ToU. In case of disagreement with one or more of its conditions, the User is free not to use or no longer to use our services (especially in case of modification of the terms of the Privacy Policy). That little caveat at the end, “especially in case of modification of the terms of the Privacy Policy,” illustrates the corrupt intent that lies at the real crux of any startup that deals with human behavior and interaction: how will we turn a profit once we acquire enough consumers?

Social media companies, investors and the like take great pleasure in lauding their unwavering faith in executing an application for the sake of “public utility,” for the sake of a “public good;” nevertheless, what is truly at stake for these companies is whether or not their “idea” will be invested in, imitated more successfully, and created into an IPO where they can then go on to worry about their shareholders. 

An idea like BeReal may be initiated through a positive root, but will always bloom as another way to learn and extract from the patterns of behavior that, alas, so many college and high school students engage in. BeReal, as discussed on their “Privacy Policy” is able to see:

  • “Connection Data: IP address, date of registration date of your late connection;
  • Data about how you interact with other Users: the number of friends and invitations, comments left on Content shared by your friends, the friends with whom you interact the most;
  • Data about how you use our Services, including use of RealMojis, time of posting, number of late BeReal posts, etc.”

BeReal has primed its application, explicitly or implicitly, to be easily adapted to an extraction scheme, with a quick change to its terms and conditions. BeReal is set to follow in the footsteps of its predecessors and prey on the faith-holding youth with a hope of their own that it will penetrate a mature generation and a generation to come. 

Ultimately, BeReal is not a malicious company, per se. The company is simply compelled to adhere to a malicious logic. 

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