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  • It’s Time to #BeReal: The New Kid on the Block that has TikTok and Instagram playing CopyCat

    It’s Time to #BeReal: The New Kid on the Block that has TikTok and Instagram playing CopyCat

    since tiktok, bereal is the first social media account i’ve signed up for that i actually regularly use in daily life, and that those around me have started to use with equal enthusiasm. a friend of mine recently referred to it as ‘the new tiktok’.

    the logo for bereal. source: openverse. licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

    i personally downloaded bereal in april of this year (2022) – the platform itself, created by a french company, is barely two years old. and despite it’s youth in the world of social media platforms, bereal is making waves in a way that is comparable to tiktok’s surge in popularity the past four years.

    with a ridiculous 29200% increase in downloads in the past year that now sits at over 10 million daily active users, its the first app to achieve that kind of exponential growth since. with bereal reaching the #1 spot on the ios app store in july 2022, and a current valuation (with no means of making revenue) of 600 million euros from investors, tiktok is arguably no longer the hottest, newest thing on the block. 

    BeReal Daily Active Users Visualization. source: Online Optimism. licensed under CC BY 4.0.

    but before we do a deep dive into the significance of bereal as a digital platform, what is it? 

    in a bid to promote authenticity and the ever evasive feeling of ‘living in the moment’ on social media, bereal is essentially a photosharing app. 

    each day at a random time, users are sent out a notification (one that i’ve come to recognise at the drop of a hat) that says ‘it’s time to bereal’. upon clicking the notification, users are then given two minutes to take a picture of whatever they’re up to at the moment – the dual camera function takes a picture using both the front and back camera at the same time to make the resulting picture even more ‘real’. 

    a screenshot of the daily BeReal notification on my phone. source: me.

    each affordance is valiantly aimed at promoting transparency and capturing a genuine moment in time. bereal is devoid of filters and editing features – so editing out a pimple or even drawing over a messy room isn’t an option. you also can’t see other people’s posts until you’ve posted- and every bereal disappears after 24 hours. no chance of stalking profiles here!

    the number of times you retake your bereal is also public for your friends to see. whereas instagram stories are populated with nights out, thirst traps and highlight reels, when i scroll through bereal i’m presented with people vegetating in bed watching netflix, smashing out an assignment or even taking a sh*t. 

    an assortment of bereals i have taken over the past couple of months. as you can see, most if not all are me watching netflix or studying. source: me.

    bereal is designed to be the antidote to curation and inauthenticity – the company’s mission according to their website is to help users ‘discover who your friends really are in their daily life’. bereal’s description on the app store even tells users that if they want to become influencers, they can ‘stay on tiktok and instagram’. 

    bereal’s meteoric rise has all the cool kids on the playground taking notice, and even playing copycat. this is pretty incredible for a platform that was virtually unknown at the beginning of this year. both tiktok and instagram have already tried their hand at incorporating the magic of bereal onto their platforms.

    BeReal in the Apple App Store by Online Optimism. licensed through CC BY 4.0.

    tiktok has announced ‘tiktok now’ – a feature than also prompts users every 24 hours or so to share dual-camera photo/short videos, and instagram has begun working on a similar feature called ig candid challenges. both instagram and snapchat have also already introduced dual-camera modes in their photo taking functions. 

    while tiktok and bereal vastly differ in terms of platform affordances, the two apps seem to possess the same je nais se quois that places them at the forefront of cultural consciousness. i talked about how tiktok set itself apart, and set the standard for social media apps in a previous blogpost. they are trendy, relevant, and seemingly authentic. they spark conversation, and become a staple in our daily routines. 

    a tweet showing a submission to twitter account @bestbereals, in which the bereal user is meeting president of the united states joe biden. source: @bestbereals on twitter.

    accounts dedicated to showcasing compilations of the ‘best bereals’ (think skydiving, graduations, and getting arrested) are popping up across social media – sharing tiktok’s capacity for virality, although through different means. bereal is becoming a noun and a verb, like google – and has even infiltrated instagram posts.

    a short explaining bereal on saturday night live. source: saturday night live youtube channel.

    it’s become a trend to include an exported version of previous bereals to be included in a carousell instagram post. it’s been referenced on snl, and the company’s social media presence, particularly on twitter and tiktok, capitalises on virality and meme culture, employing a casual, funny brand voice like netflix. 

    a tweet from the official bereal twitter account, taking a dig at tesla ceo elon musk. source @bereal_app on twitter.
    a video from bereal’s official tiktok account poking fun at influencers attempted use of the app. source: @bereal on tiktok.

    bereal is no doubt pushing the boundaries of what digital and social media can come to represent in our daily lives. being such a new phenomenon, its hard to say how bereal will fit into the world of social media marketing and advertising, particularly as company representatives emphasise their resistance towards introducing third party advertising features. but one things for sure, bereal has taken the world of digital media by storm, and everyone’s scrambling to be just as relevant.

  • #Sponsored: TikTok, The Rise of Influencer Marketing, and why Ads cant be Ads

    #Sponsored: TikTok, The Rise of Influencer Marketing, and why Ads cant be Ads

    as long as advertising has existed, humans have hated it.

    we’ve all rolled our eyes and waited impatiently for the skip option to pop up on the pre youtube video ad. i had an aunt who, when watching any form of tv, had a zero tolerance policy for ads, and would mute them when they came on in between shows. i remember as a little kid, looking at billboards or print ads in magazines and wondering – what’s the point of doing that? just because they show me something doesn’t mean I’m gonna buy it! 

    humans hate being told what to wear, eat, do….. and above all the feeling of being marketed to. to be analyzed and tracked in the way that marketing and advertising necessitates feels unnatural and a little sinister. it’s a vaguely Orwellian invasion of privacy.

    cartoon drawing of person being puppeteered. source: Pixabay. free for commercial use.
    image: just do it- serena williams nike billboard 1298. source: brechtbug. image is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

    a woman using smartphone and ringlight. source: free for commercial use.
    connection graphic. source: Pixabay. free for commercial use

    scrolling through your TikTok ‘For You Page’, you’ll find an in-feed ad generally every 5-8 videos. these are labelled ‘sponsored’ in relatively small lettering in the bottom left corner of the video, blending branded content seamlessly with the rest of the feed.

    brands are increasingly using humorous viral ‘sounds’ in advertising, which include popular remixes, snippets of dialogue from movies and TV shows, and even memes to promote their products. i often find myself consuming these with as much enthusiasm as i would a regular TikTok, until I realise 15 seconds in that i’m actually chuckling at *gasp* an AD! 

    person holding android phone with the tiktok app open. source: free for commercial use.

    i would argue the core of Instagram is aesthetics, but the core of TikTok is trends and virality- dances, challenges, the use of viral ‘sounds’ to generate memes and more. advertising that mimics this type of content reads way more authentic than a carefully curated sponsored Instagram post or story. 

    influencers on the platform are well placed to create content that promotes a brand or product without seeming at all like an ad. one of my favourite types of videos to watch are product ‘hauls’ – essentially a compilation of products that the influencer in question has been gifted from a particular brand.


    Ughhhh yes. Code “SOPHD15” all from @SNDYS

    ♬ Stay Alive VS 50 C TIK TOK – imanonair

    Simple fits >> from @culturekings queens. Code “SOPHIA”

    ♬ original sound – Phoebe
    tiktok videos of Sophia Begg’s hauls and try ons, which are collaborations with clothing brands SNDYS and culture kings. the captions prompt viewers to use her discount code. source: tiktok user @sophadophaa

    Australian TikTok star Sophia Begg (@sophadophaa), regularly posts these as well as ‘try-ons’ of clothes from partner brands such as Tiger Mist, Beginning Boutique and Jaded London. i’m being influenced really well – the craziest part is I’m being advertised to and i like it! i, and millions of others, willingly seek out these types of videos as a form of entertainment. it’s a great way to see what’s on offer from a brand, so much more personal than just browsing a website – and of course i feel like I’m getting a real, authentic product recommendation from a trusted friend. 

    screenshot of the #tiktokmademebuyit on tiktok’s web platform. picture: me!
    tweet from @adweek with statistics on tiktok and purchasing habits. source: @adweek on twitter.

    while TikTok is relatively new as a platform in social media and influencer marketing, it is fast becoming one of the most critical places to advertise, particularly in reaching a younger consumer market.  i’d say to all marketers, business owners and even those who are looking to create a personal brand on social media for themselves- TikTok is the place to do it. 

  • I Saw It On TikTok!

    I Saw It On TikTok!

    How can it be that a barely 3 year-old app has come to almost dictate what foods we eat, which products fly off shelves and sell out, and what songs top the charts?

    The way TikTok has penetrated almost every aspect of life, from fashion to food to politics, is one of my more frequently contemplated topics – and one I approach with equal parts fascination and concern. I think back towards the end of my late teens, when TikTok was first relaunched to the international market after merging with then-popular, and the app first started to gain traction.

    The first word that comes to mind is ‘cringe’. This was when TikTok was basically Musical-ly repackaged- and what that meant was mostly lipsync, dance and comedy videos, with the majority of TikTok’s users (at least in the mind of myself and my peers) being tweens and young teens. It was, to say the least, uncool. It was something your younger siblings had – think Fortnite dances, slime videos and 12 year olds doing sped up lipsyncs _ and had absolutely nothing to do with me, let alone advertising, global fashion trends, celebrities and world politics. The names Addison Rae and Charli D’Amelio meant nothing to me, or anyone else.

    Then came what I like call the ‘Whipped Coffee Revolution’. And everything changed.

    You know how everyone seems to remember where they were and what they were doing when Michael Jackson’s death was announced? I think everyone has a similar story with when they first downloaded TikTok.

    I remember March 2020, living in a tiny shared apartment with my best friend, when the very first two-week quarantine was announced. We were so scarily ignorant of the seriousness of it all- what was a fortnight off uni? When I think of those two weeks in quarantine as a then 19-year-old, before the devastation and permanence of Covid-19 and lockdown set in, I think of these things:

    1. The complete and utter lack of toilet paper in what seemed to be every Woolies known to man
    2. Incessant bread baking
    3. House party – whatever happened to that?
    4. Chloe Ting workouts and…..
    5. So. Much. Whipped. Coffee.
    Compilation of TikToks detailing the experience of the beginning of the pandemic

    The whipped coffee trend, popularized in video (with now over 10 million views) by TikTok user @imhannahcho, was one of the first and arguably most prevalent TikTok trends – and certainly what kicked me down the TikTok rabbit hole. I remember begrudgingly downloading the ‘cringe’ app because why not, I was bored, and it could be fun to waste time on. I didn’t have an inkling of how the app would come to mediate almost all of my consumption – be it the media (books, TV, films, music) I consumed, the food I cooked, the exercises I did, the clothes I wanted (and bought!) and how I decided to do my makeup and skincare.


    yes i hand whisked this whipped coffee for like 20 mins bc my mommy wanted to try it 👻 she loved it!! (달고나 커피) #korean #fyp #aesthetic

    ♬ Put your head on my shoulder cover by karlo – K a r l o
    Original TikTok post of the Whipped Coffee trend started by TikTok user @iamhannahcho. Post: Tiktok.

    The ‘Whipped Coffee Revolution’ saw an exponential surge in users during the onset of Covid 19 – with a growth rate of 180% amongst users aged 15-25. This made TikTok the most downloaded app in 2021, reaching a 1 billion-strong user base by September 2021.

    Now, the power of TikTok is such that you can physically see the impact of the app around you. A recommendation from a single user that a product as simple as Cerave Moisturising Lotion ‘completely transformed their skin’ can cause a chain reaction, with the products in question quite literally flying off the shelves. I purchased my first Cerave product on recommendation from TikTok ‘skinfluencer’ ‘Skincare by Hyram’ – and for a while he became the be-all and end- all of skincare advice for both myself and countless other TikTok users. Hyram is great, but at the end of the day, he’s no dermatologist.

    Comedy TikTok from user @saltysig observing the impact of skincare influencer Hyram on sales of Cerave TikToks. Post: TikTok.

    Hyram is one of many skinfluencers who have been criticized by dermatologists and doctors for promoting skincare trends such as ‘slugging’, in which Vaseline or similar occlusives are applied thickly to the face overnight – a practice that can severely worsen acne in some users. The low barrier to entry, and the algorithmic, visual nature of TikTok as a platform means that anyone can blow up, and as such the information that gets put out there can lack nuance and accuracy.

    Other notable #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt products (many of which I’ve bought myself) include the Maybelline Lash Sensational Sky High Mascara, Charlotte Tilbury Blush, Pink Stuff, pheromone perfumes and the Revlon Hair Dryer Brush. Feta cheese went viral and subsequently faced a supply shortage when a recipe for baked feta pasta under hashtag #FetaPasta went viral (with almost 1 billion views).

    TikTok absolutely dominates the trend cycle – as Vox writer Rebecca Jennings writes: ‘Fashion is just TikTok now.’ YouTube fashion critic ModernGurlz, has observed the rise of ‘TikTok fashion’- think the resurgence of Y2K trends, cargo pants/skirts, denim, corsets, major cutouts, and streetwear. Many are even starting to base their persona around distinct TikTok ‘aesthetics’ – like ‘Clean Girl’, ‘Cottage Core’, ‘Dark Academia’ and ‘Coconut Girl’.

    TikTok’s unique propensity to make products go viral and sell out – facilitated by its unmatched algorithms and collection of user data, has placed the app at the forefront of marketing consciousness. Marketing expert on targeting younger demographics Gregg Witt observes how brands prioritise marketing for TikTok- be it through creating content suitable for TikTok’s narrow vertical video style, or even appointing ‘Chief TikTok Officers’.

    Tiktok’s relative youth as an app also contributes to its capacity to create organic reach, and allows companies to jump on trends and use ‘sounds’ to not only market products, but give consumers insight into a companies brand identity.

    Consumers naturally gravitate towards those brands and/or influencers they deem authentic. TikTok influencers such as Mikayla Nogueira, a makeup and skincare creator, along with the personable nature of TikTok as a platform, are extremely well placed to sell you things by recommending and endorsing products. On TikTok, ‘inauthenticity is rabidly sniffed out and policed’, and allows creators to harness the power of traditional world of mouth marketing, and amplify it a thousand times over. It’s easy to see how TikTok gets you to buy absolutely anything- you get the feeling that everyone you see is your best friend recommending you a product that’s totally changed their lives.