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Shake Shack’s use of BeReal

Burger and Milkshake chain Shake Shack is making use of the photo app BeReal to get in front of the next generation of shoppers.

“We’re always pushing ourselves to connect with fans in new, creative ways — and we also want to tap new audiences,” Amanda DiAntonio, senior manager of social media at Shake Shack, said via email. “When we think there’s promise in an emerging channel, and it aligns with our brand, we want to be there early.”

BeReal doesn’t allow for advertising and naturally this has proven to be a bug bear for marketers meaning that Shake Shack’s efforts are purely organic and experimental. The company’s presence on more mainstream social media is strong, with over 800k followers on Instagram and almost 100k on Twitter. However, this organic choice is spurred by the thought that while they sit “in a category where most other brands have significantly larger marketing spends and more resources, leveraging an unpaid, organic social media channel is worth exploring” according to DiAntonio.

As for now, the company’s content strategy is made up of real time, behind-the-scenes posts, including photoshoots, menu tastings and events. As the platform grows, DiAntonio said there’s potential to include more behind-the-scenes looks from international partners, suppliers and customers. So far this year, Shake Shack has spent more than $5 million on digital advertising, significantly up from the $2.8 million spent in 2021, according to Pathmatics. According to Kantar, Shake Shack spent an estimated $1.5 million on advertising, slightly less than the $2.6 million spent the year prior. (Kantar figures do not include social spend as Pathmatics figures do.)

Shake Shack follows in the steps of other brands to jump on the BeReal bandwagon including e.l.f cosmetics and Chipotle. With Instagram and TikTok introducing their own versions of BeReal we can certainly expect to see even more brands active on BeReal, according to Victoria Bachan, managing director of creator commerce company Whalar’s talent management division, Whalar Talent. 

The major challenge when it comes to brands utilising newer platforms seems to be storytelling. “What is tough with newer platforms is that brands have to figure out how to utilise it to share their brand narrative and story,” she said in an email. “We have seen firsthand how brands that are early adopters of new platforms can win and in a very organic and meaningful way.” Duolingo’s presence on TikTok is an example of that early adoption, she added. 

Many marketers, including myself, aren’t sold on the potential of BeReal. While I think it adds a wholesome edge to a brand image through its ability to share behind the scenes, lo-fi footage, I would say it certainly has a shelf life. The issue with BeReal in general is that it ends up being the same content over and over again. People making bags in the studio, the same team members sitting at their computers etc because at the end of the day, reality is…pretty boring, especially if you’re trying to get things done. 

For now, its marketing capabilities are limited to testing grounds, said Leslie North, executive vice president and head of strategy at Swift agency.

“You can test and learn things. And you can fail quietly. Failing is not a bad thing because you’re learning from the things that you’re doing,” she said. “Right now, it’s a good place to try to learn different behaviours that people are doing.”

In all fairness, Shake Shack didn’t say whether BeReal would become a mainstay in its social media strategy. And the next few months will be telling as the social media platform continues to tweak itself and roll out updates.

“Right now, we’re carving out our own path for how we see BeReal working for Shake Shack, but we’re also curious to see if the app starts to cater to brands a bit more,” DiAntonio told Digiday in an email. “We plan to continue with this test over the next couple of months and assess as we head into the new year.”

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