Why ByteDance’s Next-Generation App “Lemon8” is focusing on expanding to the U.S.?

Have you heard of an app called “Lemon8”? 

This app is a video and photo-sharing social media platform operated by TikTok’s parent Chinese company, ByteDance. Named after an image derived from a refreshing lemonade, Lemon8 is billed as “an app for sharing fresh and positive values with a focus on Generation Z.”

In Japan, Lemon8 was released in April 2020, and its popularity is slowly rising, especially among young people. According to ByteDance, the app also launched in other countries including Thailand in 2021 and the United Kingdom, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Indonesia in 2022, and the number of monthly active users worldwide reached 5 million in the last fiscal year.

This year, ByteDance plans to release the app officially to the U.S. market. However, there is currently a growing concern in the U.S. that ByteDance is over-promoting Lemon8 to U.S.-based creators in preparation for its expansion into the U.S. market.

TikTok is Under-fire

Concerns have long been raised that TikTok may be sharing sensitive data of U.S. users with the Chinese government, and more than half of states in America today ban the use of Tiktok on government devices.

Two weeks ago, TikTok’s chief executive Shou Chew gave roughly five-hour congressional testimony as the lone witness at a hearing on the dangers of the app and was questioned by lawmakers about Tiktok’s ties to Beijing. People appealed to ban downloading the app U.S.-wide there, too.

TikTok’s chief executive Shou Chew

Despite these concerns about Tiktok, the number of Lemon8’s downloads in the U.S. has skyrocketed in recent months, and it has become now surpassed Pinterest, Tinder, and Zillow to become the top lifestyle app downloaded by iPhone users.

Lindsay Gorman, head of technology and geopolitics at the German Marshall Fund and a former tech adviser for the Biden administration, said, “It’s a social media platform like Instagram, it has to do with gathering information on users and it has the same ownership structure, being a child of ByteDance, so I think the same issues are going to come up.”

What is Lemon8? 

So what exactly is Lemon8? Lemon8 is a platform likely to be a combination of Instagram and Pinterest, and its main target is Generation Z from late teens to mid-20s. It features long blog-like posts with photos and videos, focusing on sharing a diversity of content from fashion, makeup, food, travel, and lifestyle. 

Contents are displayed in two columns on the feed, so there is a lot of information to see at once, a full shopping feature packed with product recommendations and tips, and access to a customized feed based on your own favorites and the posts of the creators you follow.

Lemon8 working hard to attract U.S. creators

Since the beginning of this year, ByteDance has spent a considerable amount of expense on advertising to attract U.S. creators, as evidenced by the campaign activity conducted by influencer marketing companies. 

OSF conducted an interview with a US-based creator, Rachel who received the promotional email about Lomon8’s registration and collaboration through several influencer marketing companies.

On February 28, Rachel received the first invitation email about the Lemon8 sign-up with the message “Join the Movement: Collaborate with Lemon8!” from an influencer marketing company Aspire. On the same day, she also received another email from an influencer marketing company called Influencers.club. It said, “In the next 48 hours, we will accept 10 applications for our initial group of content creators.” Then she did not respond to this e-mail, she received a series of e-mails on March 2 and 4 urging her to register.

On March 15, she got a newsletter for creators from influencer marketing firm Fohr, and they featured the Lemon8 app as the next Tiktok. 

Also, Influencer marketing firm Cohley has been running a paid campaign for creators registered with Lemon8 since March 25 until now. It is eligible for female creators between the ages of 18 and 25, living in the U.S., will be rewarded with $45 after making three submissions to the app during the period. In addition, they define the ideal creators as having “it girl” type content and aesthetic, a track record of producing high quality and engaging fashion/beauty-related photos, and confidence in their style and ability to inspire others through their posts on the Lemon8 platform.

However, Rachel says she has not responded to any marketing firm’s campaign or promotion. “Because Lemon8 is still a new social media platform, I think anyone has a high possibility to be able to become a popular influencer there through buzz. But I have concerns about the private data security from the Tiktok case, so I’m not ready to casually use it yet,” she said.

Official launch in the U.S.?

Lemon8 is currently available for download in the U.S. but has not been officially launched. However, according to an email to its creators, ByteDance is planning a global marketing campaign in May to attract more users.

ByteDance is likely running a backup plan with Lemon8 as a new platform, in case the use of Tiktok is eventually banned throughout the U.S.