If you haven’t heard of Lemon8, its name won’t be unrecognisable for much longer. It is the ByteDance owned sister app of TikTok and launched in Japan in 2020. Lemon8 describes itself as a “content sharing platform for a youthful community” where its users can discover “beautiful, authentic, and diverse content.”
Think of Lemon8 like Instagram and Pinterest, for a Gen Z-type audience, merged together: the polished photos that you’d find on Instagram, alongside the focus on products and categorization features from Pinterest with a sprinkle of the lifestyle topics including fashion and food that have helped set the platform apart from its peers.
More focused on photos than video, Lemon8 could be an easy Instagram rival. I literally just downloaded it while researching for this article. It does look a little like a baby app and has an almost exact layout to TikTok in that there is a For You page and a following page. The cover images tend to have text such as “vacation outfit inspo” or “weekday dinner recipes” which is very Pinterest-esque but aesthetically are very gen Z via flash digicam images and a lofi feel.
The exciting part is that according to a report by The New York Times last week, Lemon8 boasts the same algorithm as TikTok meaning that it could promise growth for early birds. Honestly, to me, the app looks more like a modern Tumblr in that it has a collage feel – that’s hot.
For now, the app seems to be putting creators first — maybe too much if the oversaturation of influencers on the platform is anything to go on. TikTokers Passion Williems (@passionwilliems), Natasha Mathurent (@natashascloset) and Gabrielle Victor (@gabivictorr), for example, are among a number of creators that have already hopped on the Lemon8 bandwagon in the past week or so, in a bid to be the early adopters of the app. They have already amassed 2011, 807 and 186 followers on Lemon8, respectively. I have also just downloaded it as a TikToker with over 31,000 followers – I’ll keep you updated in the next few weeks regarding my following.
For now, despite the abundance of creator content on the app, there doesn’t appear to be a clear way for creators to monetize it. The lack of a creator commercial plan is surprising given the app has existed since at least March 2020, according to Apptopia, which cited the date as when the app launched on both the Apple App Store and Android Google Play store. The social platform, formerly known as Sharee, was launched as an international version of Chinese app Xiaohongshu, just as TikTok mirrors its Chinese counterpart Douyin.
The marketers who do know about Lemon8 are interested. And the ones who don’t will be once they discover it. Marketers are always on the lookout for platforms on an upswing. But the ones who are sizing up Lemon8 now want to be sure there is scalability before investing any significant resource into it.
Lemon8’s users are rising. The platform has currently seen 6.3 million downloads worldwide in the last six months, per Apptopia data. And since its soft launch in the U.S. in February, the app has already received more than 256K downloads.
This quick rise has seen the social network take pride of place in the number one spot in the App store’s Top 10 chart for lifestyle apps in the U.S. in the week after TikTok CEO Shou Chew testified before Congress. Though perhaps that timing is just a coincidence because the app wasn’t once mentioned during the hearing. Understandably, this recognition has sparked curiosity about Lemon8 among marketers, including the five Digiday caught up with, firmly planting it on their radars.
Nevertheless, it is still very early. When I downloaded the app an hour ago it had 114 reviews on the App store compared to TikTok’s 1.8 million. Its reviews also averaged at 4 and a half stars. This quick rise has seen the social network take pride of place in the number one spot in the App store’s Top 10 chart for lifestyle apps in the U.S. in the week after TikTok CEO Shou Chew testified before Congress. Though perhaps that timing is just a coincidence because the app wasn’t once mentioned during the hearing. Understandably, this recognition has sparked curiosity about Lemon8 among marketers, including the five Digiday caught up with, firmly planting it on their radars.
The connection between Lemon8 and TikTok has undoubtedly grown in the weeks since TikTok CEO was grilled by U.S. lawmakers, and yet it’s still not crystal clear to many. There is no listing of Lemon8 on the ByteDance website or vice versa.
Lemon8 instead lists Singapore-based private company Heliophilia Pte. Ltd as its owner — a company which was incorporated on May 25, 2022, according to the Singapore Company Registry.
That same registry shows that Heliophilia is located at 1 Raffles Quay, #26-10, Postal 048583 — the exact same address as TikTok’s local Singapore office. Furthermore, Reuters reported last year that Lemon8 is overseen by Alex Zhu, SVP of product and strategy at ByteDance, and also the former CEO of TikTok.
Additionally, Lemon8’s employees on LinkedIn have either previously worked at ByteDance, TikTok, or both, before joining the lifestyle app or they explicitly mention that they joined the platform to launch “TikTok’s sister brand” in new geographies.