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What Lemon8’s Rise in Popularity Means for Marketers

  • Insights
by Ali Harkavy, Manager, Integrated Marketing

Lemon8 is the latest social app to top the downloads chart, racking up 650,000 downloads in the U.S. alone in the first 10 days of April. And while the app made its debut to the U.S. and U.K. only this February, it’s been around globally since 2020, with 17 million lifetime downloads. Its biggest user base is in Japan, accounting for 36.5% of lifetime downloads.


ByteDance takes on Instagram

Owned by TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, Lemon8 is the Chinese-owned company’s answer to Instagram and other social apps. Zdnet describes people online saying the app “is like if Pinterest and Instagram had a baby.” From what we’ve seen so far, we concur. When you first download the app, you’ll be prompted to identify your interests in categories such as “food,”  “fashion,”  “beauty,” or “travel.” Open the app and you’ll immediately observe pages of curated, aesthetically pleasing lifestyle content in the form of images, image carousels, and video, from reviews of “The best coffee study spots in Los Angeles,” to home tours, to wellness habits, and more.


While Instagram in its height championed that same style of lifestyle, aesthetic content, Instagram as of late has lost users due to its content feeling “staged” and inauthentic. It will be interesting to see whether or not Lemon8 becomes the place people go to for this type of content, but it’s also possible the app will face similar challenges as Meta is experiencing.


Lemon8 Interface

Similar to sister-app TikTok, Lemon8 has a “For You” page center-stage, where users are served content based on their interests and other posts they’ve interacted with. Unsurprisingly, the app boasts the same algorithm as TikTok. Lemon8 is also composed of an “Explore page,” which features content under trending hashtags, content from “rising star” creators, and “Campaigns,” in which Lemon8 categorizes trending hashtags. If users use a trending hashtag within a campaign, they’re eligible to win certain prizes.


Influencers on Lemon8

According to the New York Times, Lemon8 launched a huge influencer recruitment campaign when it debuted in the U.S., inviting popular content creators on other apps to join the platform and encourage their followers to join them. According to Zdnet, most of the posts on Lemon8 have #Lemon8partner at the end of the caption, signaling the recruitment effort that likely involved Lemon8 paying creators to start posting on the app to foment the platform’s popularity. The app also has tagging functionality, so users can tag products, where they bought them, and what they cost. Despite this push for influencers, there’s no formal verification system to mark official or popular accounts on the app yet like we’ve seen on other platforms.


Lemon8 vs. TikTok

Lemon8 and TikTok are owned by the same company, so rather than competing with the latter, Lemon8 is positioned to take market share from Instagram, Pinterest, and other social apps. Content differs between the two platforms, with assets on Lemon8 being more lifestyle-focused and using more text overlays than those on TikTok. Lemon8 seems to be more focused on influencer marketing, while TikTok leans more towards content creation. Additionally, according to venture capitalist Turner Novak, “while TikTok continues pushing into current events, trends, and live streaming, Lemon8 heads in the opposite direction. Evergreen reviews, lifestyle content, text, and photos start eating into the use cases of Reddit, Instagram, and Pinterest.” 


Future in the U.S.

Alarm bells may have started going off in your head as soon as we mentioned Lemon8’s ByteDance ownership. With TikTok’s future in the U.S. already on shaky grounds, with more than two dozen states banning the app on government devices since November as well as many colleges, it seems Lemon8 may eventually face the same scrutiny. Zdnet outlines two potential outcomes. In the first, creators lobby politicians to block legislation that would ban TikTok and Lemon8. In the second outcome, the government just acts more swiftly to enact a total ban given the presence of the additional app collecting user data. 


Considerations for Brands

Currently, there are no advertising units on the app and very few official brand accounts — but we also know that algorithms tend to reward early adapters, even without media spend. Also note that influencers are already there, tagging branded products. If your brand is associated with any of the trending topics on the app, whether that be fashion, beauty, food, wellness, travel, or home decor, you may want to consider partnering with influencers to gain exposure to the app’s growing audiences, while it’s still available. We’ve repeatedly seen the benefits of being a first mover — check out our client Logitech’s coverage for dabbling in BeReal, for example — so we recommend tapping into it while you still can with a test-and-learn approach.


To keep up with more rapidly-evolving marketing trends, dive into Volume 1 of our Marketing Trend Report.


The Streetsense Marketing Team activates brands & places, communicates with audiences through them, and drives demand for them. We engage, convert, and delight through integrated marketing strategies & ongoing implementation, including: content & social media marketing, performance marketing, interactive design & development, and events & activations. Explore our 360° branding and marketing expertise here, sign-up for our Branding and Marketing newsletter, or contact us to discuss your marketing project.


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