While the massively popular TikTok spends some time in will-they-ban-it limbo, its owner ByteDance appears to be trying to connect with U.S. app users with another offering: Lemon8.
Pitched as “a content-sharing platform with a youthful community” on its App Store page, Lemon8 looks a lot like Instagram with a Pinterest-y concept, where users share text, photos, and videos based on hobby or category.
Lemon8 has been around since 2020, but a recent meteoric rise in downloads has experts saying it’s a paid user acquisition effort on the part of ByteDance.
“This is a dramatic move for the little-known app and one that points to paid user acquisition efforts powering this surge,” says an article on the subject written by TechCrunch. “Prior to [March 27], the Lemon8 app had never before ranked in the top 200 overall charts in the U.S.”
As of this writing, Lemon8 ranks No. 1 on the App Store’s lifestyle chart, so even if its increase in users began with a paid push, it’s getting in front of eyeballs now. Which is a bit of tricky timing for the app, considering its ownership is under scrutiny by the U.S. government (and in other countries as well). If TikTok is banned, Lemon8 would be at risk of the same fate—it’s ByteDance’s Chinese ownership of TikTok that has it scrutinized by lawmakers, so why would this app be any different?
ByteDance’s motives in pushing Lemon8 now are unclear, but possibly it hopes to have another successful app on its hands so that it can sell it to Silicon Valley.
Removed from all the legal entanglements, here’s the question that matters most to users: Is Lemon8 any good?
I poked around in the app for a short time to get a feel for it (you can log in through Facebook or Twitter to make it easy, if you want), and it’s fine, even good. But necessary? Not really. It basically combines Instagram, Pinterest, and TikTok—you create photo or video content in your main feed (à la Instagram), which becomes searchable through the use of hashtags. Content is available via category for browsing (similar to Pinterest), allowing users to connect with one another and save under their own personal collections (which are set to private as a default, also like Instagram).
Lemon8 has plenty to keep creators and hobbyists busy; the best thing it’s got going for it at the moment, according to many of the app’s reviews, is its lack of any ads (if it were to become highly successful, that would likely change). For our industry’s purposes, there’s not much to go on: The #jewelry hashtag is filled with mostly fast-fashion-like content and even a post to suggest Amazon dupes for designer jewelry—which ought to make your blood boil.
But you will undoubtedly be hearing at least something about Lemon8 in the near future, so do you ignore it and move on? It’s tempting to say yes—ByteDance feels on shaky ground as it is, and Lemon8 is highly repetitive of apps that have yet to be successfully topped—but you can never say never. Invest time on Lemon8 right now? Probably not, but logging on as an early adopter to secure a presence might help appeal to that young generation of shoppers so many brands have been trying hard to reach.
Top: Lemon8 logo via Google app store
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