The Undefined Future of Lemon8
As U.S. politicians question the influence and security of popular foreign technology platforms, primarily TikTok, consumers are experiencing a renaissance of social media platform choices and functionality. With an algorithm that can pinpoint content preferences, TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is looking to expand beyond social entertainment into the world of social commerce via Lemon8.
What is Lemon8?
Often described as a combination of Pinterest and Instagram, Lemon8 is a photo and video-sharing social media app that revolves around lifestyle topics including travel, fashion, self-care, and food. Much like other social networks, users have the ability to comment, favorite, and share, while the key feature allows for the creation of “collections” that save posts within editable, user-created catalogues.
Structured to appear as a scrolling look book of imagery and topics, Lemon8 taps into a more curated view of content that puts polish and aesthetic front and center. Self-described as a “content sharing platform with a youthful community,” the goal of Lemon8 is to provide a one-stop shop where users can create and collect content that provides inspiration and sparks discussion.
Origins of the app
First introduced in Japan during the spring of 2020, Lemon8 is owned and operated by Chinese-based technology company ByteDance; the corporation responsible for global social media sensations TikTok and Douyin. Making its way into the U.S. iPhone and Android app stores in early 2023, Lemon8 has quickly climbed the ranks to become one of the top ten most downloaded applications in the county.
While it has been reported that the app shares the same algorithm as sister platform TikTok, the most notable difference is the lack of continuous video scrolling that has made the latter a hub for entertainment. Lemon8 is said to take inspiration from Chinese application Xiaohongshu, which is known to focus heavily on ecommerce and product reviews rather than connection and content sharing with peers.
Who is using the platform and why?
Although the app hasn’t explicitly described its target demographic, Lemon8’s recent influencer push on TikTok suggests that the brand is pursuing the Gen Z audience. With the platform’s focus on lifestyle topics as well as “aesthetically pleasing content,” Lemon8 appears to be setting its sights on young consumers who are there to influence and be influenced — tapping into an experience that is more focused on aspiration and less focused on the spontaneity and rawness of other social media experiences.
Longevity in the United States
Much like sister application TikTok, Lemon8 currently faces the threat of discontinuation thanks to the proposed RESTRICT Act, aimed at limiting the influence and reach of foreign technology companies. Citing concerns over data privacy and device security, this legislation would effectively put an end to Lemon8’s domestic growth.
The bill is currently being reviewed in Congress and will likely not be the last piece of legislation written to addresses the skyrocketing growth of social media and its influence on the American public. To succeed in the U.S., ByteDance and other international companies will have to address concerns regarding foreign influence, as well as the addictive nature of their platforms and algorithms.
Monetization on the app
As of April 2023, Lemon8 does not offer an official in-app creator monetization program or business hub that would allow brands to track partnership data or analytics on the channel. Although the application’s business functions appear to be in infancy, Lemon8 is currently expanding internal positions that seek to address creator partnerships and monetization on the platform.
Outside of the United States, Lemon8 users are leveraging the user-funded “Buy Me a Coffee” feature that allows for content creators to collect micro donations from their followers on a one-time or reoccurring basis. Brands and influencers who are looking to cash in on the app’s growing popularity will likely have to harness similar third-party payment methods and the power of SEO best practices to earn impressions and dollars in the space before an official sponsored content program is unveiled.
What this could mean for marketers
While Lemon8’s growing popularity is enticing for brands, marketers should be aware that the application’s future depends on both legislation and its ability to attract and retain a userbase in the already saturated world of social media. If the platform can successfully navigate opposition and capitalize on the success of its sister platforms, it is possible that Lemon8 could open the door to a new era of “curated” and commerce-focused social content.
As we wait to see what the future holds for Lemon8, marketers should watch the application closely to better understand how trending content and in-app behaviors can be leveraged. It is important to note that the platform currently does not have an established verification process or an official sign-up option for business pages, which may prove difficult when distinguishing the line between personal use and branded content. Until a stronger suite of business features and content amplification options become available, marketers and brands should continue to observe the platform and keep a testing mindset front and center.