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Why Did The Lemon8 US Launch Fail?

Nov 07, 2023

Marketing News

Why Did The Lemon8 US Launch Fail?

Despite its initial success, the ByteDance-owned app Lemon8 has wholly failed to take off in the United States. 

ByteDance’s dreams of a successful Lemon8 US launch leading to the app occupying a Pinterest/Instagram/Xiaohongshu space in the US market have seemingly been shot, with average daily users and downloads of Lemon8 steadily falling for months. 

This decline in usership is a disappointment to brands, as the structure of Lemon8 lended itself beautifully to marketing and influencer collaborations. 

Ultimately, the failure of the Lemon8 US launch can be attributed to critiques of its algorithm and overall content. Yet, given that the platform has taken off in other, Eastern markets, is the issue really Lemon8? Or, is it Western audiences? 

What Is Lemon8? 

Lemon8 features two, side-by-side vertical feeds filled with images and videos. Users can decorate their posts with templates and stickers found in the app. All posts are sorted into one of seven categories: Wellness, Food, Beauty, Fashion, Home, Travel and Productivity. 

In terms of the sort of content found on Lemon8, for reference, some of the most popular post titles of present are “hot girl lunch ideas” and “that Christian girl in 40 days.” 

Lemon8 US launch

Lemon8 Thus Far 

Initially, Lemon8 was touted as a replacement app for TikTok. With the US considering a ban on the incredibly popular ByteDance owned app earlier this year, the company discretely carried out a Lemon8 US launch. 

Users, fearful of TikTok being removed, flocked to Lemon8 in desperation. At present, the app is listed as having 25 million downloads worldwide; the biggest contributors are Japan (7.6 million), Thailand (6.5 million) and the US (2.6 million).

Since the Lemon8 US launch, the platform has experienced several spikes in downloads. Most notably, in September the app saw 525,00 installations. Yet these numbers are not a result of organic growth but rather smart marketing. 

It has been revealed that ByteDance has been using TikTok-based creators to promote Lemon8 to their followers. In fact, ByteDance paid said influencers $45 per TikTok post to encourage their followers to make the switch post Lemon8 US Launch

@thedailyvictorian

let’s be friendssss ???✍? #ad @lemon8unitedstates #lemon8us #lemon8community #lemon8love #lemon8review #lemon8 

♬ original sound – thedailyvictorian

None of this content was flagged as sponsored, hence giving the impression that Lemon8 was growing organically. However, this was simply not the case; as reflected in the platform’s usership. 

In actuality, usership of Lemon8 is incredibly poor. Since its initial peak in April of 2023, average users have decreased by almost half, going from 11,390 to 6,3600. From May to March alone, downloads had fallen to just 6% of the app’s high in March. 

What Went Wrong Post-Lemon8 US Launch

So, what caused this sudden dropping off? After the Lemon8 US launch the app’s layout did not change, so why did users leave Lemon8 in droves? 

Essentially, Americans downloaded Lemon8 in a hurry in the first quarter of 2023, hoping to find a similar app to their beloved TikTok. This caused several spikes in downloads and average daily usership. However, once consumers started using Lemon8, they discovered that it was in fact nothing like TikTok, and quickly deserted it. 

Users have commented that on the whole, Lemon8 feels created for influencers, rather than users. They have complained that it is too curated, perfect, and overwhelmed by a niche community of 20-30-year-old white women; it seems ByteDance hit that Pinterest nail on the head just a tad too well. 

On top of this, users have expressed that Lemon8’s algorithm is wholly unsatisfactory and incompetent when compared to TikTok. They have stated that the content is repetitive, polished and not at all aimed towards their personal interests. 

Beyond issues with the app itself, industry critics have boiled down Lemon8’s failure to its delayed launch in the US. App developers sought to perfect content on the platform in the UK first, before holding a Lemon8 US launch; they even went as far as to work with specific creators to publish the kind of content they sought. 

As a result, when the Lemon8 US launch finally took place, US users were faced with a perfect, shiny platform with flawless content. This causes creators to not post, due to the pressure of matching the standard of the content already on the platform. As such, usership declined, as if someone is not posting, then they are unlikely to use the app as a whole. 

Lemon8 US launch

Is the Issue Really Lemon8? 

In spite of these complaints, Lemon8 has found success outside of the US and UK market. The app is soundly popular in Japan, Thailand and Indonesia, where it was released in early 2020. Industry critics have hypothesised that the app’s success in these Eastern markets is due to its similarity to Xiaohongshu. 

Perhaps, then, the only fault that can truly be placed on Lemon8’s shoulders, is that it does not cater to a Western audience. Instagram and Pinterest are incredibly popular with US audiences, so the likelihood that any platform could overtake these mega giants seems slim. 

Moreover, there is not a desire in Western markets for a new, photo-focused, highly curated platform. Users were drawn to Lemon8 because they sought out the same authentic, messiness that TikTok captures; not even more photoshopped selfies.

On the other hand, Eastern markets have critiqued Lemon8 from the beginning for its promotion of unattainable beauty standards and lack of genuine content. Perhaps, these users are on their way out too. 

lemon8 US launch

Where Does Lemon8 Go From here? 

So, does Lemon8 have what it takes to dust itself off and try again? Unlikely. 

Unless ByteDance carries out a major renovation of Lemon8, its issues with content, algorithm, and the kinds of users it attracts, will still upset Western audiences. The app is, on the whole, uninclusive and reminiscent of social media 5 years ago. 

There is the possibility for ByteDance to leverage its TikTok audience and attract new users to the app, as it tried to do earlier on in the year. Given that this tactic worked previously, it’s not a great leap to assume it would be again.

Yet, simply attracting users to Lemon8 is not enough to save the failing platform. ByteDance must find a way to make them stick around, which, as of now, seems highly improbable. Despite this, it appears ByteDance intends to go out swinging. 

Watchful.ai, a product intelligence firm, reported that a new feature that would allow users to sync their Lemon8 content to their TikTok was being developed by TikTok. It is important to note that TikTok has neither confirmed nor denied whether this is true. 

Ultimately, Lemon8’s days in the sun seem to be well and truly over. At first, the platform seemed an exciting, viable option for brands to market on.

As previously mentioned, Lemon8 caters perfectly to influencers. This was an exciting prospect for brands, as an ‘influencer app’ would provide them with a bigger pool of talent to choose from. In this manner, Lemon8 did have the potential to become a marketing gold mine. 

Now, however, it is simply a marketing budget sinkhole. 

Our Influencer marketing agency and Social agency are located worldwide, with our agency network based in the USA, UK, UAE and China.

If you want to receive our industry insights, visit our Influencer Marketing & Social Media blogs here.

@ Socially Powerful

Author

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Ella Proctor

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