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Lemon8 gains favor in the US as TikTok’s fate hangs in the balance

The news: Downloads of ByteDance-owned Lemon8 are soaring in the US as TikTok faces increasing regulatory scrutiny in the country and around the world.

  • Lemon8 was installed close to 1 million times in the US between March 27 and April 10, per Apptopia.
  • Global downloads have hit 17.3 million since Lemon8’s debut in 2020. Nearly one-quarter (4.1 million) took place in 2023.

Why it matters: In the face of a potential US ban of TikTok, Lemon8 is ByteDance’s backup plan to stay relevant in the US.

Yes, but: Lemon8’s growth trajectory is unlikely to match that of TikTok. For context, TikTok was downloaded an average of 242,700 times per day in the US in 2020, per Insider Intelligence calculations based on Apptopia data.

  • Part of TikTok’s meteoric growth was due to the pandemic as people sought entertainment and connection while cooped up at home. Those conditions don’t exist for Lemon8.
  • ByteDance spent aggressively to market TikTok to US consumers, and we haven’t seen that level of investment for Lemon8.

Plus: Lemon8 isn’t TikTok.

  • True, Lemon8 has a personalized “For You” feed and hosts short video. But unlike TikTok, it allows images, and its lifestyle-focused content caters primarily to a young, female audience.
  • Marketing dollars only get an app in the door. People stay around because they value and like the experience. TikTok offered users a “social entertainment” experience that was markedly different from legacy social apps; Lemon8 is being described by some as a hybrid Instagram-Pinterest.

The big picture: Lemon8 is buzzy right now because of its connection to TikTok, and its early growth is more evidence of the popularity of Chinese apps among US users. But its staying power is yet to be determined. And, if Lemon8 truly takes off, its fate is likely to be as much at risk as TikTok’s.

  • Its growth will give further ammunition to US lawmakers, who are already concerned about ByteDance’s—and, by extension, China’s—influence in the US.

Go further: Read our report, TikTok Bans Are Spreading Worldwide, to learn what marketers can do as regulatory scrutiny on TikTok intensifies.