Lemon8, The Instagram Rival From TikTok Parent ByteDance, Struggles To Gain Traction In The US


TikTok ban backup plan? ByteDance-owned Instagram rival Lemon8 hits the US App Store’s Top 10

The efforts of ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, to establish its Pinterest and Instagram competitor, Lemon8, in the United States have not been as successful as anticipated. Since its launch earlier this year, the Lemon8 app has only managed to garner around 2.6 million downloads in the US, according to data from app store market intelligence provider Appfigures. Despite a considerable influencer marketing campaign, where TikTok creators were endorsing the app to their followers, the app has failed to gain significant traction.

Key Takeaway

Lemon8, ByteDance’s attempt at an Instagram rival, has struggled to gain a significant user base in the US despite a high-profile influencer marketing campaign. The app’s growth has been lackluster compared to TikTok, which remains popular in the US despite facing restrictions in certain contexts. While Lemon8’s rankings in the App Store are decent, its total number of downloads falls short, indicating that it may not be a viable replacement for TikTok in the event of a ban.

The timing of Lemon8’s launch did not appear coincidental. It is believed that ByteDance saw Lemon8 as a potential backup plan in the event that TikTok was banned in the US. Leveraging the massive TikTok audience, influencers began promoting the app in the first quarter of the year, praising its lifestyle community and describing it as a blend of Pinterest and Instagram.

Lemon8 had previously gained popularity in Japan, Thailand, and Indonesia, but its success was limited until April 2020, when monthly installations surged from less than a thousand to 13,000. The app reached its first all-time high in July 2021, with 292,000 monthly downloads. In 2022, Lemon8 expanded its user base and achieved another peak of 1.5 million downloads in July, accumulating a total of 10.6 million downloads for the year.

This year, ByteDance introduced Lemon8 to the US and UK markets, employing influencer marketing to promote its adoption. In February, the company paid creators to post content on Lemon8, hoping to stimulate initial usage. Following that, creators on TikTok started creating videos with similar positive language about the app. Within 24 hours in late March, over 350 videos related to “Lemon8” appeared on TikTok, mostly containing glowing reviews. These actions helped create the perception that Lemon8 was growing organically through word-of-mouth recommendations.

However, TikTok was not banned in the US, though it did face restrictions on government devices, in some universities, and in Montana beginning in January 2024 (subject to legal challenge). Even if TikTok were to be banned or forced to sell, it is unlikely that Lemon8 will be a seamless replacement. Furthermore, most of Lemon8’s installs were the result of “spikes” rather than a sustained upward trend, potentially due to the viral effect of TikTok.

In terms of downloads, the majority were on iOS, with 2.5 million in the US. The app currently ranks as No. 2 in the Lifestyle category on the US App Store and fluctuates in the Top Overall charts. At the time of data collection, it ranked at No. 90 Overall, and now sits at No. 70 on the Top Apps Chart in the US. Despite these rankings, the total number of installs remains relatively low for an app that is positioned as a potential TikTok replacement in the event of a ban.

Lemon8’s highest number of US downloads occurred in September 2023, with 525,000 new installs. However, downloads do not equate to active users, suggesting that Lemon8’s actual usage is likely lower. By comparison, TikTok boasted over 150 million monthly active users in the US as of March 2023.

Although ByteDance may still utilize TikTok to bolster Lemon8’s traction in the US, such as through a planned feature that would allow Lemon8 posts to be synced with TikTok and enhanced using its editor, no official response has been given by TikTok regarding this integration.

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