TikTok sister app Lemon8 looks to creators to help it grow to the next level

creators at home

ByteDance-owned Lemon8 is borrowing from the platform playbook of its sister app, according to its job vacancies.

Already, the two platforms have similarities: both apps hit the top 10 download charts lists in their early stages, as social platforms vie for Gen Z audiences and they both are relying on creators to grow in popularity.

Lifestyle app Lemon8, which was launched on the Apple App store and Google Play store in March 2020 according to Apptopia, has been classed as a cross between Instagram (polished photos) and Pinterest (focused on products and categories). The app has close ties to TikTok, given they share not only the same parent company — ByteDance — but also a similar, personalized algorithm which in itself is what helped TikTok make a name for itself and stand out from its competition.

Lemon8’s current 24 unfilled roles (17 staff roles and seven intern positions) show this latest lifestyle app is preparing a foundation for monetizing content and, subsequently, its audience.

Creators are a must

The app has already relied on creators to soft launch and pull audiences over to the app, via the numerous videos of creators promoting Lemon8 on TikTok. And it seems keen on building on what momentum it already has among that part of the market. Most (13) of those staff jobs focus on creator partnerships across the app’s key content verticals: fashion, beauty, food and lifestyle.

And those roles are spread far and wide. Six of those associate positions are based in New York with a base pay range between $27.69 to $46.15. An additional three roles are in Ho Chi Minh City in Thailand, two in Jakarta, Indonesia, as well as an additional role in Bangkok — markets where Lemon8 is already established — and one in London.

Further, a content strategy manager role in London is expected to work closely with the creator partnership management team, while developing a go-to market strategy for Lemon8 in the U.K. — its second important market (after the U.S.) for the app outside of Asia.

So it stands to reason that courting creators is a viable strategy to grow a user base and fill those users feeds (and quickly), although it doesn’t necessarily guarantee success.

“ByteDance has an advantage here with its pre-existing creator relationships through TikTok,” said Jamie MacEwan, senior research analyst at Enders Analysis. “They may be hoping that using creators will make Lemon8 less reliant on marketing spend for user growth, though TikTok’s years of hefty marketing outlays suggests there’s no way round spending billions to achieve massive global scale.”

Lemon8 will have an ads platform

No matter what platform exists, social media channels rely on advertising to some degree (unless you’re BeReal, of course), to help keep money rolling in (or if you’re Twitter, the bills paid).

Lemon8 is no different.

While the platform’s privacy policy clearly states how advertisers collect and use consumer data — perhaps preempting any blowback from political parties, in a bid to provide a level of transparency — Lemon8 is hiring a monetization product operations role in Bangkok. According to the job spec, the role aims to provide a “best-in-class advertising experience” as well as “provide a variety of Lemon8 monetization solutions” for marketers.

Moreover, the platform has also advertised for a Tokyo-based “partnership manager – SMB market” to build relationships with ad agencies, as well as launch events in the Japanese market. And since SMBs are the bedrock of any platform’s ads business, it stands to reason that Lemon8 would try and lock that part of the market down early.

Notably though, none of the 24 open roles are based in ByteDance’s Beijing headquarters. “I wouldn’t be surprised if there is someone within ByteDance or advising the company not to associate ByteDance with Lemon8 in any way, given the spotlight TikTok is currently under with the U.S. Congress,” said Babar Javed, director of public affairs at martech startup accelerator, Z2C Limited. “It’s their way of flying under the radar of suspicion.”

But given that TikTok’s fate in the western world is still uncertain, it is arguably surprising that ByteDance has explicitly advertised these roles for Lemon8 via its own website, making clear distinctions (if there was any prior confusion) that the two companies are very much linked.

Under the ‘About ByteDance’ section on each job page, the tech company states that it has “a suite of more than a dozen products, including TikTok, Helo, and Resso, as well as platforms specific to the China market, including Toutiao, Douyin, and Xigua”. This is the first clear, public message that yes, Lemon8 is part of ByteDance.

“Since ByteDance is currently in the news for other reasons, I was speculating that they may be selective about when to make a splash with Lemon8,” said Jordan Robuck, director of communications at MMI Agency.

It appears that Lemon8 is already positioning itself as the next hip happening place for creators and users alike; almost like a scrappy competitor to its sister app TikTok. At the same time, it enables ByteDance to cover all bases across photos and short-form video, in some sort of bid for social domination, despite the ongoing controversies. After all, Lemon8 explains the team “never [shies] away from taking calculated risks and embrac[es] ambiguity as it comes,” according to its job descriptions.

Perhaps that’s the reason Lemon8 is already hiring for a global internal audit head, based in Mountain View, California, to get ahead of any potential questions over the app’s operations. After all, ByteDance defines the job as a “highly specialized position providing robust and objective assurance on, and insight and advice about, the design and operation of effective governance, risk management and internal control arrangements.”

What is clear though, is Lemon8 is far from giving up. ByteDance doesn’t appear concerned that the app may live the same fate as its sister app TikTok, due to those ByteDance / China ties. In fact, it appears more determined than ever. Right now, ByteDance has three apps that are on the top downloaded list in the U.S., said Keith Bendes, vp of strategy at Linqia. Those are TikTok, video editing app CapCut and Lemon8.

“Given the ban concerns over TikTok, it is not a bad strategy for the company to be hedging with investments around Lemon8 and even CapCut,” Bendes said. 

ByteDance did not immediately respond to Digiday’s request for comment.


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