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The Rise of Lemon8

Creative Strategist, Stephen Maycock, explores new kid on the block, Lemon8, the platform paving the way for personal branding amongst micro-creators.


Stephen Maycock

11 May 2023

When life gives Bytedance lemons, they make… Lemon8.

Rising in popularity amid the negative congressional discourse surrounding TikTok, the Chinese parent group Bytedance seems to have doubled down on the launch of a new, younger, photo-first platform: Lemon8.

First debuting in Asia in 2020, and now surging in worldwide downloads *(6.3million in 6 months), the app describes itself as a ‘content sharing platform for a youthful community’ adding that it’s become an ‘ideas-nurturing platform, to benefit everyone’ (via Vogue Business). Whilst most marketers and – deep thoughtful op-ed writers – have been quick to dub the in-app experience as Instagram meets Pinterest, the Born Social team took a deeper dive beneath the surface and saw so much more than that.

In an era where every influencer seems to have launched their own product line, is Lemon8 on a mission to close the gap between creator and personal brand? 

Deep Dive

Those of us old enough to remember the glory days of platform-turned-profile will likely have spent hours deciding colour schematics for our Piczo websites and found joy in updating our Bebo skins or, dare I say, our MySpace Music, and as if full circle, the graphic personalization and custom identity of Lemon8 features feel… oddly familiar.

Creators are armed with a full suite of layout templates, font banks, illustrative stickers, colour swatches, and even VSCO-esque photo overlays, all filtered by the six content categories or a trending ‘hot’ list. The nudge to elevate video and stills in-app with semi-pro art direction feels more akin to Canva than Pinterest.

Where most of us made Instagram profiles about ‘Who We Are’, and TikTok accounts about ‘What We Do’, Lemon8 seems to straddle the two, encouraging users to easily cement their own personal brand, uploading niche content to one of the ‘For You’ Categories (All, Beauty, Fashion, Food, Travel or Pets). Leaning into the What We Do agenda, popular posters tend to have a value-add in their content or at least, a call-to-action; whether that's a Must Try Coffee Shops in London, 4 Ways to Wear Black, A Guide to Bali or Phone Photography Editing Hack - it’s tough to find posts on the app that aren’t connected to serving a wider community. Picking up where sister app TikTok left off, creators lean on their niche on Lemon8 and produce saveable, actionable content.

So, Lemon8 is driven by follow-for-information uploads, but there does seem to be a major difference in the longevity of value in posts versus TikTok’s newsroom cycle… here’s where the Pinterest comparison becomes apparent. Less reactive and more readily available, Lemon8’s content is evergreen rather than viral, visuals acting like thumbnails with textual titles capturing scrolling thumbs but unlike the (doom) scroll of Twitter and TikTok, Lemon8’s results are framed as Single Purpose Visit interface, allowing users to discover longer, more in-depth captions below the fold - perhaps a developed iteration in search-first strategy that helped TikTok become the New Google.

So what do our findings tell us?

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Micro Creators

Micro Creators rose to fame on TikTok but with Lemon8 they’ve found their forever home.

Supported with the tools they need to DUPE professional-looking brand assets, the platform is a breeding ground for niche content discovery and early-adopter Micro Creators who know everything there is to know about their specialism. Authentic, low-fi product reviews, city guides and helpful life-hacks neatly categorised by six vertical content streams mean the bidding war for attention and engagement is at least a curated chaos.

Here creators have a direct line of communication with the dedicated audience, and that’s a powerful position to be in considering the rise of niche-community and subcultures online connectedness. Top Take, we’re in a new era of creator-becoming-full-time-brand. Side Hustle Small Biz’ers just got a new lease of life.

Social Commerce

Always a trending topic, never truly utilised, the Social Commerce conversation begins again. With Lemon8 the difference feels timely, less impulse, the antithesis of live shopping. Instead of intrusive TikTok Shop recommendations with an overly seductive price point, the Single Purpose Visit functionality in-app means users are actively participating in lean-forward engagement, and genuinely interested.

Creators can tag brands with graphic stickers or geo-tags, and write up longer-length blog-style posts that accompany the carousel of visuals. Shorter caption template suggestions even come pre-loaded with bullet points of currencies for users to populate with products, another allows for emoji-labelled product reviews - it won’t be long until an official brand partnership feature is announced.

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How brands can potentially tap in?

Much like a lemonade stand run by the neighbour’s kids, no-one quite wants to be the first to take a sip. Though there’s many a think-piece, including this one, we’re yet to see brands dive in - and with the ongoing controversy surrounding TikTok as well as the carnage over at Twitter, it’s certainly unlikely that anyone's up for taking a risk right now.

Having said that, there are some opportunities not to be missed, particularly for site-specific brands and services like bars, galleries, department stores, or attractions. Where Instagram Guides missed the mark, and Google Search is equal parts unconvincing spon-con vs wildly outdated reviews, Lemon8’s geo-tagging feature is a well-curated product page equipped with opening times, maps with integrated directions, call functionality and the bookmark button - to save for later. Once populated with UGC the geo-tag will effectively act as a PDP helping potential customers find genuine reviews, authentic visuals, and write-ups that encourage a visit…

We’re imagining ‘Things To Do In __’ being a big hit for Tourism Boards looking for Gen-Z footfall or ‘Shop With Me at __’ unlocking new eyes to bespoke services and experiences, with Lemon8 Micro Creators on Opening Night guestlists armed with a personalised brand kit and review-ready captions.

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To summarise

We’re all guilty of indulging in lofty predictions for new platform launches, once dreaming up ClubHouse podcast themes, scrambling to incorporate brand identities on our BeReals or desperately trying to place bets on Jack Dorsey’s BlueSky - but Lemon8 feels different. At least to us.

It’s not a new idea that’ll shake up the industry nor does it pretend to be. It’s a simple development of the best parts of TikTok’s made-for-you content algorithm, Canva’s autofill graphic identities and Pinterest’s search-result style feed. It’s a slower social. Once you’re ‘in’ a post, you’re in. There's no scrolling out of it.

We’re quite comfortable reading blog-length captions on how to practice puppy yoga and I’d expect you might feel the same if you’re on Pet-tab. That commitment, or rather, investment, elevates both the user’s takeaway whilst equally validating the creator and their content.