As U.S. legislators and lobbyists call to regulate, divest or ban TikTok, its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, is marketing another social media app in the U.S. called Lemon8.
Lemon8 is paying TikTokers to promote the app, which features static photos in user feeds and has a For You page similar to TikTok. It is also paying creators to post on the site, Business Insider reported.
Natasha Mathurent, a 22-year-old nursing student who lives in Canada, created her account on March 28. She saw posts from TikTok creators about Lemon8 and wanted to be an early adopter in case the app took off, she said.
But the new app uses the same algorithm as TikTok—according to Lemon8’s marketing materials reviewed by the New York Times—which means it could be subject to the same scrutiny the video platform faces.
“It would suck to build another community in another app and have that taken away,” said Mathurent, who has amassed 670 followers on Lemon8. She has 291,000 followers on TikTok.
Concerns from U.S. regulators stem from a Chinese law that requires companies operating in the country to share data with the government. TikTok could also manipulate users through its algorithm, FBI director Christopher Wray warned last year. Various pieces of legislation making their way through Congress seek to regulate TikTok and give President Joe Biden the power to ban it. But the issue has expanded beyond one app. The RESTRICT Act, introduced earlier this month, targets all tech products run by “foreign adversaries” that pose a threat to U.S. national security. Since Lemon8 is also owned by ByteDance, its future in the U.S. is uncertain.
The app has attracted hundreds of U.S. users, the Times reported. While it is available on Apple and Google app stores, it has not yet officially launched. ByteDance is planning a marketing campaign to acquire new users in May, according to the Times.
Lemon8 could be a boost for creators
Despite the possibility that Lemon8 could be affected by TikTok-focused legislation, some talent agencies are recommending its creators give it a shot. One such agency is the Influencer Marketing Factory, which is based in New York and also works with advertisers.
“ByteDance has proven multiple times, with TikTok and CapCut, to bring a good offering to the U.S. market,” said Nicla Bartoli, vice president of sales at the agency. “[Lemon8] has all the right cards to become a competitor to the big players.”
Some creators are concerned about the future of Lemon8 in the U.S. because of the pressure TikTok is facing, Bartoli said. TikTok gave creators the chance to grow quickly, and some rely on it for their income. Now, there’s a chance it could face a national ban, she said.
“Some are scared that could translate to Lemon8, but there’s not much of a choice, ultimately,” she said. Creators should take the opportunity of building a new social presence, which could translate to revenue, rather than fear what is going to happen in the future, she said.
Advertisers take longer to come around and haven’t expressed interest in Lemon8, she said. But they are aware it’s growing, and they are looking for where else they can advertise beyond TikTok due to the regulatory environment, she said.