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TikTok’s Parent Company Banks On Influencers To Popularize New Instagram-Like App In The U.S.


TikTok’s Parent Company Banks On Influencers To Popularize New Instagram-Like App In The U.S.

As U.S. lawmakers debate whether to ban TikTok nationwide, the app’s Chinese parent company ByteDance is paying influencers to drive adoption of its new Instagram-like platform Lemon8.

One TikTok influencer has told the New York Post that shortly after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill aiming to ban TikTok, she was offered $200 to upload a video promoting Lemon8 on her TikTok account. 

Another influencer with over 360,000 TikTok followers said she is actively working with ByteDance to build a following on Lemon8, where she currently has just 66 followers. Several other top TikTok creators have posted videos hyping Lemon8 that include direct links to download the app.

The influencer marketing push is part of ongoing efforts by ByteDance since last year to popularize Lemon8 in the United States. The renewed emphasis comes as U.S. lawmakers recently approved legislation that could force TikTok’s Chinese owners to divest their stake or face a nationwide ban – a potential major blow to the wildly popular video platform’s growth.

Lemon8 bills itself as a “lifestyle community” app on Google’s Play Store, blending features of Pinterest and Instagram. Users can post, save, and share photos, videos, and text across categories like fashion, food, beauty, wellness, and travel. Like TikTok’s main feed, Lemon8 offers sections to browse content from followed creators as well as an algorithmically curated “For You” feed of recommended posts.

First launched in Japan in 2020, Lemon8 has since expanded to Southeast Asian markets like Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore. The app landed in the U.S. market in February 2023 and already claims over 4.25 million active American users, according to its Play Store listing.

ByteDance’s strategy of leaning on its stable of U.S.-based TikTok influencers is notable given escalating tensions between the tech giant and American lawmakers over national security concerns. The Chinese company has rocketed to a valuation of around $225 billion on the explosive success of TikTok, which amassed over 1 billion users in just four years after launching in 2017.

With over 150,000 employees globally, ByteDance’s rapid growth has enabled expansion into verticals like e-commerce, travel booking, and video editing tools. In 2023, the company’s revenues surpassed $110 billion – eclipsing estimated sales at Chinese tech behemoth Tencent that year.

As it looks to further build its U.S. presence through Lemon8 amid government scrutiny of TikTok, ByteDance is turning to the same formula that fueled TikTok’s meteoric rise – harnessing the power of influencers and viral engagement.

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David Adler is an entrepreneur and freelance blog post writer who enjoys writing about business, entrepreneurship, travel and the influencer marketing space.

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