With newest hit Lemon8, ByteDance once more learns from the China playbook


Amid a wave of heated debate over whether or not TikTok ought to be banned, one other ByteDance product, Lemon8, has popped up and rapidly climbed into the highest 10 on America’s app shops.

Lemon8’s sudden rise is paying homage to TikTok’s early-day development. On the time Vine had already pioneered quick video sharing within the U.S., however TikTok took the media format to the following stage by means of its content material suggestion algorithms, a system that had confirmed immensely profitable in China for its sister app, Douyin.

Some trade observers at the moment are describing Lemon8 as one thing on the crossroad of Instagram, Pinterest and Amazon, however these accustomed to the Chinese language web ecosystem would instantly acknowledge that the app is an occasion of “copy-from-China”.

For a lot of China’s early web historical past, entrepreneurs discovered inspiration in developments with robust momentum within the U.S. and construct one thing comparable in China, giving rise to the nation’s solutions to Google, Fb and the likes. That apply continues to be right here, as indicated by the clutch of firms that specific their ambitions to turn into China’s OpenAI; however a reversal of the development can also be taking form as China’s homegrown tech expertise turns into extra refined and provide you with more and more novel companies that don’t but exist overseas.

At a look, Lemon8’s photo-heavy format and peer-to-peer evaluations strike an incredible resemblance to Xiaohongshu, the Chinese language social commerce platform with 260 million month-to-month lively customers. Xiaohongshu, which suggests “Little Crimson Guide”, has over the previous decade turn into the go-to on-line neighborhood for Chinese language kids to study life hacks in areas starting from maternity well being and surviving centralized quarantine in China to discovering the perfect Chinese language eating places in Düsseldorf.

Bike sharing, dwell buying and social commerce are a simply few Chinese language web enterprise fashions which have discovered customers overseas. Xiaohongshu has dabbled in different Asian markets by means of Uniik and Spark, however neither took off. Now ByteDance is taking the playbook of Xiaohongshu westward, mirroring TikTok has finished with studying from Douyin’s mannequin again residence.

The Little Crimson Playbook

Picture Credit: Xiaohongshu

Based as a platform for sharing abroad buying guides, Xiaohongshu has largely stored its deal with corralling sensible info. Posts are organized in a Pinterest-like grid however ranked partly by the variety of “saves” they get. And in contrast to Instagram, there’s little competitors to publish essentially the most glamorous photographs. Somewhat, pictures are used to contextualize the notes posted by customers, akin to a COVID-19 PCR end result wanted to board a flight to China.

Somewhat than favoring professionally made influencer posts, the app encourages the invention of long-tail content material and stresses relevance over leisure. When customers are on Xiaohongshu, they’re experiencing what’s referred to as “zhongcao”, actually “planting grass,” an idea popularized by the platform to convey the impact of wanting to purchase one thing after seeing another person, whether or not a pal or influencer, recommends it.

Of Xiaohongshu’s 260 million MAUs, 69 million of them are content material creators, the corporate mentioned at a current occasion. Seventy p.c of its customers are feminine and born after 1990. Most of its customers dwell in China’s extra affluent, top-tier cities. At its peak, the corporate’s valuation reached $20 billion however reportedly dropped to $10-$16 billion final yr as China’s tech crackdown dampened investor confidence.

It’s too early to say if Lemon8 can deliver the zhongcao tradition to the U.S. and past. For now, many of the app’s traction appears to stem largely from splashy ads and influencer endorsement by means of TikTok.

There are additionally indicators that Lemon8 is paying influencers to publish content material. This can be a widespread apply seen amongst Chinese language social media platforms, together with Douyin. However this may also be the most important distinction that separates Lemon8 from Xiaohongshu, which has hardly ever shelled out massive subsidies to influencers. Authenticity, many argue, is the rationale why Xiaohongshu’s content material has stood the check of time.

In its infancy, Lemon8 might be nonetheless removed from eager about monetization, however it’d be attention-grabbing to see what steps it takes to generate profits if and when the app accumulates a large person base. It’d look to Xiaohongshu, which presently monetizes by means of advertisements and e-commerce commissions. After all, it’s by no means straightforward to easily transport an current enterprise mannequin from one nation to a different, be it copy to or from China. Even ByteDance’s mammoth has struggled to evangelize dwell buying, which is now driving a giant chunk of Douyin’s China revenues, in Western international locations.



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