Did you know that with 70 million Internet users and a staggering 82% of these having at least one social networking account, Russian’s are amongst some of the most engaged people in the world? Users spend an average of 9.8 hours on social networking sites per month, which is more than double that of the global average! Plus, although Russia may have been late adopters, their social media is still continuing to grow at a very rapid pace.
Adding Sochi Winter Olympics, anti-gay laws and the Ukraine crisis to the mix, social media has become even more prevalent across the country in 2014, acting as a hub for people to come together and communicate their views.
Russian Laws Effecting Social Media
We all know of countries such as Turkey, where their government have a strong grip on social media sites, with Twitter recently being banned. Russia is a very similar, with President Vladimir Putin’s government tightening control over the country’s media. New amendments written into law, which went into effect from February 2014, now allows access to websites to be temporarily blocked for showing ‘extremist’ material.
Security officials in Russia have made it no secret that they want to have more control over the Internet and have already blocked a number of sites, without a trial, due to content conflicting with the government’s views. This puts increased pressure on social networks in Russia, whose ethics focus around freedom of speech.
Russia’s Top Social Media Channels
Social media usage varies across countries and Russia is no different. Although Russian’s are active on Facebook and Twitter, unlike most of the West, they are not at the top of Russia’s list of social networks. Surprisingly, it is their own local social networks, such as VKontakte.ru and Odnoklassniki that top the list.
vKontakte (commonly known as VK), means ‘in touch’ and is the preferred social network across Russia. It is often referred to as ‘Russia’s Facebook’, with founder, 28 year old Pavel Durov, often being compared to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.
Founded in 2006, VK ranks as the 20th most popular website in the world, according to Alexa’s global Top 500 sites. It is particularly popular amongst Russian speaking users, with Russia itself holding 66.7% of its visitors. It ranks as Russia’s 2nd most popular site, only falling behind Yandex.ru, a Russian search engine. It is said to have 228 million users and as of March 2014, VK had an average of 60 million unique visitors going to the site, daily.
Similar to Facebook, VK allows users to message people publicly or privately, set up groups and pages, write on each other’s walls, share content and set up events. The site attracts a range of people, however, there is a distinct skew towards younger males who have just graduated from school.
Odnoklassniki is a social network that was also launched in 2006, by Albert Popkov. It is now operated under the Mail.Ru Group. It is primarily used for reconnecting with old classmates and friends, with it being mostly popular with men under 35 who have graduate level education.
According to Alexa.com, Odnoklassniki is 69th most popular website in the world and is the 7th most popular website in Russia. It has more than 148 million registered users on its site, with 44 million unique visitors daily.
3. Mail.Ru – My World
Mail.Ru was originally an email provider, however, they have extended their services to include social networking tool, ‘My World’, known as ‘Moy Mir’ in Russian.
My World allows users to communicate with friends, play games alone or with others, share photos and listen to your favourite music.
Mail.ru itself is recorded by Alexa.com as the 5th most popular website in Russia. My World alone see’s 30.6 million visitors each month from Russia, aged between 12 and 64.
Facebook is the 2nd most popular website in the world, however, in Russia, according to Alexa.com, it is only the 8th most popular. Although Russian’s do use the site, it is struggling to keep its visitors and maintain the same levels of engagement. In fact, in 2013 it was reported that Facebook lost market share, with key competitor VK significantly improving their position.
Twitter is the 8th most popular website in the world, however, it is only the 15th most popular in Russia, according to Alexa.com, holding only 3.4% of its global visitors. However, unlike Facebook, Twitter has been doing well in Russia over the last two years.
Businesses Using Social Media in Russia
With such an active population on social media, this provides the perfect platform for brands in Russia to promote their business and engage with customers. There are many businesses, across all industries already doing this, starting discussion boards, building communities and developing brand awareness. On VK alone, there are already over 400,000 brand pages. However, unlike the UK, where Facebook is often a company’s key profile, in Russia, brands have a much larger choice. It’s therefore important to consider the demographics and make sure you’re using the right profile to reach your specific audience.
Cheap Trip Community is an excellent example of a travel company who has done well in Russia on social media. The company promoted new last minute sales of holidays and travel via its social media pages, on a first-come-first-serve basis. This did extremely well and the company is now expanded beyond Moscow and has become one of the leading travel agencies in Russia.
So, as you can see, Russia’s social media landscape is very different to our own in the UK. However, it is definitely not a country to ignore. With extremely high usage compared the rest of the world, Russia is definitely enjoying the benefits that social media brings. For businesses, this provides a very active and profitable audience, which is a significant opportunity to be leveraged. However, the Internet, including social networks, is highly affected by the government. It is therefore important to tread with caution and be prepared for changes to the landscape in the future.
Are you looking to expand your business into Russia? Or do you already have a social media presence there? We’d love to hear your thoughts on how businesses can succeed on social media in Russia. Please leave a comment below.