Russian Social Media
Russia has the second largest Internet population in Europe; it had 61.5 million users by 31st December 2011. (Germany leads with 67.4 million and the UK follows Russia with 52.7 million.) Due to Russia’s massive population (estimated at 138,789,892 in 2011), Internet penetration is 44.3 per cent, whereas the UK has 84.1 per cent, and Germany has an 87.7 per cent penetration level. eMarketer forecasts that this will increase to 67.9 million users, and 49.2 per cent penetration by the end of 2012. According to comScore Russian Internet users spent an average of 25.5 hours online during the month of May 2012.
- Vkontakte is Russia’s largest social network, with 110 million users (mainly teens)
- Mail.ru is quickly developing into a social hub, with average monthly users of 30 million
- Odnoklassniki is starting to catch-up with Vkontakte as teenagers become school leavers
- Facebook has almost 6.5 million Russian users and is predicted to grow significantly in 2012
- Twitter has less than 10 million active accounts, and Mail.ru has launched a Russian version called Futubra
- YouTube is the most popular video site, but is regularly threatened with being blocked
- Google Plus and LinkedIn have fewer Russian users than the bigger players, but LinkedIn users are likely to increase with the introduction of the Russian language version
- Pinterest has yet to launch a Russian language version, in the meantime Russian competitor Pinme has launched to fill the gap in the market
- Blogging is very popular in Russia – there are currently over 40 million blogs
The largest Russian Social Media network is the domestic Facebook rival Vkontakte (В Контакте), also known as VK. The site, which also has an English language version, was launched in 2006 and currently has around 33 million unique visitors per day. By May 2012, VK had 110 million users, around 70 per cent of whom were based in Russia. VK reported its highest daily visits ever on 10th September 2012 (38.4 million visits, compared to 31.6 million for rival network OK).
It’s the second most visited site in Russia (behind Russian search engine Yandex), and appears to be very popular amongst teenagers. Although it has been claimed that the site gets a lot of spam, and has some issues with privacy as a lot of user details are revealed in search results. VK also attracts controversy for some of its services. Users can use the site to share files, and the network is frequently sued for copyright infringement due to the dearth of music videos uploaded on the site. Users also log in to VK to play games, the most popular game on the site has 8.7 million players.
The social network has been accused of promoting ‘extremist propaganda’ by the Russian State Duma Vice Speaker, for example allowing videos of banned extremist groups to be posted on the site. It’s been reported that the Kremlin is planning to launch a Government-backed competitor to VK, by using existing network russiawithoutidots.rf (a social network set up to discuss social issues).
The third most popular site in Russia is Mail.ru (Google.com is fourth most visited), a search, email and web portal that owns social networks, Odnoklassniki and Moi Mir (My World). It’s also Russia’s leading online gaming company with 19.1 million users per month. It reportedly reaches around 84 per cent of Russian internet users a month. Mail.ru average monthly users increased to 30 million in December 2011 from 27.2 million in December 2010, and My World’s have risen from 19.5 million to 20.2 million in the same year.
Mail.ru launched a blogging service in 2005 and the online games portal and video service in 2006. My World was launched in 2007, and in 2010 it acquired a stake in gaming giant Zynga and social discount website Groupon. China’s Tencent brought a stake in the firm in 2010. One of its social networks, My World, introduced a VIP status service in February 2011, which provides users with special features such as being invisible when online, being highlighted as a VIP and having dedicated technical support.
Another Russian social network is Odnoklassniki (OK). The classmates reunion site was set up in 2006 and is currently the seventh most visited site in Russia, just behind YouTube and ahead of Facebook. In December 2010 OK had 69 per cent of Vkontakte’s daily users, by December 2011 this was 89 per cent. Average monthly users reached 20.8 million in December 2011 (up from 17.4 million in December 2010), and daily active users grew by 82 per cent in the same year (with around 37 per cent of users coming from outside Russia – mainly former Soviet Union nations). In total, the site has around 90 million active accounts.
Odnoklassniki launched a partnership with video streaming site Rutube in April 2011, and introduced a music service and video chat functionality in June 2011. It also introduced an events feature in November 2011. In December 2011 it made user profiles searchable by search engines and enhanced profile privacy settings. At the same time, Mail.ru made it possible for users to link profiles and cross-post between My World and OK. The English language version was launched in June 2012.
Facebook is the eighth most popular site in Russia, after Odnoklassniki and ahead of Wikipedia. Russia is the twenty-ninth largest market for Facebook, with approximately 6,413,660 users. Socialbakers reports that 4.60 per cent of the population of Russia are on Facebook (10.74 per cent of internet users).
The three most popular pages on Facebook in Russia between March and September 2012 were; tennis star, Maria Sharapova’s page (8,214,432 fans); the Facebook Russia page (5,414,369 fans); and computer manufacturer Dell’s customer page (3,602,752 fans).
eMarketer forecasts that the number of Russians on Facebook will increase by 62 per cent in 2012, and predicts that social media usage as a whole will rise by 11.1 per cent, suggesting that Facebook may be starting to become more dominant at the expense of the more dominant national networks.
The twelfth most visited site in Russia is Twitter, behind Russian blogging site LiveInternet.ru and a few places ahead of blogger.com. Russia is the fourteenth most represented nation on Twitter, and had fewer than 10 million accounts as of 1st July 2012. In July 2011 Yandex reported that the Russian speaking audience on Twitter had reached the 1 million mark, by February 2012 this figure had reached 1.68 million (it no doubt helped that Twitter introduced Russian language functionality in April 2011).
According to Socialbakers, the three most followed Twitter accounts in Russia are: music brand MTV Russia (888,188 followers); news site Forbes Russia (417,937 followers); and Russian news channel RT_Com (399,421 followers). Mail.ru launched a Russian equivalent to Twitter in January 2012. Futubra has more functionality than Twitter and has been described as a cross between Twitter and Tumblr. It still has a way to go though, and is currently the 3,573rd most visited website in Russia.
YouTube is the sixth most visited site in Russia, behind Google.ru and ahead ofOdnoklassniki. It’s the most visited video site in Russia (Vimeo is the 191st most visited and RuTube 293rd). The Russian government periodically threatens to block access to YouTube, most recently over the recent controversial American film seen as mocking the Prophet. The most popular channels in Russia are: news channel Russia Today (784,918,907 video views and 302,792 subscribers); funny video channel, Max (621,241,696 video views and 1,258,744 subscribers); and gun and explosives channel Dmitri (466,547,201 video views and 2,645,327 subscribers).
Google Plus has approximately 1,399,365 users in Russia; over 75 per cent are male. Forty-seven per cent are aged 18 to 24. Users are more likely to be students, and most reside in Moscow. LinkedIn appears to be less popular in Russia, it’s the sixtieth most visited website, and has 1.4 million users across Russia, Romania and Turkey in June 2011. However, the Russian language version was launched in the same month, so this figure should start to rise.
Pinterest is in the process of considering launching a Russian language version (it’s currently the 307th most visited website), but by the time it does make a decision the Russian Pinterest clone, Pinme (launched in December 2011 and currently the 1052nd most visited site in Russia) may have grabbed a larger share of the market.
In 2011 the BBC reported that there were over 40 million blogs in Russia, with seven to ten per cent of them being updated at least once a month. It reported the audience at being around 15 million people. Blogs tend to be used as a way to exert freedom of speech against government and it’s common for the popular ones to have up to fifty thousand subscribers.
Russian company SUP purchased blogging platform LiveJournal in 2007. It’s the tenth most visited website in the country (making it more popular than Russian platform LiveInternet.ru, blogspot.com wordpress.com, blogger.com and Tumblr). In May 2011, LiveJournal had over five million registered accounts in the Russian language. Russians spend an average of 8.44 minutes on LiveJournal a day.
- Clearasil and Mars are two brands that have used Russian networks Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki to target their specific audiences
- Russians tend to follow the local versions of brand pages on the major social networks, presumably because these presences are in Russian language
Vkontakte allows users to create unofficial brand pages where they can create communities around brands to discuss things and ask each other questions about products, services etc. Official brand pages are similar to Wikipedia entries. Followers of the brand can update the page with information, but the page is ultimately controlled by admins.
One brand that has used Vkontakte’s features well is Clearasil Russia. The brand decided to run its 2010 Clearasil Goes Social campaign for its STAYCLEAR line on VK due to its mainly teenage user base. The brand created a brand page where it created content and engaged users. It also joined a popular group called ‘A group of those who are not afraid to change and know what they want.’ The group had an app which allowed people to take their profile picture using the app to use on VK. Clearasil created its own profile picture app called CLEARBOOTH and hosted in within the group. The CLEARBOOTH app encouraged users to enter their before, during and after profile pictures while using the STAYCLEAR product. At the end of the campaign they had the opportunity to have their picture form part of a video montage.
Over the course of the campaign, 13,000 photos were uploaded and over 120,000 comments were posted on the brand page. Over 16,000 messages were posted on the group wall and around 12,000 in the discussion area. A total of 1,118,606 profile pictures were created using the app, and over 500,000 users participated in the page and used the application. STAYCLEAR saw an increase in sales of 30 per cent in a year.
Mars also chose well when it used Friends Reunited style website Odnoklassniki to run its M&Ms Love Triangle campaign. Mars wanted to re-introduce the green M&M character to the Russian audience. As Green was a female character, and the more widely known Red and Yellow were male, the brand decided to place a love triangle at the heart of the campaign.
It created three profiles for the characters on Odnoklassniki, and filled the profile with the same kind of content that any regular user would post. It treated the characters like real people, posting updates about the love story daily. Users were also encouraged to visit and external microsite which was created to push sales and give prices to users. Each character has between 1.5 and 2 million friends each, with many people engaging with the characters on their pages.
The most popular brands on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter between March and September 2012 were Russian divisions of global brands. On Facebook, anti-virus product ESET Nod32 is the most popular (255,546 fans); car brand Audi Russia is also popular with 184,756 fans; while outdoor gear brand, Burton Russia has 103,554 fans.
The most popular brands on YouTube are: gaming brand Electronic Arts Russia (19,890,095 video views and 51,506 subscribers); mobile brands Nokia Russia (5,985,227 video views and 3,388 subscribers); and Sonyericssonrus 5,865,450 video views and 4,091 subscribers.
Meanwhile, Socialbakers reports that the most followed accounts on Twitter between March and September 2012 were: environmental charity Greenpeace Russia (57,273 followers); car brand Jaguar Russia (44,475 followers); and mobile brand HTC Russia (34,857 followers).
- Russian is the official language, with over 100 minority languages
- Most Russians are extremely patriotic and proud of their culture, heritage and people
- There is a strong culture of self-publishing which existed many years before blogging
- Community is still very important in Russia, as is maintaining friendships and connections
- Many Russians still celebrate Name Day’s and follow traditional naming conventions
Russian is the official language, and it’s estimated that it’s spoken by 81 per cent of the population and their first and only language. There are over one hundred minority languages spoken, with most speakers also speaking Russian. The most popular minority language is Tartar, spoken by more than three per cent of the population.
The 2002 census reported that the population comprised 79.8 per cent Russian, 3.8 per cent Tartar, two per cent Ukrainian, 1.2 per cent Bashkir, 1.1 per cent Chuvash, and 12.1 per cent unspecified.
Most Russians are strongly patriotic and take great pride in being able to withstand harsher environmental, social and political situations than others would be able to cope with. It generally takes a long time to build a relationship of trust, which is one of the reasons why Russians value sincerity and patience.
Due to their politically tumultuous heritage, there is a strong culture of what the Russians call Samizdat. The tendency to self-publish, developed during Soviet times and re-asserted itself with the decrease in press freedom and popularity of blogging in the early 2000s, when the blog scene started to become extremely politically focused.
Russians have a history built on agricultural community held land, with decision making being taken by a local assembly of heads of the household. This social structure was pervasive prior to the 1930s and as a result there is still a strong sense of community in Russia.
Maintaining your ties within the community is so important that Russians have a word – svyasi – which refers to the need to have influential friends or connections that can help you make your way in life. This is one of the reasons that Odnoklassniki is so popular: Russians see it as very important to maintain school friendships. There’s a day each year dedicated to maintaining these ties, when former pupils can visit their high schools to catch-up with teachers and classmates.
Names are very important in Russia: naming conventions are still used, where the middle name is a patronymic of father’s first name formed by adding ‘- vich’ or ‘-ovich’ for boys and ‘-avna’ or ‘- ovna’ for girls. Name Days (the day dedicated to the saint that an individual was named after) used to be seen as more important than birthdays in Russia, but now birthdays are given more prominence. Yet the day is still marked by people, with cards, parties and gifts.