Creating a social media campaign in Russia


In some countries, social media isn’t just about Facebook. With so many brands focusing on the BRIC markets, Patrick Eve, MD of international translation agency, TranslateMedia, gives the lowdown on social media use in Russia.


There are now more than two billion internet users in the world. Facebook has one billion monthly active users, and has racked up 1.13 trillion likes since its launch. Twitter passed 517 million accounts in July 2012, and YouTube has over 800 million unique users per month. But there is still a world beyond these international social networks, and in two of the fast-emerging BRIC nations –Russia and China – it isn’t Facebook, Twitter or YouTube that dominate.

The stats

Facebook is currently only the eighth most popular website site in Russia (in most countries it’s in the top two, alongside Google), behind local networks Vkontakte (a Facebook-like network) and Odnoklassniki (a classmate reunion network owned by search and email firm YouTube is at number six.

Vkontakte is dominant social network in Russia. It is the second most visited website in Russia (behind Yandex, a Russian search engine – Google comes fourth on the list) and has around 130 million users. Odnoklassniki has around 90 million active accounts. Facebook’s 14 million registered users looks comparatively small in comparison.

Vkontakte isn’t without its issues. It been accused of being spammy, and is dogged by privacy issues (not so different from Facebook, then). It is also fairly regularly sued for copyright infringement as a result of file-sharing on the site. Interestingly, in May this year, Vkontakte announced that it was shelving any plans for IPO ‘indefinitely’ after Facebook’s experience.

Oknoklassniki – which means ‘classmates’ in Russian – is expanding quickly across Eastern Europe, and launched an English-language version this year. It claims to have users from 229 countries, and that the only place in the world that hasn’t produced a single visit to the site is the Pitcairn Islands. The concept of keeping school friendships is important in Russia – there’s even a day a year dedicated to keeping ties to school friends and teachers – as is ‘svyasi’, or keeping connections in high places (often the only way through red tape).

But the most interesting phenomenon to me is the popularity of blogging in Russia: there are currently over 40 million blogs in the country. In a country where censorship and state-run media is, to many, just a way of life, it makes sense that a culture of ‘Samizdat’ (which means self-publish in Russia) has developed, and technology has given a platform to millions of free thinkers.

Twitter is gaining in popularity in Russia, but as of July this year there are only 10 million Russian Twitter accounts. LinkedIn and Google Plus, to date, hardly get a look in.

What does this mean for brands?

Despite the growth in Facebook take up, if you want to create a campaign that resonates in Russia, Vkontakte or Odnoklassniki dominate at the moment. There have been some serious campaigns on each by international brands: Clearasil used Vkontakte for its Clearasil Goes Social campaign to appeal to teenagers (the biggest users of Vkontakte), and increased sales by a reported 30 per cent per year.

Mars used Odnoklassniki for its M&Ms Love Triangle campaign, to raise awareness of the product by creating a love story between three characters. It created a social profile for each character, posting updates about the love story, and each character had between 1.5 and 2 million ‘friends’ each by the end of the campaign.

Of course, Facebook is growing, fast, and is making a serious play for the Russian market. The rivalry between Facebook and Vkontakte is well-documented, and Zuckerberg went on a charm offensive in Russia recently which shows just how serious he is about taking market share. eMarketer forecasts that the number of Russians on Facebook will increase by 62 per cent in 2012 (against an average increase in social media use of 11.1 per cent).

But, for now at least, it is the Russian-grown social networks that carry the influence for a successful social media campaign.

This article is based on TranslateMedia’s international guide to social media, which can be viewed or downloaded for free on the TranslateMedia website.

By Patrick Eve
Managing Director

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