Use of Social Media in Russia

In recent years we have all witnessed and been part of the changes that the internet has brought into our lives. One of the elements that has impacted human relations and business transactions is social networking. This is what I will try to present in this post: the importance that social networking has in Russia.

The country has been having the fastest growing internet population within Europe over the recent years. Still however, in 2011, internet penetration was remaining relatively low, equal to 43% of the overall population (59.700.000 users) in June 2011, ranking second in Europe. A crucial aspect of the social media behaviour is the time that Russian people spend in social networks: according to a recent report, Russians are the most engaging social networking users worldwide, spending on average 9.8 hours per month (while the global average is equal is 4.5 per month)!

The growing importance of social networking in  Russia is clear: Users engage a lot with them. Still, internet penetration is low. Given that its penetration will increase, social networks can be the best way to engage with consumers through the biggest country in the world.

As in most countries, a report suggests that internet users are mostly young and middle-aged (% of respondents in each group):

-12-17:86%

-18-24:84%

-25-34:72%

-35-44:57%

-45-54:34%-

 -55+: 10%

One more interesting aspect of social networking in Russia has to with the geographical areas where it is popular: Users are located mostly in the Western part of the country. This however doesn’t happen by chance: In most countries, better technological infrastructure is concentrated in the capital and in the big cities, leaving the other cities with older technology. The same happens with Russia: In the Western region, where the big cities lie, internet connectivity is better, more reliable and faster, making internet use much easier. This however will change, as it has changed in most countries, giving way to the great potential of those who have an interest to engage their audience in the rest of the country.

Another very interesting fact is the small usage of e-commerce websites that Russian people use. According to a report, only 19.8% of the population has used internet to order goods and services. This however, doesn’t happen by chance: the usage of e-commerce websites increases through the years – as users gain a better understanding of internet and its functions. Given that the internet and social networking is in its pre-mature stage (as contrasted to the UK or most Scandinavian countries) this is understandable.  Still, however, as in most countries, it looks like there is space for the growth of a lead national online retailer (it might be state-owned however, given the tradition of many successful companies in ex-Soviet republics!).

Facts and interesting cases concerning Russian social media:

The lead search engine in Russia is Yandex, having an average of 59.4 percent of the internet search, compared to Google, which has 25.6 percent. The most popular social network is VKontakte (meaning ‘staying in contact’),  having 54.2 percent of online population, compared to facebook, which has 24.7 percent. Their designs appear similar-but they are not. Other social networks include moimir (meaning ‘my world’, 43.8 percent), odnoklassniki (meaning ‘classmate’, 38.1 percent). Twitter is growing slowly, with an estimated 6.1 percent of active audience.

One of the most successful marketing campaigns in Russia was this of Clearasil, who used VKontakte, in order to create special groups of users, who could discuss the usage of the company’s products. The groups were characterized by intensive interaction and advice from the company and the product users, which resulted in 30% increase of its products! You can find the case study here. One more successful social media campaign was this of Palmolive, where a Russian lady took a shower in the middle of the city center during daytime! Through this video, Palmolive aimed the viral spread of the video through social networks. One more successful viral video is the ‘This is Russia’ video, advertising in a very creative and funny way, giving ideas as to how doing business in Russia is like.

Advice for doing business in Russia using social media and the internet

As mentioned above, the engagement of internet users is high in Russia, with internet penetration remaining low. It’s clear however that this will change in the future. Isn’t it very interesting however that still there aren’t any strong example of viral marketing? Yes it is. From my point of view, I think the reason is related to the fact that most companies still haven’t really engaged with their audiences which would create longer-term relations with their users, through a two-way communication. This however isn’t the appropriate way to gain loyalty from customers. So if you want to use social media for your business in Russia, try to ENGAGE and adopt your strategy in a different, interactive way to attract a unique audience.

Image one is courtesy of IntelFreePress via Flickr

Image three is coutrsy of The Futuristics via Flickr

About Konstantinos Tsanis

Currently, I am focusing in the completion of my PhD - research topic: Business strategies and financial performance in the high tech industry. I have worked with high tech start-ups, energy, food and pharmaceutical companies. Moreover, I have taught at the University of Edinburgh Strategic Management, International Accounting and Portfolio Management. I am also a Chartered MCSI from the British CISI institute.

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