This week’s remarkable event on Runet (the Russian Internet) was when Nokia snatched the domain name of the brand’s unofficial fan club Vkontakte «Клуб владельцев Nokia». According to various resources Nokia’s unofficial fan page or group called Nokia Owners Club had owned the catchy domain name www.nokia.vkontakte.ru for several years. The group has gained more than 1 million members under the administration of a few brand enthusiasts. This week Nokia finally launched their official fan page called Nokia – официально ВКонтакте ( Nokia officially on Vkontakte) and asked the administration of Vkontakte to re-allocate the existing domain name for the URL of the new group. As a result the unofficial fan page was left with a boring domain name http://vkontakte.ru/club1622 which provoked a wave of protest and fueled speculation about the brand’s attitude towards its customers, social media ethics and general criticism of the way Vkontakte does things.
It’s worth mentioning that nothing has changed for the members of Nokia Owners Club except the domain name. In order to participate in the group’s activities users must be logged in to Vkontakte. This minimizes the value of the domain name. At the same time it’s understandable why Nokia wants the official group to be under the domain name which includes the actual brand name. The main question is why Nokia didn’t offer cooperation with the existing group which has an impressive members database, but created the new one ( for today about 4495 members).
I learned about a possible reason on the Facebook fan page of the Russian marketing and social media resource www.gossa.ru , where they published this news as a status update. The status gained 114 comments from Russian social media experts including the PR director of Nokia in Russia, the owner of the Moscow social media agency Social Networks and group administrators. The discussion revealed that the administrator of the unofficial fan group is an employee of Social Networks agency, which had previously run social media campaigns for Nokia in Russia. The PR director of Nokia, Victoria Eremina, claimed in her comment that the group was created by Social Networks agency with the aim of manipulating Nokia after their contract for social media services was over.I am not going to go into more details, but in my opinion the whole debate reveals sensitive information about the relations between Nokia and the agency. All this reflects the differences between PR practices in Russia and the UK, as I can’t imagine MDs and PR directors of UK agencies publicly discussing on Facebook details of their business relationships.
In many ways, I found this example of the way Russians communicate online extremely useful in determining the role of Facebook on Runet. For instance, it demonstrates how Facebook is gradually replacing Livejournal which was for years the most powerful platform for Russian bloggers, particulary for those working in media, PR, marketing and other creative areas. Now conversations have moved to Facebook where many Russian communicators have profiles and participate in the industry relevant discussions.
It’s amazing to learn from this community of the way social media is developing in Russia and am sure there will be many more interesting stories to follow.