Posts Tagged ‘groups Vkontakte’

The largest social network Vkontakte keeps evolving

April 20, 2011

Vkontakte continues to change and introduce new rules and features. I’d say that despite visual similarity to Facebook, running campaigns on Vkontakte requires more patience and a different approach. Before tapping into the most popular social network in Russia, it’s crucial to speak Russian and have a clear understanding of your target audience.

I want to emphasise that people spending time on Vkontakte are different from Russians who’ve chosen to be on Facebook. For example, if you want to create awareness about expensive gadgets, it’s not worth the effort running a campaign on Vkontakte, as this network is predominantly occupied by the younger generation with a weak purchasing power, whilst Early Adopters with money prefer Facebook.

In contrast, if you’re promoting summer English language courses, Vkontakte is the place to be; because the majority of Russian teens  actively participate in this network . Some argue that it’s not worth investing in advertising Vkontakte, as SEM on Yandex and Google are bringing more return on investment. In my opinion, it all depends on objectives. For instance, if you want to create a buzz around your brand and listen to what others have to say it’s definitely worth trying Vkontakte.

Vkontakte is completely overwhelmed with adverts, groups, and spammers. My advice to advertisers would be to ensure a high level of prominence in order to stand in this information-dense environment. The Network’s recent decision to stop banner advertising was a definite shift towards better user experience. However, this month Vkontakte has introduced a new type of advertising: video banners. This exciting innovation means that each time a user clicks on a small textual and visual advert a full screen video appears. These adverts are made to encourage sharing of content between the network users. People can “Like” adverts, add to ‘Favourites’ and see other people who are fond of the same videos.

video ad Vkontakte

The Russian digital agency, AdWatch Isobar, is the first in the market to start using this type of advertising. Their ad campaign for Megafon, a major Russian mobile network operator, which was launched 15th of April, has already proved to be a success. According to the MD of the agency, a сlickthrough rate of the campaign was four to five times higher compared with traditional targeted adverts.

Another significant change is the possibility to create public pages. Vkontakte allows the changing of groups into public pages. This makes it easier for organizations and businesses which previously were only able to use groups to engage with their audience. It’s free to create a public page and any member can do so easily. The only difference to Facebook is that you have to provide a phone number to get the page activated. As of today there are 410 967 public pages falling into the following categories: places, small business, companies, organizations, celebrities and goods

The first public page on Vkontakte was created by Sberbank Rossii (Сбербанк России ), the largest bank in Russia  and is run under the supervision of the famous Russian social media expert, Arthur Welf  It appears that Vkontakte encourages users to switch into public pages as it’s becoming increasingly complicated to recruit members to groups. It’s not possible to send out invitations to anyone in the network except your friends. The most simple, but expensive way to recruit new people to groups is through targeted advertising. The other option is to visit other groups and advertise on their walls or by posting engaging and catchy content.

Another option to attract members is through applications. Such an approach is less expensive than targeted advertising, but can be just as effective.

The most popular app on Vkontakte is a game called Тюряга (Prison) with 6 134 947 installations. The goal of the game is to make tattoos to become a respectful criminal. Russian criminal tattoos have a complex system of symbols and this application educates widely on this topic. I think this is an interesting fact, compared to the relatively innocent leader of Facebook apps CityVille.

Furthermore, it is possible to promote a group or a public page by endorsing celebrity accounts and to attract users from external websites. There are many individuals in the network offering promotion services, although I haven’t used any of them and can’t recommend anyone who can deliver notable results.

It’s exciting to follow developments introduced by this network and learn about its members. Bearing in mind that Vkontakte provides many opportunities for understanding how the product or brand is being perceived in various regions of Russia, not simply exclusive to major cities. Facebook is still the favourite network in the Moscow and St.Petersburg population.

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Vkontakte or Facebook? Consider both when promoting your brand on the Russian Internet.

January 4, 2011

I’d like to share an experience I had while working on creating online communities on two powerful social networking sites: Facebook and Vkontakte.I set up a group on Vkontakte for a company, specialising in English language courses and was involved in running a Facebook page for the same brand.

I’m sure there is no need to introduce Facebook; there are no doubts about its global success. According to Social Bakers stats today Facebook has 3 195 140 users in Russia and the number continues to grow. In order to develop a better understanding of the battle for a Russian speaking audience I recommend reading an article in Business Week about Zuckerberg’s ambition to expand to Russia.

For those who aren’t familiar with Vkontakte, it is the most popular social network in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Azerbaijan. According to the Visualize Traffic Vkontakte attracts 7,741,804 visitors per day and 1 in every 215 internet users in Russia logs into this site daily. The average age of the users varies from 12 to 34 years. The site is highly popular with school children and university students who spend their time here rather than watching television. The graph below illustrates that more people prefer to occupy the prime time surfing Vkontakte rather than main TV channels and radio stations which continue to lose audience.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Vkontakte is Facebook’s largest competitor for the Russian speaking Internet audience. Of course there are other Russian speaking social networks, but Vkontakte is the most comparable to Facebook and shares the same ambition; to attract as many members as possible and maximize revenue in the Russian speaking advertising market. Established five years ago, the Vkontakte network has grown into the third most visited website in Russia.

In my opinion, its success primarily relies on a free and high-quality streaming of the pirated video and audio content. Anyone registered on Vkontakte instantly obtains free access to a variety of movies and music, quite often in HD quality.

Recently, Vkontakte has been adapting their offering in order to improve user experience and meet the requirements of prospective advertisers. Gradually Vkontakte is becoming a much more sophisticated and user friendly network. It’s clear that Facebook’s penetration to the Russian market is having an impact on the way Vkontakte operates. For instance, their recent decision to stop banner advertising and the introduction of ‘Vkontakte Pages’ is a definite shift towards better user experience.

It is unquestionable that foreign companies operating in the Russian market should consider Vkontakte as a communication channel for their target audiences. It is also essential to understand whether your target audience spends enough time on Vkontakte to be able to acknowledge your brand and advertising effort. Russian intellectuals and influential online personas consider Vkontakte as a low-class website, full of spammers and time-wasters, however, as a social network you are targeting the masses, and so exposure here is crucial. It’s a great way to introduce your brand to Russian speakers and establish a presence on a localised social network, thus demonstrating your understanding of the Russian culture and people.

I’ve noticed recently that Vkontakte targeted advertising is more cost-effective and better tailored to the Russian market than Facebook. I give an example in a table below. It is my firm belief that for successful promotion on Vkontakte it is fundamental to have a native Russian speaker to do the job. Russian is a complicated language and Google Translate is not enough to grasp important nuances. Even though the site has an English version, not all content is being translated and it seems that the customer service team is not trained to work with foreign clients. My English speaking colleague emailed Vkontakte several times with a request to be introduced to an English speaking account manager, but he failed to receive a response.

Another option is to hire an agency in Russia in order for them to build up an online community and interact with an audience. However, this can be costly and it is more than probable that you won’t be able to fully monitor the communication process.

The table below highlights some of differences between promoting a brand on Vkontakte and Facebook. I’m sure due to a rapid development of both sites these observations will shortly become outdated. My colleague Natalie Copuroglu who specializes predominantly on Facebook campaigns helped me to come up with a few good points.

facebook versus vkontakte



Recent drama on the Russian Internet : unofficial Nokia fan page domain takeover followed by Facebook wranglings.

October 23, 2010

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.

My first outing into Russia’s biggest social media playground, Vkontakte.

August 27, 2010

Right now I’m working on a social media project on Russia’s largest social networking website, Vkontakte, you may remember me mentioning it in previous posts.

Vkontakte is extremely popular among Russians and Ukrainians with an audience of 85,932,676 people. Despite its similarity to Facebook, there are some crucial differences to be aware of and I’m undertaking a comprehensive analysis to ensure a cost-effective and professional campaign. The way the advertising business works in Vkontakte reminds me of Facebook in its early days when they wanted to outsource all advertising business to external agencies. Thankfully, this idea didn’t last long and died out when users realised that Facebook was simple enough to manage adverting campaigns and avoid paying extra to third parties. Now Vkontakte promotes the services of the Media Plus agency, as their official advertising partner and sends visitors looking for advertising opportunities to their website http://www.mediaplus.ru/.

 On its main page Media Plus proudly introduces itself as the exclusive advertising agency for Vkontakte. Russians are partial to using the word “Exclusive”. I don’t understand why it’s being used in this context, as I found plenty other agencies offering the same services as Media Plus for promotion on Vkontakte. Nevertheless, I contacted this agency to find out what services they offer and their pricing schemes. It’s clear that advertising on Vkontakte is in high demand and is expensive. Unfortunately, Media Plus doesn’t provide any information in English, so I had to translate and convert the prices from Roubles to GBP using an online currency converter, which means the pricing in this post is not a hundred per cent accurate.

 A part of my job is to create a fan page for  a chain of English language colleges, attract an audience and entice them to visit the company’s website. А fan page in Vkontakte is called a Group or Группа. The Exclusive Partner promises to create a group for only 1,100 GBP ex VAT, moderation is roughly 650 GBP per month which mainly involves filtering spam and updating content. Active moderation costs 1,100 GBP per month. For this you get twenty discussions and a hundred comments monthly, competitions, opinion polls, video uploads, audio content, etc. Promotion of the group is done through banner advertising. I am not sure whether it’s included in the cost of running a group per month as the information provided by  the sales person  was confusing. All content is provided by clients. We’ve decided to create a group without external help and now I’m looking only at advertising opportunities. My findings will be covered in future posts. Frankly, I’m very pleased that I’m going to work with Вконтакте as I heard so many controversial things about this site and can’t wait to experience how it works  in practice


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