Posts Tagged ‘social media in Russia’

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.


Interview with a Russian digital PR expert Michael Golovanov

November 15, 2010

On my last visit to Moscow, I met Michael Golovanov, Executive Director of Insiders online, a digital division of the leading communications agency in Russia. Here’s an extract of my interview with him.

What kind of Russian or Western organizations are the most active in running social media campaigns in the Russian speaking internet? What areas do they represent?

Currently, Russian are the main companies apply social media campaigns to promote their business online on Runet. This makes perfect sense, as there is no language barrier and they are more numerous. However, well-established foreign brands like Panasonic, McDonalds and Toyota are very enthusiastic about introducing new promotional techniques in Russia’s digital PR market and could be referred to as true trend setters. Frankly speaking, there are very few examples of successful campaigns. The majority of Western brands choose to stay passive in Russian social networks. I’ve noticed the B2C sector, especially, FMCG companies, are much more exposed to SMM and SMO campaigns because they aim to communicate directly with consumers.

B2B campaigns are harder to implement. Usually, these are quite complex projects combining corporate and product PR strategies involving ads in traditional mass media, banner advertising in niche portals, contextual search engine adverts and various SEO tactics. Despite high efficiency of B2B campaigns, the market is still very conservative applying these tactics. I’m sure this situation will change soon.

How do you identify influential bloggers? What kind of metrics do you use? Do you refer to particular ratings, communities, and personal contacts?

There is no single method for identifying influential bloggers. We consider various methods such as ratings, amount of visitors and subscribers, the blog’s inlinks from high profile resources, and blogger reputations in particular communities. Some bloggers use unethical internet marketing techniques such as faking the number of visitors, link farms, reciprocal link exchange and so on.

What is your opinion on Facebook’s invasion of Russia? Will Facebook takeover Vkontakte?

Originally, Vkontakte’s interface was copied from Facebook, but it’s been developed and tailored to the Russian speaking audience.Bear in mind, there’s a few years’ gap between the appearance of Vkontakte and Facebook. Hence, Vkontkte has a much bigger Russian-speaking audience. Facebook, however, is more widely used by foreigners, expats and immigrants. Undoubtedly, the Vkontakte’s big advantage is its pirate audio/video content. In addition, Vkontakte users experience a weaker censorship and controls compared to Facebook.

Is it worth for Western brands to promote through Russian social networks? Should they start using Twitter or Facebook in Russian language?

Obviously, it makes sense for Western companies aiming to penetrate Russian-speaking markets to promote themselves in Russian social networking sites. Of course, Russian social networking sites have many nuances, if given a choice between Facebook and Twitter, companies should use Facebook because it is a content generating site as opposed to Twitter’s broadcasting platform. According to experts there are just about 1500 active Russian speaking Twitter users. It’s worth emphasizing that is the most influential and authoritative social network in Russia. Many organizations don’t realize this and fail to engage a captive and influential audience.

Can you give me an example of a crisis in the Russian online market space due to unprofessional social media tactics?

The main reason why brands fail to, successfully, implement social media campaigns is lack of experienced social media communicators. This is a global issue not only particular to Russia. Communication with bloggers requires a professional approach. Quite often, these kinds of tasks are delegated to the recent graduates or interns. It’s common practice for communication students to position themselves as social media professionals after maintaining a couple of blogs. They enter a market with low cost digital PR proposals and, as a result, cooperation with such teams is a waste of time, money, and a liability. A recent example of a major communication failure on Runet is the Utkonos story. Utkonos is an online supermarket. “Utkonos” means “Duckbill” in English. Their online PR campaign turned out to be a reputation disaster when it became clear a few popular bloggers wrote posts glorifying the supermarket at the same time and with similar content. Soon after, Russian-speaking bloggers created a new neologism called utkonosit ( to duckbill) to describe a badly crafted social media strategy.

Western brands have an advantage in that they can afford hiring Russian-speaking chains of global PR agencies with experienced, professional staffs to implement their campaigns. On the other hand, Western corporations’ experienced, professional staffs trained in traditional promotional techniques may lack tried and true social media network “evangelizers”. This is why there are no guarantees an expensive, social media campaign will generate the ROI sought. This is the main reason why Western companies shy away from the Runet and choose to rely on more traditional PR campaigns. In general, Western companies, by ignoring the way Russian-speaking audiences consume media, end up missing up on an opportunity to engage a sizeable market.

Does Insiders Online work on the European market?

Currently, we work, mainly, with Russian clients. But, we are planning to expand to the EU and open an office in London.

Communications in Russia

April 14, 2010

I’ve come across Cafe2Go, the official podcast of the International Association of Business Communicators, where I found an interesting interview with two Russian communications professionals conducted by Shel Holtz. In this podcast Moscow based Sergey Trofimenko specializing in B2B communications and Igor Mintusov, political PR, expressed their views on the current state of public relations and social media in Russia.

Strangely enough, they have very different opinions. According to Igor Mintusov majority of journalists in Russia expect to get paid to cover any non-government events. All stories about political issues are censored by the state before getting into the broadcast or print media. However, there are a few independent media outlets in Russia, covering political issues from unbiased angle, but they were not mentioned. On the other hand, it’s much easier for businesses to secure media coverage, but journalists want  some cash in return. At this point, Sergey Trofimenko argued that he had never given any money to journalists and managed to get press coverage for his clients by providing newsworthy information to the media.  I’m very surprised that two men both working in Moscow, in the same professional area, have such different experiences and views. Igor Mintusov seems to be quite pessimistic about the state of the communications industry in Russia. He says that PR practitioners tend to set up immeasurable objectives and not always deliver what they promised. In addition to that, clients are not worried about ROI that much, as majority of them still don’t understand how PR works. In opposite, Sergey Trofimenko believes that increasing professionalism among PR professionals shows that Russian PROs are going on the right direction.

At least they both agreed on a rapid development of social media in Russia as the Internet penetration is high and more people prefer to get their news and entertainment online. Social media services are on demand and there is considerable growth in the industry. However, nor Sergey, nor Igor have their blogs yet.

 Связи с общественностью в России

Недавно я прослушала подкаст Cafe2Go    Международной Ассоциации Бизнес-Коммуникаторов  под названием” Связи с общественностью в России”, в котором известный американский пиарщик и блоггер Шел Холтз  брал интервью у двух московских специалистов по связям с общественностью. Сергей Трофименко, занимающийся бизнес-коммуникациями, и Игорь Минтусов,  специализирующийся в политическом PR,  излагали свои взгляды на текущую ситуацию в области связей с общественностью и социальных медиа в современной России.

Как ни странно, их мнения весьма отличаются друг от друга. Игорь Минтусов считает, что до сих пор большинство журналистов в России ожидают взятку, чтобы написать о каком- либо о событии негосударственного значения, a информация на политические темы проходит цензуру  прежде , чем появится в прессе. В России есть несколько независимых газет, которые доносят политические новости со своей точки зрения, но г-н Минтусов не перечислил эти издания. Он подчеркнул, что намного легче получить освещениe в СМИ бизнесам, но за это нужно все-таки заплатить. По словам Сергея Трофименко, за свою карьеру в PR он никогда не давал взяток журналистам и добивался освещения в СМИ благодаря качественной подачe  информации. Удивительно, что у специалистов в схожих сферах  и работающих в одном городе, могут так сильно различаться мнения. Mне показалось, что г-н Минтусов имеет достаточно пeссимистические взгляды на текущее состояние связей с общественностью в России. По его мнению  российские пиарщики имеют тенденцию ставить изначально недостижимые цели и не всегда выполняют свои обещания. Клиентура же не настаивает на полной отдаче от инвестиций в PR, потому что они не понимают до конца, как oн устроен. Господин Трофименко оспорил это заявление и высказался в пользу российских PR специалистов, указав на их профессиoнализм и эффективность,  ни в чем не уступающие этим качествам западных коллег.

Несмотря на различие взглядов, оба участника интервью согласились с тем, что социальные медиа в России развиваются очень быстро благодаря распространению интернета. Все больше людей предпочитают получать  новости и развлечения по интернету,  и социальные сети процветают. Появляется множество компаний,  специализирующихся на социальных медиа. К сожалению, ни у г-на Минтусова, ни у г-на Трофименко личного блога пока нет.

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