Social media is just different in Russia. While over 82% of the population uses social media accounts, they may not be accounts on websites that you recognize.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube dominate the social media world in most countries, but Russia (and some surrounding areas such as Kazakstan and Ukraine) often prefer regional replacements for these platforms.
This difference in social media use is of huge importance for brands who use social media sites for advertising, as it can completely change a marketing strategy that is used in other parts of the world. That aside, it’s also just interesting to see how online communication can differ in different parts of the world!
Here are eight of the social media platforms that are best at connecting with Russian users.
Vk (previously known as VKontakte) is by far the most popular social media platform in Russia, with over 46.6 million monthly users. There are a lot of interesting facts about VK, but the platform is best described as a combination between Facebook and a file sharing platform. Much like Facebook, users have a profile and can easily search for and add other users to follow their status updates, photos, and videos.
Along with these traditional functions, users can also upload video and audio files of any kind and share these resources with other users as well. In the past, this has come under scrutiny as it occasionally crossed legal boundaries – however, recent reports indicate that VK is now working with major record labels to launch a subscription service that will allow for legal sharing of these files.
While VK may be most popular with younger users (ages 18-34), older social media users generally prefer the social media site OK (originally Odnoklassniki – “classmates”). OK.ru has over 31.5 million viewers a month, with the majority (69%) being women.
Much like VK, OK allows users to create a profile, search for friends, and share status updates and images. The focus of OK is reconnecting with classmates and friends that users may have lost touch with over the years, so the search parameters are quite detailed. As well, the site offers a feature that tells you who has been visiting your profile (whether or not you are their friend) – to view others’ profiles without leaving a trail you have to pay to enable “Invisible mode.”
3. Moi Mir
Perhaps the best well-known equivalent to Russia’s Moi Mir is Google+. Much like Google+, Moi Mir (“My World”) is an extension of the Internet/e-mail provider mail.ru (which also owns both OK and VK) and has perhaps struggled to find its unique niche in the broader social media scene.
Over 16.6 million people use Moi Mir each month to share images, music, and videos, as well as to play games and meet new friends. Moi Mir’s search strategy includes several questions focused on a person’s dating life, which is something that most other social media sites have yet to do.
Even though Facebook isn’t the most popular social media site in Russia, its popularity has definitely begun to spread – it now receives over 21.6 million Russian visitors each month. This isn’t necessarily surprising, as Facebook is constantly changing its platform to better align with its perceived users’ needs.
What’s interesting is that analysts suggest part of the reason Facebook is becoming more popular in Russia is because of business conversations – this report suggests that over 30% of business-related discussions in Russia take place on Facebook.
Livejournal is a blogging platform that has been around since 1999, but has since generally fallen into disuse in most of the world. This trend is far from true in Russia, however, where over 15.1 million users visit Livejournal each month – over half of the site’s total traffic.
Personal blogs are a great way to develop and share your opinion and perspectives online in a way that allows for more thought and discussion than the sort of short messages shared on more recent social media profiles. Thankfully, livejournal integration is still supported by a number of online services, allowing it to maintain its important role in Russia and beyond.
Twitter is another classic social media site that does quite well in Russia. While it doesn’t receive as many unique monthly visitors as the other sites in this list (approximately 7.7 million/month), it boasts the most engagement per author out of all social media sites used in Russia. So, even though Twitter may not be a mainstay for most Russian social media users, those who choose to use it are tweeting up a storm!
Rutube is essentially Russia’s answer to YouTube – a social media platform centred on video sharing for content of all types.
While it hasn’t achieved the incredible reach of YouTube, Rutube has collected a wide range of content from a large number of diverse users. Rutube hosts both licensed content and user uploads, and the vast majority of all uploads are in Russian. This high percentage of Russian content makes Rutube an incredibly valuable resource for anyone trying to learn the language.
The final social media platform on this list, Instagram has become hugely popular in the last few years and its popularity in Russia is no exception. Instagram is rapidly moving up the social media ranks in Russia, and currently has 12.3 million monthly users (77% of whom are younger females).
This shift in popularity is thanks in large part to cross-posting between Instagram and other platforms, where users will use Instagram’s great photo editing tools to enhance and caption a photo, and then post it both to Instagram and to other popular social media websites.
Russia’s Social Media Success
The success of unique social media platforms such as VK and OK in Russia and surrounding countries can be surprising to those of us who are used to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram holding a complete monopoly over all social media communication.
There is definitely something to be said for social media sites that are targeted at a specific user base, whether geographically (as in these examples) or based on activities (as can be seen with Snapchat’s special filters).
If you’re from Russia and you could expand on why you do or don’t use different social media platforms, I’d love to hear your insight in the comments! If you’re not from Russia, which of the social media sites above were unfamiliar to you before reading this article?