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Vkontakte – Connecting Eastern Europe

So the Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi has started. As with any highly publicised event, we can expect an avalanche of posts concerning the Olympics, posted by people interested in sports – or not.

If you want to do digital business during the Olympics you need to be where the people are. So what should your social media marketing strategy look like? Sure, you’ll have Facebook and Twitter covered. Maybe you’ll create some Olympic sports specific content.

And that’s it, isn’t it?

It’s not actually – if you want to reach the Russian audience, then you might have to get active on another social network: Vkontakte.

Known as the “Facebook of Russia” and online since 2006, Vkontakte (VK for short) is the creation of 29 year old, Russian entrepreneur Pavel Durov – unsurprisingly known as “Russia’s Mark Zuckerberg”. The network has, according to the VK website, 100 million active users of whom 58 million use it daily. This makes it the most visited site in Eastern Europe and possibly the biggest social media platform in all of Europe.

But beyond these numbers, what’s so interesting about VK?

Well, it allows users to listen to music and watch movies for free (and not just Disney, rumour has it some R and X rated stuff is going on there) and users can share audio content amongst themselves. These features have turned out to be quite bothersome for the network, having received legal ‘please explains’ from big companies in the music industry; EMI and Sony just to name a few. Putting that aside, VK is a force to be reckoned with in the social media sphere.

For now, if you’re targeting the Eastern European online market, then maybe creating a presence on VK is the way to go. What differentiates VK’s offering is its functionalities; allowing users to upload audio content that gives some extra variation in content creation (that added personal touch).  Add to that, Russians are an active bunch when it comes to social media. In 2010 they spent 9,8 hours a day on VK (making them #1 in the world), so the opportunities for consumer reach are exceptional. A downside could maybe be that the reach spans over nine time-zones, taking time-of-day precision out of the equation. But even Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t have his own time machine!

So there you go – there is this enormous platform out there that some of you maybe didn’t even know about. What would your online marketing efforts look like if you included VK in your social media marketing? It’s obviously not all about Facebook or Twitter, but it doesn’t sound too unreasonable to keep track of all the social media movements out there does it? The answer to that question is the same as to so many other questions; it depends. It depends on your product, your target audience and last but not least, on your budget.

So, anyway, the official Winter Olympics Facebook page has almost 200K likes while the VK equivalent has close to 2,5 million followers. It doesn’t really matter if you’re a winter sports fan or not; the Olympics are always a big event and bound to attract a huge following. Try stepping out of your comfort zone and throwing in a social media VK wildcard – it could make wonders for your online marketing strategy.

Have you ever heard of VK before? Got an account?  Which channels do you use to follow major events?


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Image courtesy: Uinny.ru, sammobile.com, wallwidehd.com

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