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Russia’s social media awakening – are you taking the opportunity?

Russians are adapting to social media in larger amounts than most other countries around the world. According to a study made by Comscore, Russia had the most engaged social networking audience worldwide. In 2010, Russians spent on average twice the amount of time within social networks as their friends in other countries, reaching 10 hours per month. It is
also interesting to note that even though more than 4.5 million Russians have converted to Facebook from local platforms - Vkontakte will stay as the leading network for a long time to come. Their platform is more adapted to local needs (e.g. sharing copyrighted content). The hurdle to change social network is obviously very high. The same is valid for the Russian search engine, Yandex. When a new behavior is established, it is extremely difficult to seduce people to some new interface unless your new
offer is a radically improved solution to existing needs.

Today, we are in the beginning of a large scale migration from traditional media to social media. So what is in the social media offering that is so radically new that it changes people’s behavior? The obvious answer is that it offer a totally new way of communication. In traditional media the channel for communication is one way, the agenda setter distribute his message to the audience. In social media there is ongoing, uncontrollable conversation going in multi-directions. That is the whole point with social media. The big question is why so many Russian companies don’t use this advantage when they enter social media? Why even try to use the same tactics in social media as in traditional media?

In Russia the younger generations are eager to interact with brands, celebrities, friends and politicians through the new social media channels. The Russian migration from traditional media is a huge opportunity for companies that want to take part in the conversation and dare to have a multi-directional discussion around their brand equity, corporate values, and build social connectivity with key audiences. In 12-24 months time, the hurdle to entrance to the social media stage will be substantially higher as the initiative and future marketing opportunities may be lost at a very high expense and market share.

Nevertheless, the conversation in social media is taking place regardless of whether your company is there to listen and share your point of views. Based on talks with our customers, we think that it is a big problem in Russia that so many of the organizational participants (corporate and public services) are still utilizing a traditional one-way-communication strategy in the social media sphere. We claim that this strategy will have to gradually be abandoned as it doesn’t fit into the social media landscape (and the new format’s competitive advantage) and the demand among the younger audiences to interact with the brands. Moreover, international studies, e.g. the Global Fortune 100, indicates that most successful companies have now moved past these barriers and embraced the value of engaged social media programs. If anything, we would say that the key success metrics in getting impact with your message are (i), the content, the framework around your message (without added value in content, the audience that found the way to your community will not waste their time by coming back) and (ii), authority – in social media, the person who distribute the message (e.g. influencer, friend, or family member) is more crucial then a recallable message (key in traditional marketing). In the end of the day, the social media consumer don’t put their trust in the channel but in the messenger.

If Russian organizations are looking for building their brand equity and drive new purchase opportunities, they need to adjust their strategy and tactics to the new media room - the social conversation scene.