Russians don’t lust Facebook.
They have their own and it’s called VKontakte. 250 million users is a flourishing number which could help your traffic and why not… increase your sales. Check out what you need to know before you sign up.
What is VKontakte?
VKontakte is the largest Russian social networking service in Europe (and not only Europe). It’s a Facebook adaptation and has similar features such as liking, sharing, groups, comments, and private messages. VKontakte can be translated as “in contact” or “in touch”.
The service is extremely popular in Russia and in former Soviet Republics like Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.
The domain name vkontakte.ru was registered in October 2006, nine months later the baby called “first million users” was born, and by November 2014 VKontakte had over 280 million accounts.
At first, VKontakte was designed for students within University circles, similar to Facebook’s initial purpose. The registration worked through an invitation system and it was free of charge. Later, its purpose expanded and took the shape of a social media platform.
Now VKontakte is available in over 70 languages: English, German, Italian, Turkish, and many more. The Russian version has three options to choose from: Standard, Soviet version and Pre-Revolutionary Russian (in case these are mysteries to you, the difference between them is made by the used spelling).
VKontakte mobile versions are available for IOS, Android and Windows Phone.
Why VKontakte is a good choice for your business?
Getting in contact with your Eastern Europe and Central Asia audience through social media can increase your website traffic and possibly your sales. You could simply use Facebook, because it’s available for these countries, but Facebook is not as popular as VKontakte for Russian and Ukrainian social media users. Nationalistic reasons are among the most relevant ones.
VKontakte collects a lot of information from its users asking them to upload detailed personal information such as political orientation, current and previous jobs, studies, etc. This is a great tool for planning effective marketing strategies and also for paid advertisements which can run on the platform.
VKontakte users are highly active in discussions groups; therefore you can also create a discussion group where you can promote your products, along with a Public Page for your brand. Paid posts and advertisements can also be scheduled to appear in existing VKontakte Communities.
Signing up to VKontakte.
In order to sign up to VKontakte, you have to access www.vkontakte.ru. You don’t need an invitation anymore; all you need is a valid mobile number (not necessarily provided by a Russian mobile network, you can use your own, regardless of your country or provider) or a Facebook account. I have registered through Facebook and it took only a click of a button.
Filling in the requested information is very easy to do, because you can select the website’s language. Just pick English or your native language. Following sections can be found on the left side of the platform: My Profile, My Friends, My Photos, My Videos, My Messages, My Music, My Communities, My News, My Feedback, My Settings.
It should be extremely easy to use because VKontakte is very similar to Facebook.
Here is what you can do on VKontakte:
- Send private messages. You can attach content in supported formats such as doc, docx, xls, xlxs, ppt, pptx, pdf, png, rtf, jpg, mp3, psd, djfu, fb2, ps. Along with sending documents, pictures and music, you can also take video calls.
- Update status. Status posts work similar to Twitter’s post method, but are not restricted to 140 characters. You can use @mentions and #hashtags. Also, you can take advantage of the opportunity of posting up to ten attachments to your status (photos, videos, documents and maps).
- Share photos, videos, music and news. The interesting fact here is that piracy is flourishing and little to no measures are taken. So, VKontakte users can watch full-length movies and download pirated music. Keep in mind that in most countries this action is against the law and legal actions can be taken against you.
- Like buttons. VKontakte’s liking system works different from Facebook’s liking. When you pressed the “Like” button, the content you liked, either videos, pictures, comments or news, it’s automatically saved in your “Favorites” section.
- Create communities. You can choose between creating a “Group” or a “Public Page”. Groups are for discussions, debating, sharing content and ideas; Public Pages are designed for celebrities and businesses. International celebrities that have a VKontakte account: Tom Cruise, Shakira, Zach Braff, Paris Hilton, Inna.
- Play games. Playing games is an extremely active segment on VKontakte platform and you could use it to promote your own game if you have one.
- Synchronize with other social media profiles. Remember that you can also create an account registering with Facebook.
Anti-Kremlin protests from 2011 lit the controversies about VKontakte. Pavel Durkov, VK’s founder, was approached by the Federal Security Service just after the protests and asked to give information about VK users who participated and organized the protests. Durkov publicly refused and authorities pressures escalated. A few months later, he was charged with hitting a police officer with his car, then all his offices were searched. These actions drove Durov to leave Russia and sell all his remaining VKontakte shares to Alisher Usamanov and Igore Sechin, both having close ties to Kremlin.
VKontakte is the Russian Facebook…
…and it can be used as a great opportunity to get in contact with the Russian market. Main benefits come from the possibility of increasing a website’s traffic, but also of selling products. It is a lot easier to use than other social media platforms which you may not by familiar to, for example the Chinese Twitter -Sina Weibo [link catre articolul cu Sina-Weibo], and it supports over 70 languages.
If you consider approaching Russian market through social media, especially VKontakte, then my personal advice would be to think about two options: you could use it yourself posting in English (unless you speak Russian), eventually synchronize it to your other social media platforms, but if you want to get deeper into VKontakte and start paying for posts and ads, then you should ask for professional help.