Can Russian Companies Benefit from Social Media?

After reading a laundry list of links about Russian marketing and Russia’s movement in social media, I attempted to find out something surprising about how a Russian brand is using social media. The biggest surprise is that I couldn’t think of any Russian brands off the top of my head. After going deeper into the recesses, I remembered Volga cars, Baltika beer, and of course Stolichnaya and Smirnoff vodka. Upon finding some Russian versions of the Websites (entered the rest in English), I noticed that while the sites themselves are pretty well designed (I especially liked the crisp layout of Baltika), they don’t link to social media at all. Many American companies currently incorporate Web 2.0 applications and links on their sites so that fans can visit them on Facebook or YouTube or read the CEO’s blog.

The material from the reading list gave a lot of details about how social networks and blogs are booming in a big way in Russia. In fact, stats show that Russia is the fourth largest social networking market in Europe. What makes me curious is how much of that fact is attributed to the sheer size of Russia? One of my favorite quotes I saw stated, “Russia is a classical marketing country. Marketingwise, Russia is not a “country”; it is rather a huge sparsely populated landmass to which no unified marketing concept applies.” That makes me wonder whether social media will be able to make an impact in how Russian companies do business. Just because millions of people are on social networks, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re connecting with companies or learning about the latest, greatest offering from Baltika. (Their Website worked for me. As I type, I really want an ice cold beer.)

Will the tides turn though now that Digital Sky Technologies (DST) invested $200 million in Facebook? DST has shares in numerous internet and technology companies, so can they help implement social media into the traditional Russian marketing model? As stated in a Fortune article “Indeed, Tamas [DST partner] and his team will bring invaluable knowledge about doing business in Russia and Eastern Europe, where companies are testing different types of business models for social networks.” Though Facebook is a huge organization, Russia is full of social networks and the Russian people may not want another player.

So as Russian internet usage grows, the companies are going to have to decide whether to follow a social-media marketing  model to advertise. One person who has taken to social media to market himself is Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. I was very surprised that he had his own LiveJournal blog and is actually keeping it current. Though I have no idea what he’s saying in his videos, he has a pretty solid following based on the amout of comments he receives. Typically, when people see a leadership figure using something, they’ll follow suit. Plus, Medvedev’s use of LiveJournal is giving great exposure to show people how they can reach out to their friends to tell their story. On the other hand, you have to consider that the amount of people who get to view the President’s videos is relatively low (there are approx. 33 million Internet users vs. a population of approx 141 million). Ultimately, Internet saturation will have to be a big consideration for a company to decide if, and how, to engage the Russian populace. Perhaps it might be enough for a company like Baltika to have a page on one of the social media sites. Either way, Russia will have an new, emerging market as Internet usage increases in the area.

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One Response to Can Russian Companies Benefit from Social Media?

  1. Loved this post! Why? First of all, you take a personal view to it and apply what you already know (and admit readily what you don’t) without letting it detract from your post. You know you can’t understand what’s on Medvedev’s blog (it’s in Russian), but make useful points about its currency and the level of debate on it anyway. You raise an interesting and important point about the lack of globally recognizable Russian brands, and end with a logical conclusion: that if Internet population in Russia is growing, and adoption of social networks is growing, then most brands will eventually need to find their strategy for social media. It’s just a matter of time. Excellent post. (4)

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