Read an updated (17th August 2017) and extended version of this article here.
At SMX it was confirmed that Yandex is working towards dropping backlinks as a ranking factor and developing a complex technology to access social media content, which eventually will have an impact on Yandex rankings.
Therefore, to follow the trend of the ever increasing importance of social media, we have compiled a review of the most important and influential social networks in RuNet. Note the fact that the Russian language internet space has its own well-established name – this highlights that it’s not just a language issue, but that the whole mentality is different.
VK.com (formerly VKontakte)
Founded in 2006, VK is the most popular social network in Russia, with a daily audience of over 50 million users. It is very similar to Facebook. A mobile number is required for registration, as a code is sent to the mobile phone to activate the account.
Demographically it’s dominated by quite young people, or people just over 30 – these people are dynamic and open-minded, with diverse interests, and are likely to have some disposable income.
However, businesses, especially foreign ones, have no major presence on VK.
Interestingly, note how the same post (pictured below) got a relatively similar number of comments, but 150 times less “likes” on VK when compared to Facebook:
*Russians are famous for not smiling out of politeness only – apparently they do not “like” things, either, unless they are really thrilled.
Facebook is believed to be in 4th place on the Russian social networks list, with over 20 million users.
It is considered to be a platform for remonstrative youth movements, used mainly by young metropolitan professionals with an active social position – often belonging to a political opposition. Russian Facebook users tend to be unacquainted with each other in real life.
Odnoklassniki was founded in 2006 and is the second most popular network in Russia with about 45 million visitors – although it used to be in first place. It has recently gone under Mail.ru management. It is similar to classmates.com and allows users to get hold of long-lost childhood friends and family members.
The network boasts the longest average time spend per page, significantly more than other social networks. However, users visit the site less frequently.
Odnoklassniki users participate a lot in group discussions and reviews etc.
The audience tends to be more mature, closer to 40 years old and over, with quite traditional values and settled lives. They are more evenly spread throughout the country, including smaller towns and outer areas, compared to more metropolitan-centric networks such as Facebook.
MoiMir unites all services and options for users of the biggest portal in Russia: MAIL.RU. MAIL.RU consists of an emailing service, news, dating and weather etc. and is powered by its own search engine. It is the third biggest social network in Russia, with about 40 million registered users. It is focused on entertainment, online games, sharing music and videos.
An app has been developed to communicate via mobile or computer (similar to ICQ service).
Monthly audience (millions)
Average time spent on-site per visit (minutes)
Average monthly visits per user
Moikrug.ru was founded in 2005 by graduates of Moscow State University, and is similar to LinkedIn.
Daily visits are estimated to be around 100k, however its audience is significantly skewed towards the IT sector. It has a real-time news/message feed and is a very lively place during office hours, contrary to other popular social networks, due to the subjects being discussed being highly related to work.
It is used extensively by HR and head-hunters searching for talented potential employees.
Twitter is rapidly expanding in Russia, and has surpassed 10 million unique users. It is believed the growth rate will decrease slightly in the future, although it is expected to nevertheless be one of the biggest in the world with a projected growth rate of 25-30% between 2014 and 2018.
Nearly 40% of users are actively tweeting, which is a record-breaking number for social networks. Over half the audience is between 18 and 34 years old, living mainly in big cities.
Livejournal.ru launched in 1999, and is the most popular blog in Russia. Despite a decrease in visitors, 9% of all Internet users in Russia visit the site and the number of users is quite stable, and even grows in some periods. The site has about 90k unique authors.
Livejournal.ru has become a reputable alternative platform for political discussions about prime civic events.
Its audience (including authors/bloggers) is becoming ever more professional; not only are the blogs themselves written to a high quality – with fine images, supportive data, and links to research and sources – but many of the comments could be mini-blogs themselves, often offering even deeper analysis into the subject.
The quantity of comments on the most popular blogs is congruent to comment numbers on the most significant news items on major news portals.
LiveJournal has also established Bloggers Schools in many towns in Russia, supervised by LiveJournal Ambassadors.
LiveJournal is looking more and more like a national mass media portal. It has authority and it has gained the trust of the RuNet audience over 15 years of stabile performance, and is one of most quoted sources in RuNet.
RuTube.ru is very similar to YouTube – although it is in Russian, obviously!
Interestingly, since there were no copyright laws in the Soviet Union, all videos and music produced during that time belong to the nation. There are therefore tons of old films and TV productions available to download in high quality (some of these are available on YouTube too, but not nearly as much).
Despite YouTube being the clear industry leader in online video sharing, RuTube is within the top 10 most popular Russian websites so it is not to be overlooked and is highly recommended as a channel to increase your online presence in RuNet.
So, are Russian social networks clones of Western portals, or are they authentic and distinctive? On the surface, they appear to have plenty in common. However, Russian networks are incorporating a unique domestic and psychological context, which affects the choice of discussion subjects and hot topics – and the topics sometimes are really hot, to the extent that the nickname “HolyWar” has emerged, as Russians remain to be very politically (and socially) active and opinionated.
RuNet is full of politically incorrect humour and what a tolerant Western society would consider bullying. But hard-tempered Russians are used to directness and are rarely lenient to what they consider to be weak characters, with everyday diplomacy hardly being their strongest point.
Grim and cruel jokes, witty comments, a unique style of language and specific slang used in the virtual world only, screwing with the most serious or sensitive subjects – RuNet certainly has its own style!
Quote from a blog about diet:
В это время в зал вылезают не тронутые фитнесом тушки, которые начинают трясти телесами на аэробных тренажерах с острым желанием немедленного приобретения сексуальной привлекательности в преддверии пляжного сезона.
Back translation: At this time of the year timid beached whales, as yet untouched by fitness, begin creeping into gyms, and commence jolting their doughy frames on cardiovascular apparatus, with an intense desire for an instant glamorous sex appeal, in anticipation of beach season.
The good news is that Russians rely a lot on reviews and recommendations within social media, as traditionally they are more responsive to informal, latent promotional campaigns.
So, there is definitely room for cautious, custom-made marketing with a very individual approach, performed by native Russians – otherwise, advertising campaigns run the risk of looking alien and too formal. With the severe luck of trust Russian online buyers are still experiencing (for example, the major issue online retailers are facing in Russia, that customers are reluctant to use any online payment systems and prefer paying cash on delivery), to appear local is of utmost importance.
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