Social Networks in Russia (Part 1)

And the winner is…

Despite the aggressive marketing efforts of Facebook&Co. to invade the Russian social networking market, the three leading social networks (according to the number of registered active users, statistics by WCIOM and TASS-telecom) are VKontakte.ru, Odnoklassniki.ru and MoiMir (project by Mail.ru).

Below I will give a brief description of functionality and background of these three social networks.

Ondnoklassniki.ru (Classmates) was created by Abert Popkov in Russia in 2006 and two years later was sold to the Mail.ru Group (http://corp.mail.ru/en).

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It allows the users create groups, send messages and find new friends, as well as share and upload photos, videos, play online games and bookmark the content from other users. It also has a built-in function to detect profile visitors (“My Guests”) and a “Like” button (“Klass!”). It offers a collection of music tracks and allows posting music directly onto the profile or download/upload tracks.

MoiMir (MyWorld) was originally created as part of Mail.ru Group. It has recently introduced a new user interface, that basically makes it more similar to Facebook.

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MoiMir’s functionality is basically very similar to that of Odnoklassniki, it also offers other functional features directly from the Mail.ru project (such as Ask-Answer Forums (Otvety.Mail.ru).

Both MoiMir and Odnoklassniki offer some extra features for the users (such as visiting pages anonymously, without being shown in the “Guests” tab) or a “VIP” account for a fee. Another interesting way of collecting money directly from the subscribers is selling stickers or virtual “presents” that can be paid for and added to the account or directly to the profile picture of another user. The same system works for “grading” a picture of another user with the best grade “5+” or “+10”.

Of course, B2B customers are also welcome. These sites also work with the Facebook model in targeting the user groups for advertising, though the costs are measured per 1000 impressions only. The accounts of both social networks, however, can display adverts from Target. Mail. Ru (a service similar to Google Ads).

Another website VKontakte. ru (InContact) was created and is still owned by Pavel Durov.

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The functionality includes adding and sharing music and videos, playing online games, etc. The “Liked” content does not get shared with other users automatically (as on Mail.ru Group sites), it requires a separate click on the “Share with friends”. It is the only one of the three leading social networks that has user interface in English (as well as in other languages).

Advertising possibilities for companies on VKontakte are identical to those of Facebook.

Despite a number of extra features, some functions included on Facebook are missing. All the three networks in question do not distinguish between a “page” and a “group”, no additional functionality is offered, thus company pages have to be set up as “public groups”. Another drawback is that the visibility of separate wall posts cannot be controlled, though MoiMir allows to limit the visibility of the whole profile to friends only.

In the following posts I will take a broader look at the social media landscape in Russia.

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Will Market Research Survive?

No, I do not want to make a prediction about the death of market research as such, but rather some of its forms that have traditionally been the “cash cows” of large market research companies.

Take, for example, panel research. The very essence of retail panel research is being ruined by the growth of e-commerce. Measuring at the point of sales is becoming more complicated now.  Who can possibly register the flow of goods from numerous on-line shops, especially those outside the country? There is a missing link there, and the gap is growing.

Another area which is unlikely to survive very long is test market with measuring advertising response.  As online marketing budgets are growing and the advertising shifts from TV and radio to the Internet, the companies feel more empowered to track their own advertising campaigns and optimize them as they please.

Even in qualitative research, traditional focus groups may, to a large extent, be replaced by scanning online forums and social media for new ideas or suggestions for improvement. Moreover, the data are available globally and in real time at no extra cost!

And last but not least, desk research has become increasingly simplified through the  use online search engines and other digital data mining tools. Possibly,  in some years, complete market research reports which normally took months to create and used to cost thousands of dollars will be created in a few mouse-clicks using special software.

Think of the new World 2.0 as an interlaced, data-overflown place, where the consumers and whole markets are getting more and more transparent, with or without professional market research as we know it.  Shifting strategic weights and entering new fields of play will probably be the biggest challenge for market research companies in the years to come.

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Specifics of Advertising on the Radio

Visiting the local Radio House the other day got me into thinking about radio as a marketing means.

As the managing director stated: radio is alive and kicking. Among the  reasons he named were: firstly, the radio can be used in the background of other activities, such as daily morning routines (morning is prime-time in the radio business). Secondly, real-time shows allow for instant news updates (DJs were constantly monitoring the news situation while moderating the show). And finally  the local nature of the radio is attractive for most clients (despite the unlimited number of Internet radio channels, the majority of radio listeners stick to the local providers).  Recent research even shows a growing number of younger people listening to the radio.

Thus, radio seems to be still a factor in media planing. First of all, radio is great for locally offered products or services. Secondly, radio offers a better reach  in comparison to the Internet or the local newspaper. The format of the radio (repeating of information, background flow of information) has the potential to increase the share of mind of any brand significantly.

However, I am still not convinced that radio advertising can be used successfully for any given product. For example, for a specific, niche product, the radio advertising unfortunately causes massive coverage waste, that is the relative conversion cost is rising.

A complex product or service has to be marketed through two-stage communication model: a user is forwarded to a landing page or another source of information by the radio commercial, which again may cause distortions/interruptions  in the communication process.

Another interesting finding was that advertising alone  is often not enough, it has to be coupled with promotion, e.g. extra benefits/ discounts/special offers in order to attract the customers.  In this case the question rises if the customer has been attracted by the discount or by way the product/ service has been positioned in the radio commercial.

What is more, the product or service and the brand itself  has to fit into the format of the radio channel/ radio program where it is advertised.

All in all, the goal of a marketer in doing radio advertising  should be looking for ways to build up a share of heart in addition the share of mind.

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