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Get In Touch with Europe’s Largest Social Network

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Amidst conversation about known social platforms like Facebook and Instagram, Russia’s Vkontakte is quietly making a bid as Europe’s most popular network.

For the most part, Social Media Week London has narrowed its focus to a specific set of platforms. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube have been mentioned countless times.

But as Socialgist reminded us on Friday morning, there’s more to social than just these US-based outlets. As the official data licensing partner for Russia’s Vkontakte, Socialgist gave us a peek inside Europe’s biggest social network, and one of few outlets whose use outpaces its US-based alternatives.

Europe’s Getting in Touch with VK

In her first presentation given in English, Products Promotion Director Nataliia Iakunina started the session with an overview of the platform. Vkontakte (VK for short) means “to be in touch with another person,” and she detailed how the site does this in huge numbers daily and monthly. With 6.5 billion messages sent monthly, it is the main communication medium in Russia, regularly replacing costly phone calls or paid SMS.

By the company’s recent count, 70% of Russian mobile Internet users are VK users. And while these users do have access to many other social platforms, most aren’t allowing their Facebook or Instagram accounts to replace activity on VK. Finally, it’s worth noting that users aren’t only Russian; VK engages users across Europe, as well as in countries like Brazil. “These numbers are incredible,” Iakunina marveled openly.

VK Should Matter to Marketers

When aiming to execute ad placement across users, Iakunina made a compelling case for why marketers should consider VK as well as other traditional social media outlets for their content. VK offers many tools that’ll look familiar to those advertising on Facebook and Instagram: interaction within communities, messaging with customers through direct messaging, distribution of paid and organic content. Further, their open API allows company pages to develop or add apps to their pages. They’ve aimed to “create an ecosystem” for businesses, making advertising and outreach easier.

Socialgist affirmed the success that brands have had on VK in their deep dive on activity during the World Cup. Coca-Cola was one of the brands who saw the greatest benefit from creating and sharing content via VK; their videos were the top 3 most watched on the topic, even as other videos were mentioned more.

Love of Country and Other Learnings

Jay Krall and Kaylin Linke of Socialgist conducted analysis on VK activity during the 2018 FIFA World Cup, hosted in Russia this summer. What they learned not only gave them insight about Russia in a larger sense (Linke remarked, “through reading the data, I really felt like I was there”), but it also spoke to the largely untapped reach potential that could come from engaging on the site.

It wasn’t just fans from the host country that were engaged on the platform; conversations spiked around the French, Brazilian, and Croatian teams; Croatia’s Cinderella story of a tournament run generated particularly positive sentiments. “Underdog teams do really well on social, particularly on VK,” Krall noted. A surprise finding from language comparison: the nature of the posts also varied based on the language in which they were posted. Posts in English tended to be shorter, linking to stories from news outlets. Comparatively, posts in Russian and other languages were far longer, relied more heavily on sentiment, and the links were to individuals with online homes for football stories and “fandom.”

Overall, the most significant finding was, not surprisingly, the love of country that shone through as people cheered for their home or chosen teams. Many expressed excitement in welcoming visitors to the country, and one of the most viewed posts was a song about loving Russia. In a landscape where there seems to be such divided discourse on more familiar platforms, there’s something highly attractive about seeing people unite over love of country.

The dominance that Vkontakte has achieved in Europe is truly exceptional, and the time has come to take a closer look at what drives it—as well as how to get involved. As brands aim to explore new frontiers for both their products and their marketing efforts, the reach and experience that VK has cultivated for its users is worth a look.

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