Welcome to RuNet! A look inside the Russian Internet…

Hello, my name is Anna and I am an intern at Lucy Turpin Communications. I study Communication and Media Science at the University of Leipzig and I am originally from Russia. In this blog post I’d like to tell you about the social media in Russia and hopefully I can “enlighten” you a little bit ­- and maybe I can give you a bit of inspiration as well…

It is known that online communication works differently in various parts of the world. Of course, networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube dominate in most of the countries, but sometimes the use of local and regional networks is preferred. And, of course, it is important for professionals to know which platforms are present in each country in order to build a successful marketing strategy.

The Russian-speaking online world (also called Runet = Russian + Internet) has many peculiarities which you won’t find in other parts of the global network. We do not only have our own social networks, but also trends, rules and even problems that are unknown to users from other countries. I am frequently asked: “Do you use Facebook/Snapchat/WhatsApp etc. in Russia? My answer is: “Yes, of course”, but a bit different.

If Facebook is the most used social network in Europe and the USA, it is at best the second most popular social network in our country (the statistics differ). The reason for this is the existence of an alternative social network – VKontakte. I call it “Russian-speaking Facebook”. Compared to Facebook, most users are under 35 years old. The design and functionality are similar, but there are features that are not available in Facebook and which I personally think are great. For example, every user can create their own audio playlist – via the network you can upload the audio files, add them to the profile and listen to them for free. In Germany most of my audio recordings are not available due to copyright regulations. Of course you could bypass this restriction with a VPN program for your browser – but of course I don’t! The same applies to video files, which you can also view directly in your profile. Such possibilities make VKontakte a platform for file exchange, besides the functions of a convenient social network.

Another interesting function that VKontakte has, especially important for Social Media-Pros, is the timer. You can “set the timer” for all posts (whether private, in groups or on event pages), i.e. select the time when it will be published on one of the community pages.

VKontakte is used in all countries where Russian is widely spoken. These include Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Latvia, Kazakhstan etc., but the website is also available in many other languages, e.g. German and English. What I also like: the platform is not overloaded with paid ads, even though you can easily place targeted ads in communities or banners.

Older social media users in Russia prefer other websites like OK.ru (Odnoklassniki = “classmates”) or Facebook. Analysts say that Facebook is gaining more popularity in Russia because of the business conversations it conducts.

I’ll give you another example of a Russian platform “Telegram“. The interesting thing is that you can create channels there and send public messages to a large audience. The channels can be used as classic chats by two or more users, but it’s also possible to use a one-way channel: if you join a channel, you get the channel author’s messages. This means that you can read what the author posts in the chat without being able to write, comment or reply in the chat yourself. Such chats are usually conducted by companies, media or influencers. This way they spread their own content to their followers. In my opinion, this makes Telegram a hybrid between messenger and classic social media website.

One more feature in online communication that I happened to notice is a peculiarity in the use of Emojis. For example, if we want to emphasize something, it is a common practice in our culture to use smileys “: )” or “/ :” just by typing the brackets and ignoring the rest.

An example: I would like to say something that means “I am happy))))))))))” or “I am sad((((”

This way the brackets embrace my messages making them sound nicer or sadder. It’s untypical for other languages, which I didn’t know for a while, because I’m so used to it.

Anna A.