This week is the first of six straight weeks where a class I am teaching on Global Communications at Georgetown University will be focused on a particular region of the world. This week’s region is Russia and they have just completed one blog post each about what they learned on the region. As part of the course, I will be producing a summary of some of their insights each Sunday, as well as share what our class was reading throughout the week. Below is a list of some of the most intriguing social media insights about Russia that the class uncovered this week:

  1. Russian social networks are huge, but insular. There are two large social networks in Russia that the vast majority of Internet users belong to – and Facebook-clone These networks are almost wholly in Russian and present an important, but insular, form of social networking between Russian speakers – but also prevent the rise of more global players like Facebook or MySpace who are each setting their sites on expansion in Russia.
  2. Yandex is a Google-killer (so far). Russia is one of the few countries besides China (with Baidu) that has a dominant local search engine that trounces Google, and given the Russian sense of pride in this achievement, it shows few signs of changing anytime soon … even despite Google co-founder Sergeiy Brin’s Russian background.
  3. Moscow area accounts for over 70% of Internet usage in Russia. The majority of Russia is largely rural and sparsely located, particularly when it comes to Internet usage. The implications of this for social media marketing programs is that it may be reasonable to have a real life element to a program if the majority of people are in relatively close proximity to one another.
  4. Twitter isn’t redefining social media in Russia. Social networking is still the king of social media in Russia, followed by blogging. When it comes to Twitter, the site has been hampered in its growth due to difficulty users have with the comparatively long Russian alphabet and fitting meaningful dialogue into 140 characters. Come to think of it, we have that problem in English too …
  5. Mobile adoption is huge … and mobile marketing is on the rise. Though mobile penetration by some accounts is even more than one per person (a strangely confusing stat), there is no doubt that mobile messaging is the communication of choice for the country’s youth. Marketing through this channel, though, is growing but has not yet reached full maturity.
  6. Russia is much more than one market. Several sources of marketing reading looking at the entire country pointed out that what works in Moscow won’t in Siberia. From ethnicities, to languages, to cultures, the nuances of Russia create a challenging communications environment.
  7. Russia’s President has a video blog. Currently on LiveJournal (interesting platform choice), the leader of Russia does have a video blog and tends to keep it relatively up to date. It’s an interesting irony as the government is still notoriously sensitive to criticism, yet it does signal an acceptance from the Kremlin that these tools are important and can have a global impact.
  8. Rise of aspirational Russian advertising. For many years, advertising in Russia was of necessity and simply relayed information to people on where to buy something. In recent times, this has shifted to advertising that actively sells and promotes – and is mostly aspirational.