We’ve written before about the size of the Russian social networking market, and the fact that Russia has the world’s most engaged social network users. And this weekend it was reported that one of the largest, Russian-language, social networks might be plotting an international roll-out.
VKontakte (В контакте) has some 42 million registered users in Russian-speaking countries. It is perhaps best known outside of Russia for its user interface and design, which resembles in a number of ways it’s international competitor Facebook. However, in Russia serves 1.4 billion page views each day to its 42 million users, and attracts 14 million unique visitors each month. In one of the most engaged and fastest-growing social networking markets in the world, it is a force to be reckoned with.
This weekend Vedomosti (Ведомости), the Russian business newspaper, reported that VKontakte has registered the domain www.vk.com and plans to begin marketing the social network globally later this year. As the article reports:
According to Lev Leviev, the Executive Director of VKontakte, the company intends to expand abroad and, by October of this year, will have launched vk.com in 12 new languages.*
It will certainly be interesting to see if these rumours are true and where VKontakte plans to expand. The Russian social networking marketing has grown rapidly and more recently than the US and other European marketing. The company already competes with Facebook in Poland, the Ukraine and some other Eastern European markets, as well as in its native Russian, and it will be interesting to see where it expands. It perhaps would be better placed to compete in other markets that are growing rapidly – parts of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and in South America, rather than to take Facebook on in its core global markets. These are where it could perhaps have greatest influence and these markets better reflect VKontakte’s experience and development in Russia.
What is certain is that the social media and social network tools that exist will continue to grow and develop. We’ve seen the remarkable growth of Twitter throughout 2009, with many say it is challenging Facebook in some areas and even Google in others. As our use of social media grows, and user expectations develop and deepen, there will always be a place for new players, offering something different in the marketplace. If the rumours of VKontakte’s planned international roll-out are true, this may be the first of many players hoping to join the bigger social network players.
* Note that the translation from the original Russian is my own