What is VKontakte?

VKontakte is a Russian social networking service which was considered, especially in the past, as a Russian replication of Facebook. Vkontakte has many similar to Facebook features and functionalities, but differences between these two can be also found.

VKontakte was launched in the year 2006, and in the end of 2012 it had more than 195 million accounts mostly in Russia, CIS countries and Eastern Europe region.

Its typical user is a young adult who has higher than secondary education. To make a comparison, a Facebook user (about one billion active users) is typically a person who has international connections (a businessman, a student, an athlete, etc.) and uses a social network outside Russia. VKontakte is available in 70 languages (e.g. English and Finnish) but popular particularly among Russian-speaking users all around the world.

VKontakte is based on the sense of community. A user "collects" friends to communicate with. They can send messages to each other, participate in discussions in different chats, write posts on their page walls, invite each other to events, etc.

Like other social networks, VKontakte allows users to create groups, public pages and events, share and tag images, video and audio, notes and documents and play browser-based games. The maximum size of a file distributed is 200 MB, and the system supports mostly common text, image and media file types.

How to join Vkontakte?

A private user creates an account on which a profile page is based. After that, a user can manage personal data and interface through the “Settings”.

VKontakte is a search robot which allows users to find friends, groups and communities. It also possible to apply an advanced search by entering additional information. This feature can be utilized in VKontakte marketing activities as well. For instance, the segmentation process can be based on age, gender, education or domicile.

In order to “become” friends, a friend request should be sent first to another user who accepts or declines this request later. As for joining groups, there are two possible ways. If a group is open, a user is free to join it. However, a close group requires a membership application that is handled by a group administrator.

Vkontakte as a marketing channel

Different companies, organizations, and events may set up their own VKontakte groups and pages that provide members with interesting content, news, activities and platforms for communication. These pages can be created in "My Groups" -> "Create a Group".

The group consists of the main page where users can find the group's description, images, audio and video files, possible discussions, surveys, links and the wall (where the communication mainly takes place).

In addition to this, it is possible to create additional pages where you can freely post different content types and links. Additional pages are based on wiki markup- language. These wiki-based pages can be easily edited, and it is one of the most significant differences between VKontakte and Facebook, as landing and additional pages follow different formats. Additional wiki-based page creation has its own challenges and tricks, but you can ask experts to handle them.

VKontakte marketing is based on collecting group members or event participants and communicating with them. Members of the group make up a direct marketing registry, so that they can be informed about news, given with valuable content and involved into different activities.

At best, the group members are committed to the group and begin to market it to their friends, and this is how the whole idea of community service is realized through viral marketing.

Groups and event pages are quite popular in VKontakte, and the largest ones have millions of members. Members usually visit group pages on a regular basis and participate in group discussions and activities diligently. The process of increasing the number of fans is comparatively easy. The most successful way of attracting people to a new group is to produce valuable content and ask friends to spread a word about it.

What is more, VKontakte provides users with an opportunity to market their groups, products and services with the use of premium banners. Vkontakte ads service allows you to create advertisements directed to your target audience easily. Advertising costs vary due to the amount of times your ad is displayed or clicked. As an example, you can pay an advertising fee based on Vkontakte click-/display auction. A recommended starting budget is about 11-24 rubles (€ 0.27 to 0.6) - cost per click, and the 3-7 rubles (€ 0.07-0.17) – cost per mille.

There are also considerable differences in the use and content of Facebook and VKontakte. While Facebook is focusing on factual information spreading, Vkontakte is more entertaining. There are plenty of pictures and funny videos. The most popular pages are fun communities and pages that share different pictures and videos. Another distinctive feature is that discussions taking place in VKontakte are more emotional than on Facebook.

Vkontakte privacy protection

The action starts with entering your personal username and password. In comparison to Facebook, VKontakte has a more open policy towards video and music sharing. As a result, frequent virus and malware attacks have happened, and the website has been accused for favoring piracy. Since then, Vkontakte has tightened its policy, but the protection level of Facebook has not been reached yet.

Vkontakte is one of the most used Russian electronic channels and a significant social networking service. So, it is an important tool in positioning your e-marketing strategy in Russia, and its utilization should be taken seriously.