UNDERSTANDING RUSSIA


For gaming operators and affiliates looking to target complex markets such as Russia, it is important to understand the technical landscape into which you will be marketing


WHILST MAJOR iGaming brands and their associated partners (affiliates) have already exploited and saturated many of today's international markets, there has been a long-standing acknowledgement about the future potential of Eastern Europe as an emerging iGaming marketplace. That future is now.

Most operators have grown accustomed to using traditional social media channels that work effectively for the majority of countries in Western Europe, as well as the USA and Canada. However, due to cultural, linguistic differences, amongst others, these traditional social media strategies will not successfully transfer to Eastern Europe. To examine and understand the reasons why, let's take the biggest Eastern European market as an example - Russia.

Internet penetration and trends

Before entering a new developing market, it's important to understand the technical maturity of the landscape: technology development. Internet penetration rates, broadband adoption, etc.

According to the Global Web Index international research group, there was a 14 percent increase in the number of Internet users in Russia in 2010. This growth was mainly attributable to an increased number of users in Russian regions outside of the main (and largely technically mature) cities such as Moscow and St Petersburg. Currently. 59 percent of Russians above the age of 12 use the Internet at least once a month In Moscow, this figure is slightly higher (67 percent), however, it isn't reflective of the significant change enjoyed in the outer-lying regions and villages. Louring the last 12 months, the number of Internet users in the Russian capital grew by four percent against the national increase of 14 percent.



Based on the data in Figure 1, we can conclude that 90 percent of the growth of Russian Internet users is accounted for by regions outside of the major cities of Moscow and St Petersburg (who share the remaining ten percent). The implication here is that rural Russia is undergoing the sort of technical (Internet-based at least) adolescence that will act as a driving force for a nationwide maturity of Internet prevalence and accessibility.

Targeting Russian regions, however, can be a challenging venture since Internet density is not equal, with significant deviation from one region to another. As such. Internet penetration in Moscow and St Petersburg is 1.5 times higher than in other cities and is three times higher than in small towns and villages. However, according to the 'Social opinion' fund prognosis, the gap between the Internet penetration rates enjoyed in Moscow and that of the rest of Russia (excluding Moscow) will reduce from an estimated 31 percent differential in 2007, to a mere eight percent by autumn 2014, provided Internet access conditions remain unchanged.

Social networks and their specifics

With the saturation of traditional marketing channels such as email marketing, the majority of iGaming operators have started to explore the social media route. However, only brands with a creative and knowledgeable approach to their geographically diverse target audiences will benefit from social media, provided that the right channels are used to access the consumer.
According to research, more than 27 million Russians use social networking sites at least once a year, which indicates a 22 percent increase comparable to 2010 figures. It's also no secret that English isn't widely spoken in Russia, and social media is no exception.

В контакте

In Russia, there are various domestic counterparts for the more 'world renowned' social networks. One example is the Russian replica of Facebook - Vkontakte. ru - which is visited by more than 12 million users daily. Most of the features, functionality, and even the design of the site are almost identical to Facebook. Even though there has been a significant increase. Facebook currently attracts only 1.2 milhon daily users in Russia. However, according to a yandex.ru 'blog search' project. Facebook's popularity is growing rapidly and it is forecasted to become the country's second most popular social networking site in the near future.

Twitter

Relative to Facebook, Twitter's popularity in Russia is considerably less. The Russian portion of Twitter's 75 million registered users amounts to just one percent. However, statistics indicate that, generally, Russian micro-bloggers are much more active with 55 percent tweeting at least once a month compared to 17 percent in the rest of the world. Russian users produce around 150,000 daily tweets, a figure which has grown by up to 26 times since March 2009. The total number of Russian tweeters is now approximately 750,000 as of March 2011.

Одноклассники.ru

Another highly popular social networking portal accounting for 17.2 million Russian users is Odnoklassniki.ru (which translates as 'schoolmates'). As its name suggests, the network was created for finding school mates (alumni) as well as long lost friends. This channel could have been much better utilised for advanced social networking if it had developed more features and functionality. Nevertheless, it remains one of the most visited social networking sites in the country with 7.2 million daily users.

It's important to point out that Odnoklassniki.ru and Vkontakte.ru do not allow their internal pages to be indexed. Consequently, search engines are unable to crawl through their content to report in the search results, unlike with Twitter and Facebook. In addition, users are limited in their ability to link from outside resources to their profiles or groups in odnoklassniki or vkontakte.

мой МИР mail

The third most popular social networking tool in Russia is 'moi mir' (which translates as 'my world'). This social tool is integrated into one of the biggest free email services, 'mail.ru'. Its concept highly resembles MySpace on MSN, where users can share personal details, pictures, and have a live chat service. Moi mir is visited by 5.3 million users daily.

LiVEJOURNAL

LiVEJOURNAL (LJ) is a popular 'community publishing' platform for blogging, community interaction and personal expression which is used by five million Russian bloggers. This platform is popular with webmasters who have social community forums and publish regular blog posts. According to statistics recorded in March 2011, LJ was the seventh most visited website in Russia.

RuTube

Last, but not least, RuTube is the Russian prototype of YouTube which has functionality for uploading, editing and sharing videos. As you can imagine, it is highly popular due to its Russian interface and user-friendly features. At the end of 2010, the channel saw its figures hit one million daily users. This figure nearly doubled when, in April 2011, RuTube partnered with odnoklassniki.ru to power its video project allowing user content and technical support for Odnoklassniki.Video.

In exploring the Russian market, it's very important to consider the specifics of Russian social media. Based on the information in Figure 3, it becomes apparent that going down the traditional 'Western Europe and USA Facebook/ Twitter route' might not be the best choice. It is also very important to note that in order to unlock the true value while interacting with your target customer, one has to fully consider the regional culture. Consistent, interesting, and professionally written Russian content will appeal to your target audience and result in a higher proportion of returning users.

Figure 3

NETWORK TOTAL DAILY
Vkontakte.ru 23.1 million 12 million
odnoklassniki.ru 17.2 million 7.2 million
Moi mir 17.5 million 5.3 million
Live Journal 5 million 2.1 million
Facebook 3.5 million 1.2 million
RuTube 17,000 1 million
Twitter 750,000 250,000
 
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