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Social Media and Webshopping trends in Russia – part 2

This is part 2 of 2 for the Social Media and webshopping trends of Russia article

So as we´ve learned before, webshopping in Russia is still more or less complicated for a number of reasons. What more, many of the local most frequently used social media sites and tools are local, or heavily localized. And then if any of you paid attention to the list in the previous post, one could see that LiveJournal (roughly 17,5 mill users), a blogging site, ranked quite high. It´s the 7th most visited website in Russia these days. And that gives us a nice bridge to the importance of blogs in Russia. If you´re doing business in Russia, online or not, you need to understand the meaning of having a known blogger by your side at all times.

In Russia blogs have much higher importance in influencing buying decisions than in most other countries in the world. In the top 20 list of most visited websites in Russia, also Blogger.com (Blogspot.com) is there at number 17. Additionally many of the other top 20 sites have blogging or microblogging features. The reasons for blogs´ success in Russia may well be found in history. It´s not so long ago when people were not allowed to speak their minds, and now that it´s allowed, the citizens journalism has been somewhat even more trustworthy than the official channels in finding information. People write blogs and comment blogs much more than in Western Europe for example, and the most famous bloggers enjoy a status of rock stars. So it’s fuel to the fire I guess.

Twitter has slowly gained ground in the Russian speaking countries, not least effected by the fact that President Medvedev and some other high-profile top-level politicians have started Tweeting frequently. Though Twitter is still far from popular, Medveded and other top Tweeters in Russia have gained a good amount of followers already – and not necessarily all Russian followers.

Facebook of course has to be mentioned here as well, as they try hard to compete with vKontakte, the local FB-clone. If Facebook has globally over 550 million users, in Russia the figure is a mere 1 million. Russia is one of the few countries where Facebook is not the most popular social network – far from it. Vkontakte has a nice 101+ million users, whichof roughly half are actually Russian, the rest are Russian-speaking, but not from Russia itself, but other Russian-speaking Eastern European and Central Asian countries as well as from the Russian-speaking communities around the world.

vKontakte profile screenshot

Funnily enough, the Russians nowadays own part of Facebook, did you know that? If I recall correctly, the Russian Mail.ru Group a.k.a. Digital Sky Technologies own about 1,96 percent of Facebook, and the owners are the same who own vKontakte, Mail.ru, etc. And another interesting fact is that as Microsoft also owns a small piece of Facebook, they only own 1,6%, but bought it with much higher valuation than the Russians did. Mail.ru Group also own parts of Zynga and Groupon (!). And if we dig really, really deep, they own directly or via their daughter companies significant parts of the Russian Odnoklassniki, the Polish Nasza-Klasa, the Russian social gaming network Zzima, the Baltic One-Social Networks, and again have heavy ties with the biggest Chinese Social Network QQ / Qzone, whose owners have recently invested a nice amount of dollars into Mail.ru. A nice little pack… If I was into conspiracy theories, I would start blogging and wondering about the information and intelligence that they could access through all these networks and how many people they could dig info about. But I´m not, that´s someone elses job.

Back to the subject. Many western companies are trying to get to the Russian markets these days; eBay is launching in Russia in 2011, Nokia has just 1.11. opened their first webshop for St Petersburg region and expanding to other major cities there by mid-2011, and so on. The importance of speaking and servicing in the native language can not be pointed out enough. If we look at Yandex, the market leading search engine in Russia, the have over 60% market share, Google et al all fall far behind. Google, Rambler and Mail.ru all have search functionalities, some better than the others, but they have all been loosing market share in 2010 compared to Yandex. None of them has even close to 30% market share.

From webshopping point of view, the lack of local retailers compared to the number in western countries and then again the buying potential are offering an interesting point when considering accessing the market one way or the other. Many of the domestic retailers are still not offering webshopping much, but they are learning fast. So the right time would be now, in 2012 it may be too late to reach a significant amount of users fast and easy. With over 80% of Russian Internet users looking for product information online to support buying decision, whichof over 60% directly searching for referrals and comments where to buy and which product in a certain category, I can sincerely say Russia is great opportunity to be considered for any foreign webshop. Another question is whether one should access the markets with their own webshop, by offering the products via a Russian webshop, via a Russian web-mall (yes, they do exist in Russia), or by joining forces with other Western companies and offering service together. Also private VIP-webshops are known to gain popularity in Russia just like what’s recently been happening in France. Wonder if this will be a global phenomenon about to launch…

I mentioned the logistic and supply chain problems in the first part of this post, now I´m offering you a solution for it. Well, perhaps not a solution, but something to consider. Pick-up points! One of the Russian leading webshops has established over 100 pick-up points for their packages around St Petersburg and Moscow. If one is to have a warehouse or some sort of delivery service in Russia with enough storage space, why not open a pick-up point? Or perhaps if the volumes are high enough, maybe you could negotiate a deal with the transporting company or courier service to handle the pick-up facility for you? I know the Finnish Itella (Finnish Post) has a major delivery centre in St Petersburg, perhaps they could be one partner to consider. And if the volumes are high enough (I mean significantly high), perhaps the customs and all that could be handled by the logistics company as well. I´m sure there´s a price tag there, but if the volumes are high, perhaps the price can be negotiated to reasonable. I don´t know, perhaps one of You will try and then tell me about it. I´d be happy to post an update on that if anyone has tried this type of set-up yet.

Ps. If you want to experience Russian blogging culture and can read some Russian (or have a good translation tool), try out dirty.ru, a collective blog with high number of visitors these days.

vKontakte screenshot – Application

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12 Social Media trends for 2011

I just ran into a new interesting article at the Harvard Business Review, and just couldn´t help but to answer the post with my 2 cents. The post was from David Armano, SVP of Edelmann, a global media and communications company. David had compiled a list of 6 Social Media trends that he sees going big in 2011.

His list, roughly, was like this;

  • Social Media going from local to global with big brands, not just national or local campaigns, but companies like Ford or Starbucks launching global Social Media campaigns.
  • Affordable tablet Pcs (and Pads) helping Social Media become available 24/7 and mobile, on the go.
  • Facebook Places helping location-based services go big
  • Social Media schizophrenia emerging when people have too many profiles and networks to maintain and follow.
  • Google vs. FB battle, Google finding new ways of working with searching Social Media in new and innovative ways, not necessarily tying to build a new Facebook or create a new Buzz anymore, but adjusting what they do best into Social Media and vice versa.
  • Social integration to old websites making them ´hip´ again, breathing new life to old portals and sites, making them information centrals for all information and profiles over the web and especially Social Media.

I think David has great points there and I just have to agree with just about all of them, but I see much more happening in Social Media next year. Here´s what I think should be added to the list.

The 2011 Social Media trends from my point of view;

    • Social features being integrated into other tools. I see a lot of new type of tools emerging, creating new value into old practises, old tools and the ways of working. E.g. here in Oulu, Finland, I´ve found a couple of interesting tools that may well find their place in the Social Media ecosystem if nurtured and funded correctly;
      • WeTellNetworks has a great new communication tool with social features, combining the best of internal communication tools, external social media feeds, Skype, 3rd parties´ access to internal communications with specified rights, document sharing, project management features, etc. The tool is in beta testing with customers in Finland and Germany and everything´s looking fine so far.
      • InterestID is a great new tool for event organizers for managing registrations, communicating related to the event and between the registered participants upfront, during and after the event, tagging people and companies with a great looking and feeling graphical tagging system, sharing documents, and all these are not just available in the tool online, but the tags and all have been taken into the live event as well, creating a unique experience to all participants, making seminars and fairs a new kind of social experience. And then there are the mobile tags… Anyway, the tool´s been tested in real events in South Africa, USA and Finland, and things are looking fine, new interface being built and the communication abilities enhanced. Promising future ahead…
      • SoMe-Monitor is a tool for tracking and following Social Media feeds from various locations, brought in centralized and controlled, being able to identify sources, trends and influencers, making it a great business intelligence tool. The system has recently been launched, new features and Social Media connections being built as we speak. Great interest all around.
    • New tools that combine old software tools, web portals and social networking aspects (either inbound or outbound effect, perhaps both).
    • Social CRM and Business Intelligence will be catching wind. Salesforce, Oracle and SAP will surely blow the horn for everyone to understand the importance of the social aspects in their tools, and the trend for using Social Media in general to support activities and decision making will increase fast. The importance of identifying influencers also grows as taking advantage of influencers and trends in business is growing.
    • Social recruiting going big – it´s been talked about for ages now, but finally in 2011 even the small companies enter Social Media to find new and better applicants, and to attract the passive resource pool. Many companies have used LinkedIn for years, Twitter has been used now by many in 2010, and the early adopters have entered Facebook, but will the masses follow in 2011? I believe so!
    • Transforming social networks into customer service, self-service, support and sales tools. Dell has done it, when do other companies follow? In 2011? Yes!
    • Location-based shopping tools growing fast; Foursquare, Gowalla, and similar are in 2011 being used actively in sales. Lots of interesting location.based campaigns will emerge in 2011, but will it be big or not?
    • The importance of local social networks will be exceeding expectations in 2011. vKontakte and QQ are growing already much faster than Facebook → not just having a number of language versions, but localizing the content is becoming really, really attractive. Can Facebook follow the lead?
    • Social Media metrics and analyzis tools are becoming popular. There´s been a lot of talk about Social Media ROI, and the general need for metrics and analyzis is now critical for many.
    • Social Media is hitting TV big time, more interactive features in TV shows will arise, Social Media feeds are shown at live TV shows, etc. Old media will finally meet new media big time. First signs are on…
    • The importance of showcasing your skills and specialism and growing a personal brand in Social Media (and personal branding in general) will be big in 2011. In many fields the competition is already global, one needs to play the skill card to compete with lower prices. Then again making yourself better found is always better, you never know when you may need a new job or project.
    • Integrating Social Media with brick-and-mortar business practises, creating new business models by combining these two (like Netcycler for example), the online and IRL (In Real-Life) practices take the best of both worlds to build new value to the customer.
    • The Microjob concept is soon coming available for all. Work and projects are broken into smaller pieces of work, divided between larger amount of people who are more specialized, and the outcome of the small parts is again reconstructed to the big picture for the client at the end. A new wave of Crowdsourcing is coming up.

Do you see the future like I see it? What other trends would you predict for 2011 and perhaps beyond? Is the big answer really 42?


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Social Media and webshopping trends in Russia

Part 1 of 2, Social Media and webshopping trends in Russia

Russia was for long somewhat behind Western Europe and North America what comes to the availability and use of web services and even general accessability to Internet. Still today many of the far eastern parts of Russia are lacking stable Internet connection and thus the country has suffered from slow web business culture development compared to the western world. But this has changed – fast!

In bigger cities, especially in St. Petersburg and Moscow, people are using web and Social Media in particular more than the average western Joe. The time spent in the web and in social networks is even higher than in the western neighbour Finland that’s long been one of the leading countries what comes to the time spent online. Actually the Russians spend most time online in the world – 6,6 hours per day, when the average is 3,7 hours.

The leading websites in Russia are mostly local versions of popular online services known in other parts of the world, providing webmails, search functionalities, and of course social networking possibilities all in Russian. Of the top 10 most popular websites in Russia only Google, YouTube, Wikipedia and LiveJournal are also well known and frequently used in the western world. Of the top websites many are clearly Social Media.

The top 12 most popular websites in Russia:

  1. Yandex – the local Google-clone, a search engine
  2. vKontakte – the local Facebook with over 101 million users
  3. Mail.ru – the local Hotmail/GMail
  4. Google.ru
  5. Google.com
  6. YouTube
  7. LiveJournal
  8. Wikipedia
  9. Odnoklassniki.ru – the local Classmates
  10. Rambler – the local Yahoo + webnews + price comparison aggregator
  11. vk.com = vKontakte.ru, another entry point to vKontakte
  12. Facebook

The western social media companies have for long struggled to find audience in the Russian speaking countries, and many have more or less given up already. The local clones of similar western services attract users much more, as the site structures and general usability, advertising, etc. have been well taken care of and localized to suit local needs. Facebook and Twitter are still in the game and slowly gaining popularity, but as the usage in general is very different in Russia (and in many other Eastern European countries), it is extremely hard to become popular there. One needs to know exactly how the local users use web services – and much more – one needs to understand the culture, the infrastructure, and the ethics as well, and that’s where most western companies go wrong.

One good example of this is the webshopping culture (or the lack of it) and it’s extreme localities. If you don’t know what you’re doing in Russia, find a local partner. Actually, find one anyway. If we think about the webshopping trends and the barriers of entry, there’s one major point that stands out loud and clear. The postal service. Russians don’t tend to use webshops, as they don’t trust to get the item they ordered. Period. The postal system is so poor that no one trusts it, and thus there’s a good amount of courier services and similar hugely popular in Russia. The government has promised to make a total extreme makeover for the postal systems, but that still takes a long, long time to be fully working and trustworthy. And meanwhile one has to find other ways to handle the logistics to get things delivered.

Another problem for a western webshop is the payment terms. The Russians are used to paying upon delivery, in cash. Credit cards are gaining popularity extremely fast, but people still want to pay upon delivery to the courier. And how does a small foreign (western) webshop handle the collecting of money? It doesn’t! So you need a local partner, a well known courier /transport company, and the money then needs to be paid to your account somehow. Not very simple is it? Did you know this? Stay tuned, more will follow in the next article, the second part of Social Media and webshopping in Russia.

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The ROI of Social Media – some of it anyway

This post was first published at GLG Councils´ analyst website 1.11.2010 a bit shorter. This is the first post in the series of SoMeROI articles coming up.

Yes, we can! We can see ROI on the efforts put in Social Media, whether it is marketing, communications/PR, sales, recruitment or plain and simple effectiveness of operations.

Companies´ usage of social media grows in such speed, depths and widths that it is hard to comprehend. Everyone talks about it while at the same time every other comment is questioning either simply the effectiveness or the direct ROI of all efforts. Can the ROI be measured, how, why and when is something expected to happen?

There is hardly a single – simple – answer to this, but consider this the next time you think about the value of social media efforts, whatever they may be.

Facts;

1. Facebook has well over 500 million users globally;

2. Linkedin has about 80 million users who are easily identified as top class potential clients, candidates, partners, or competitors no matter what you do;

3. The use of search engines in finding answers to just about anything is here, EVERYONE uses search engines, probably even your grandmother;

4. We´re living in the age of recommendations – people make more and more decisions based on web searches and on recommendations and reviews found online, especially at social networks;

5. Social Media has built unique reach to enormous number of potential clients and with such insight to purchasing practises that we’ve never seen before.

Can you pass a pool of 500+ million potential clients/candidates/partners/suppliers/…? I´m sure your competitors can´t…

In the history of mankind there´s never been such a vast amount of identifiable ´targets´ in clear sight out there. Whether you´re marketing, try finding new employees, searching information about potential clients or more information on the existing ones, evaluate new features for your products/services, launch new products, advertise your upcoming event or whatever, you should consider using social media as one of the main tools of trade. They´re already there, are you?

The ROI of social media comes in mysterious ways. It may be ´Likes´, Fans, ReTweets , visits to your website, sales leads, direct contacts, direct sales, affiliate sales, or in some cases it may be a disasterous rumour that didn´t catch wind and what not. How valuable and measurable are the effects of an accident that didn´t happen or a vicious rumour that no one listened to?

Some ROI can be measured easily. If you get a sales lead, in most industries it´s easily calculable how many leads you need to bring in the money. Or if you reach a certain number of visits to your web page, blog or sales portal, you know how many visits normally bring in the goods. But if you create positive attitude or brand value to your company and/or products, how do you measure it? It may show as ´Likes´, Fans, or ReTweets, but can you measure it? At the end of the fiscal year you see increase in revenue, but can you honestly say where it came from and why? That is exactly the problem with social media ROI – we know it exists and in some cases it shows well, but in many cases it brings you visibility, publicity or brand value that is not directly shown in any figures. (Yes, you can make polls and stuff to find out brand value… That´s not the point!)

On the other hand, many social media efforts are free (I know, not all of it, and if you want, you can pay huge sums for it), but you still need to commit and spend time and resources on it. But what if it brought you value that you can´t find anywhere else? Think about crowdsourcing or microjobs-concept or achieving reputation of being at the forefront of technological advancements. Crowdsourcing is nothing new really, but social media has made it a true business model and a tool that no company should forget. Microjobs again is a totally new concept that social media has more or less given birth to. And the brand value and goodwill in technological early-adoptiveness is something that can´t be achieved in so many places. How do measure ROI on something that hasn´t really existed before like this?

And finally we have the effectiveness. If your company could save tens or hundreds of thousands in travel costs and saved time, would you take it? What if you could gain hundreds of man days in savings…? What if you could avoid overlapping work between projects and/or departments or business units? If there was a way to get the whole company working on new features and evaluating new practises, how much would it benefit your company? In cold cash? Is it calculable? There are so many tools of trade for this – Huddle, Yammer, WeTellNetworks, etc. Choose your weapons, it´s soon a war out there! War for Your business! How would you really WANT to measure social media ROI anyway? It´s pretty much your own choice…

So just to make it as clear as possible, I´ll say it again. Social Media efforts have ROI, it´s not just always plain ol´cash, but other values. Some can be measured and some can´t. Sorry!

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