Ever heard of VKontakte? What about Odnoklassniki? Yea, not many Americans have.
With over 420 million accounts created, 80 million users, and 50 million daily active users (http://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/social-media-fast-facts-central-and-eastern-europe) VKontake is the largest European online social media site, the second most popular website in Russia, and the second most popular social networking site in the world after Facebook (if we are not including YouTube). Odnoklassniki – Russian for “classmates” – which focuses more on rekindling old friendships and connecting with classmates from high school or college, is not as large but still ranks as the 7th most popular website in Russia with over 200 million registered accounts, 65 million users, and 45 million daily active users (stats come from the same hyperlink as above). Both of these social networking sites were established in 2006, two years after Facebook.
When analyzing social media statistics amongst other countries many individuals and companies in the academia of media, particularly in the United States, fail to include the local sites that are often times blowing the other competition out of the water. For example, when MEC – one of the largest media agencies in the world – presented, as their main focusing point, social media activity in Central and Eastern Europe it was mainly statistics, analysis, and observations of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, and Snapchat when there are companies such as VKontakte and Odnoklassniki with larger portions of the social networking market in their pocket in that area of the world. I specifically recall MEC claiming that not many people in Central Europe use any other social networking site besides Facebook – emphasizing how small Twitter is and that many of these people receive and are satisfied with their daily “fix” of social media through Facebook. And of course that will be the case if you aren’t looking at these other networking sites. It’s difficult to grasp the full scope of social media activity in parts of the world outside the United States if all you are looking at are American social networking sites.
The general attitude for many citizens throughout Central and Eastern Europe is that social media, especially too much of it – which is something that cannot truly be measured, is undoubtedly unfavorable, “The Internet serves as metaphor through which wider social and cultural anxieties are communicated. That is why for so many of its critics its impact on offline culture appears in such a negative light,” (http://www.aspeninstitutece.org/en/article/4-2014-how-the-internet-and-social-media-are-changing-culture/). This drives them away, or makes them skeptical of social media sites and more so for the ones they may not recognize – i.e Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest. As was claimed earlier in the post, many people in Central and Eastern Europe tend to use one networking site because that is enough for them – the default being Facebook. So the conclusion can most certainly be made that, rather than using Facebook as their social media “fix,” Central and Eastern Europeans – particularly Russians – are using sites like Vkontake and Odnoklassniki instead. For reasons most likely tied with a greater feeling of community, with individuals that are more like them and share more of a common interest. Cultural similarities, the same language, and going to the same school (in the case of Odnoklassniki) will of course give the citizens of Central and Eastern Europe greater inclination to sign up for the local sites rather than Facebook or Twitter.