Russia: all the numbers of football on social media
Russia is extremely important when it comes to analyzing the new global digital scenarios. First of all because is one of the biggest Internet countries: there are about 70 million people connected to the World Wide Web, and over 4.5 million websites registered with the .ru domain. Also, because Facebook is not the dominant social network.
The two most popular social network used by Russian users are, in fact, Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki. Vkontatke, founded in 2006 by Pavel Durov, has now about 200 million accounts and about 50M active users, and it seems to be in good health: to the point that recently HootSuite decided to roll out apps to support community management on VK.
VK’s main competitor Odnoklassniki, launched in 2006 by Albert Popkov, has entered the hundreds-million-users club a couple of years ago (as they disclose on the website).
And the most interesting aspect emerges from a study carried out by GlobalWebIndex, concerning the growth rate of top global social networks in Q1 2013:
The social network with the higher growth – based on new active users – turns out to be Twitter (+42%) followed by Vkontakte (+40%). And on the tenth spot we find Odnoklassniki (+17%). These data demonstrate how Russian platforms are undergoing a steady growth, and they are among the few “local” social networks to record an active users rise, as well as the Chinese ones.
How about Facebook? In Russia there are “only” 8 million active users, even though – as we’ve seen in a recent interview with Moscow agency Matreshka Media – its usage is getting relevant if considering a more “cool” and international target.
Parallel to the growth of Russian social networks, the world is also witnessing an increasing relevance of Russia in the sports world: in 2014 the city of Sochi will host both the Winter Olympic Games and the Formula 1 Grand prix of Russia.
And the movement of Russian football is getting bigger too: the Russian Premier League is every year more competitive, now able to attract a good number of foreign stars. But how do the top Russian teams behave on social networks? What do they use to stay in touch with their supporters?
The only social network used by all Russian teams turns out to be Twitter, probably also due to the fact that Russia is the third fastest-growing country in terms of Twitter users (source: GlobalWebIndex), and a lot of public personalities are active on it (need one name? Dmitry Medvedev, with nearly 2M followers).
The king of social network is – without any doubt – Zenit St. Petersburg, boasting the largest number of fans in (almost) every single social network, and able to rely on a very well curated digital image.
Let’s analyze all the different channels, and who’s doing what, and how.
As mentioned earlier, Facebook is the social network and appears to be the main strategic and important primarily for the club used to play Champions League and Europa League (FC Zenit, Spartak Moscow, CSKA Moscow) and still famous even outside Russia.
Even if on Facebook, clubs communicate entirely in Russian.
Zenit can boast the highest number of fans, followed by Spartak Moscow. Many smaller clubs have a minimal presence on Facebook but also important clubs like Anzhi or the other two Moscow-based teams – Dinamo and Lokomotiv – have a wider fan base on Vkontakte and Twitter.
Facebook is used by sharing lots of images, during matches or related to off-the-field events. Unlike Brazilian clubs (previously analyzed) the habit of sharing “live” updates during matches – or publishing images to “warm up” fans – is not that popular.
Zenit also offers some apps, like the one to promote the official store.
The team that can rely on more active users on Vkontakte is, once again, Zenit. In this case we’re dealing with a social presence dedicated exclusively to Russian users. The social network seems to be a more and more important channel for sport and entertainment stars that want to engage Russian fans, as we’ve seen that a number of Hollywood celebs are on it too.
The focus on the Russian audience is the reason why smaller clubs usually have much greater audiences on Vkontakte compared to those on Facebook. A good examples are the 20K followers of Amkar Perm: the club’s website shows only the Vkontakte follow button. Krylya Sovetov and Mordovya Saransk are quite representative too: practically no fans on Facebook, yet fairly active communities of Vkontakte.
Zenit is also the only team to have implemented VK applications: one is dedicated to the official store, another to promote the photos of the fans, in order to make them get votes and comments from the rest of the community.
The clubs pages on Vkontakte give fans a great deal of news, videos, photos and audio files.
Another cool example comes from Spartak Moscow: on the VK community page we can find lots of pictures – both official and user-generated – including an album dedicated to female supporters!
As we mentioned before, Twitter is the only social network used by all Russian clubs, therefore the primary source for official information, for fans and insiders. Even smaller clubs, despite having just a few followers, can still count on a well-organized PR office.
Twitter is being used for the live coverage of the matches, and to give fans exclusive pre-match and training pics. Many teams promote the accounts of its players, trying to establish a relationship with fans through interactions and RT.
Interestingly enough, there’s also an official account of the Russian Premier League: @rfpl_org, with over 27 thousand followers.
Instagram is used by about half of the Russian Premier League teams (7 out of 16), but it’s not exclusively for top teams. Even less popular clubs – such as Terek Grozny FK Rostov and Alania Vladikavkaz – decided to tell the life of the club via filtered images. Once again, Zenit wins the competition for the most followed account.
The so called “second main Russian social network” is not particularly used by football clubs. Only Zenit, Anzhi Amkar Bed and Alania Vladkavkaz have an official profile. Anzhi is the team that reached the highest number of supporters on this platform – a quite noticeable figure: over 55 thousands followers.
Another peculiarity is the presence of Russian football clubs on Google Plus. 10 teams out of 16 have an official profile that outnumbers the followers on Facebook, apart from Zenit and Spartak Moscow. The team that has been inserted into the biggest amount of “circles” is Spartak Moscow, followed (as usual) by Zenit.
Once again, the most interesting aspect is represented by smaller clubs: teams like Fc Volga, Fk Rostov Amkar Pern, Krylya Sovetov and Alania Vlakikavkaz have few hundreds of fans on Facebook, yet they are followed by thousands of Google Plus users.
It is a very interesting insight: “local” teams prefer to stay in touch with their fans through Google Plus, while Facebook is often relegated to the fourth-place in terms of followers, after Twitter, Vkontakte and G+.
The analysis shows some interesting aspects:
- Clubs with a more European dimension – and based in either Moscow or St. Petersburg – have a dominant Facebook presence.
- Most of the clubs prefer to talk to their fans through local platforms (Vkontakte) or other Facebook-alternatives, such as Google Plus.
- Twitter is getting an always stronger importance as a PR tool, for both clubs and sigle players.
What do you think? Are the Russian clubs going to show the same astonishing figures Brazilian clubs are showing on social media?