Welcome to part two of our ‘Fast facts’ series, where we’ll be taking a look at social networks, local influencers and popular brands around the world. In part one, we looked at social media in Western Europe; this month we put Central and Eastern Europe, including Russia, under our social media spotlight.
Social networks: what’s popular in Eastern Europe and Russia?
Emarketer predicts that the community of social network users in Central and Eastern Europe (including Russia) will reach more than 223 million by 2017. This equates to almost 52% of local internet users.
By the end of 2012, Russia had the fifth largest social media audience (approaching 52 million), and 45% of the Russian population are predicted to be active on social networks by 2014.
While the big five social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn) are dominant players in the region, there are local social networks that are considered strong rivals for the local audience.
Facebook and its local language competitors
- The number of Facebook users in Central and Eastern Europe (including Russia) is predicted to top 122 million in 2014, and rise to 166.4 million by 2017 (with Russian users making up 49 million of that total). Only 1.7% of Facebook’s users log in from Russia, and according to ComScore, Russian visits to Facebook dropped 18% between June 2013-June 2013.
- Russia has a home-grown version of Facebook with 80 million users (50 million daily active users). VKontakte (VK) originated as a student-based network, and grew from there (much like Facebook). Almost 70% of its users are from Russia, with around 10% visiting from the Ukraine and 3.5% from Belarus. ComScore recorded a 22% increase in Russian visitors to VK.ru in June 2013-June 2013.
- Russia’s second most popular network is Odnoklassniki (Russian for classmates), and is, as the name suggests, a site focused on renewing old friendships. It has more than 65 million users, more than 63% of who visit from Russia. Over 7% visit from the Ukraine and almost 3% from Belarus.
Twitter use is growing in Russia. It increased by 33.41% between Q2 2012 and Q1 2013. At the end of 2012, 7% of Polish internet users also used Twitter (while 21% of Russian internet users were on Twitter).
Almost 4% of YouTube visits originate in Russia, 1.4% Poland and under one per cent for other East European countries such as the Ukraine and Romania.
There are more than 873,000 Google+ users in Eastern Europe. The largest percentage of users is from Russia (22%), with 12% from Hungary and 10% from Romania. Kosovo has the lowest numbers of users in Eastern Europe.
LinkedIn is currently available in four East European languages: Czech, Polish, Romanian and Russian. It has around 1.5 million users in Russia.
Eastern Europe’s influencers: brands, celebrities & sports stars
In the majority of cases, the most popular pages and profiles focus on local issues, businesses or celebrities. There are however, some exceptions. Take Facebook: the most ‘liked’ page in the Czech Republic is the global Simpsons page, which has more than 68 million fans. The Facebook page for Every Phone is the most ‘liked’ in Romania and Serbia (349 million fans). The Texas Holdem Poker Facebook page is the most ‘liked’ Facebook page in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and Macedonia (69 million fans).
Most Eastern European nations prefer local pages on Facebook. The most ‘liked’ Facebook page in the Ukraine is Ukrainian beer brand Чернігівське, which has more than 179,000 local fans. In Belarus, dating app Topface is the most ‘liked’ with more than 309,000 local fans.
Local music industry figures are the most followed on Twitter in The Ukraine, Slovenia, Romania, Latvia and Estonia. National footballers have the most followed accounts in Montenegro, Croatia and the Czech Republic, while tennis pros have the most followed accounts in Serbia and Belarus. Politicians are the most followed in Russia and Albania, while models run the most popular Twitter accounts in Hungary, Slovakia and Poland.
The most popular YouTube channels in The Ukraine, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Croatia focus on the national musicians, or the local music scene. News channels are the most popular in Latvia, Moldova, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro.
Google Plus has more than 972,000 users across Eastern Europe. The larger nations are the most represented Russia (19% of the total) and Poland (16%). Businesses and freelancers are the most followed pages in most of Eastern Europe (Russia, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Estonia and Serbia).
Language and cultural fast facts
Russia: Samovars (traditional devices used to boil water for tea) and tea-drinking are an indispensable part of Russian culture. In modern Russia, samovars are rarely used to make tea; however, many families place samovars in the centre of the table during holiday celebrations. This is both a tribute to their ancestors and a ceremony that embodies warm-hearted hospitality. The word samovar in Russian is derived from ‘сам’ meaning self and ‘варить’ meaning to boil. The name can be loosely translated into English as ‘self-boiler’.
The Ukraine: the country is home to the first university in Eastern Europe, founded in 1576 by Prince Vasyl-Kostiantyn of Ostroh. The National University of Ostroh Academy is the successor of Ostroh Slavic, Greek and Latin Academy, the first higher educational establishment of the Eastern Slavs.
Estonia: singing is a very Estonian activity and the Estonians are known to have sung their way to freedom during the Singing Revolution of 1989-1991.
Latvia: folk songs are among Latvia’s national treasures. The Latvian folk song (‘daina’) is one of the distinguishing features of Latvian culture. There are three essential elements of these folk songs: tradition, literature and symbolism. The daina is a form of oral art and has shaped Latvia’s national identity for the past two centuries.
Czech Republic: Christmas time in Czech Republic doesn’t equate to roast turkey or goose. Instead, the Czechs celebrate with a Christmas carp!
Poland: in Polish, people talk to each other in the third person, unless they are close, as a sign of respect. If you walk into a shop in Poland, you’d say the equivalent of: “Good day, does Sir/Madam know where I could buy soup?”
Slovakia: only give flowers in odd numbers (except 13, which is unlucky) and avoid giving chrysanthemums or calla lilies. And avoid tying flowers with a purple ribbon, unless you are going to a funeral.
Hungary: if you are out for a beer with friends in Hungary, it’s best not to clink glasses when making a toast. This custom dates back to the country’s 1849 war with Austria, and it can still raise eyebrows as an unlucky thing to do.
Romania: if you ever give flowers to a Romanian, make sure you give an odd number because even numbers are reserved for funerals.
Slovenia: Although just 2 million strong, Slovenia is home to 32 different dialects. So learning the standard language doesn’t always prepare you for conversation in the country. Slovenian is also a minority language in Italy.
Croatia: The Croatian language has looked to its roots for creating new words, so whereas the country’s Serbian neighbours use the French word for aeroplane ‘avion’, Croats use ‘zrakoplov’. Modern Croatians also look to the English language, so we get ‘frend’ (friend), or ‘frendica’ for a female friend.
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Bosnian hit comedy TV show, Lud, zbunjen, normalan (The crazy, the confused, and the normal one) has also made it big in neighbouring countries. It deals with several taboo topics and has occasionally courted controversy. Bosnians are affectionately renowned in the region for their hospitality and good humour.
Albania: Albania is home to over 700,000 bunkers which were built under Communism. Most are abandoned, but some have been converted into living spaces and cafes.
Bulgaria: in conversation, Bulgarians may be shaking their head, but they actually mean ‘yes’ when they do so, not ‘no, as in many European countries.
Serbia: As well as Serbian, several other languages have official status in the country. These include Hungarian, Romanian, Slovak, Russian, and in Northern Serbia, even Croatian.
Macedonia: When you see a new baby, don’t tell the proud parents how beautiful their baby is. It’s bad luck. Instead, make a noise like you’re spitting to ward off evil spirits and say, “My hens poop on him or her”.
A quick history of Eastern Europe
Former members of the USSR: seven Eastern European nations are former members of the USSR. Apart from Russia and Moldova, the other five nations all have their own national language in addition to Russian. Belarus, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were all part of the Russian Empire prior to becoming part of the USSR. In 1922, the Ukraine became the founding state of the USSR. All nations achieved independence between 1988 and 1992.
Nations formerly part of Yugoslavia: formed after the Treaty of Versailles in 1918, Yugoslavia was born from a desire to unite all South Slavic people. Parts of the region were part of the Ottoman Empire, others the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The dissolution of these Empires after the First World War, allowed the formation of a new Slavic Kingdom (which later became a Republic).
Croatia and Macedonia gained independence in 1991; Bosnia and Herzegovina and Slovenia the following year. Yugoslavia was renamed Serbia and Montenegro in 2003, and split into separate nations in 2006, shortly after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia.
Czech Republic: Slovakia had been part of the Moravian Empire, and then the Kingdom of Hungary before the formation of Czechoslovakia in 1918. The peaceful separation of Czechoslovakia into Slovakia and the Czech Republic happened in 1993. Their cultural and linguistic heritage was different enough for both countries to establish themselves as separate nations with little difficulty.
Other Former Eastern Block countries: Albania, Bulgaria, Poland, Romania and Hungary each have diverse cultural and linguistic heritages. All five nations formerly allied themselves with (or were occupied by) the USSR and elected communist governments, but retained their own languages and traditions.