Thursday, November 14 2019

The forgotten czar of Russian social media in Moscow

The following is a really cool video of Zuckerberg in Moscow. In what appeared as a heavily choreographed event to rally the support of the Kremlin behind Facebook, Mark met Russia’s prime minister and former president, Dmitri Medvedev. The meeting with the top Russian brass was likely arranged by two of Facebook’s largest investors, who are also Russian: Alisher Usmanov, a steel tycoon, and Yuri Milner, a venture capitalist and owner of Russia’s second largest social network. The two partly cashed out in IPO of Facebook stock earlier this year but still own billions of dollars’ worth of shares.

The visit doesn’t come as a surprise as the social media company is trying to gain a firm footing in the heavily regulated (aka censored) media marketplace.

Many American entrepreneurs may not realize this, but there are 61-2 million Internet users in Russia (44.3% of the population), more than in Germany or France, turning Russia into the largest Internet market in Europe. Russians also, strangely, have spent more freely relative to their income than Americans on virtual products, like special powers for online games, making their country a useful market for testing revenue streams other than advertising.

Social media also plays a key part in effective political organizing. Last winter’s protests, which drew more than 100,000 people demanding an end to Putin’s role into the frigid streets of Moscow successful leveraged social media platforms to coalesce when handing out fliers or posting notices on corkboards.

What it all means?

I personally see the push into this “wild east” frontier as a desperate move by the company. With the combined user base of 228 million and 90% of the Russian social media market, Russian sites like Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki have come to dominate social networking, leaving Facebook in challenger positions. The biggest social media platform, Vkontakte, claims cool 118mln registered users and is especially popular among 15 to 25 olds. The second largest platform funded by Facebook investor, Yuri Milner, and originally designed to reunite former classmates, Odnoklassniki , boasts 100 million users and assumes the strongest positions among 25 to 35 years of age. With barely 10 million registered users in Russia, Facebook is too far behind to matter. Maybe a bear hug and T-shirt sharing with the Russian prime minister will improve things for Facebook?

Entrepreneur, award-winning start-up founder

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