Here is what we expected as opposed to what actually happened.
The rapid migration of the Russian audience through social networks
Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are blocked in Russia, and YouTube has stopped paying creators. TikTok forbade Russian users from uploading any new content at all, and access to foreign content is limited.
At first, such restrictions made people look for alternatives.
- In VKontakte: the number of new users increased by 63% in comparison with the previous year, and the record number of monthly users reached 100,4M.
- In Telegram: the audience influx was more than 40M users.
- In Odnoklassniki: the number of new registrations grew by a record 66%.
- In Yappy (Russian equivalent of TikTok) MAU rose by 56%, and DAU rose by 68%.
However, despite trying to adapt to the circumstances, influencers continued to lose their followers. Only 10%-20% of bloggers’ audience followed them on other social networks.
Users attempted to replicate familiar experiences like those they previously had access to on blocked social networks. For example, they tried to use VK clips instead of Reels and TikTok, or sent video messages in Telegram instead of posting Instagram Stories. However, the design of these alternatives doesn’t match the typical aesthetics of familiar social media platforms. Thus, users’ migration stopped in 3 months, in April 2022, the number of users and the level of their activity remained approximately the same.
Replacing the blocked platforms with new social networks
Russian marketers and IT-specialists tried to replace the now-blocked Instagram with new networks like Now, Rusgram and even Sadgram. But these will never truly replace Instagram, TikTok and other familiar networks.
The main reasons for this are:
- Narrow geography of the audience. We should take into consideration that only Russian users will sign in to these networks, making it impossible for them to follow foreign bloggers and celebrities. Rusgram will never have an opportunity to create a global community like Instagram.
- Instagram is a platform for business and relaxation. Instagram has provided excellent opportunities for ordinary users, as for businesses of all sizes from small entrepreneurs to huge international companies. These factors ensured a high rate of MAU and DAU for Instagram.
- Instagram’s algorithm has been thoroughly refined. Instagram is a logical and multifunctional platform and a successful business project. It has been developing for more than 10 years. It is impossible to create something similar in 3 months.
Marketers will stop using Instagram* and Facebook* as marketing tools
Instagram continues to be an effective tool for lead generation. Instagram traffic was about 56,1% before blocking. Now the traffic is about 40,9%. It is lower than six months ago, but the drop is not significant.
We should also take into consideration the platform’s experiments like full-screen display of posts, new algorithms to promote reels, etc. Such changes have resulted in a lower Reach rate.
The latest ministry report represents that one in five Russians use VPN-services, meaning that there are no obstacles for the core audience to return to the platform.
VKontakte and Telegram will replace Instagram for business and personal blogging 100,000 - that's how many new business communities have been created on VKontakte after February 2022. However, marketers and businesses are unlikely to achieve the same engagement and sales results as they did on Instagram*.
At the turn of 2017, VKontakte became unfashionable. It had stopped delivering sufficient results for a reasonable amount of money. The promotional scheme: "Lead a community" – "Run promo posts" – "Get high engagement and orders" —– no longer performs in VK as it does in Meta*.
Telegram is another story. Pavel Durov (founder of Telegram) has emphasized that it is a messenging platform, not a social network.
Telegram can be a great final stage of the marketing funnel for businesses, but it can not become a source of leads for small businesses.
So, what does it mean for businesses?
- Data about users is the new fuel. To build LTV, you need to understand your customers by conducting research and adapting to customers' new struggles and needs.
- Purpose-driven communication. This trend appeared during the pandemic. Brands must express their position on different important life aspects, showing their support for their audience.
- New brand expectations. Consumers expect personalized, immersive and omnichannel communication from brands.
- Here and now. In 2022, brands that meet current needs will be more successful than those trying to attract new customers.
- Rapid adaptation is the key to success. International brands don’t go away forever. Most of them plan to relaunch after a six month period.
- Influencer and targeting overheating. Due to the events of the 20th of February, the usual tools for monetization and promotion are not available to us. Bloggers will not be able to rescue every business.