Typically, when we think of social media, we think of Facebook. After all, Facebook is linked with everything from Uber rides to voice/video calls and even money transfers. However, when you live in Russia, you’re far more likely to think of the Russian social media website vk.com.
There is very little published about VK in English, and so the site can seem like a bit of a mystery. Yet, Learning a little bit more about this social media phenomenon may help you to reach audiences in Russia or Ukraine, open your eyes to social media platforms in other parts of the world, and understand a different approach to gaining an audience for a social media platform.
If you’ve never heard of VK before, or just want to learn more about it, these are the ten facts about VK that you need to know!
1. VK is the Most Popular Social Media Website in Russia
With Facebook coming in at #4 (behind other popular social media sites Odnoklassniki and Mail.ru), VK is the second most popular website overall, with only Yandex (a popular Russian search engine) placing ahead. VK receives over 50.2 million unique visitors per month and is also very popular in Belarus, Kazakstan, and Ukraine.
2. VK Lets You Stream and Share Media Files
VK not only lets you share your personal photos and videos, but also third-party music and videos. Naturally, this kind of free file sharing is considered to be illegal, but no significant steps have been taken against these functions at this point in time. This is part of what initially set VK apart from other sites like Facebook at a time when Facebook was mostly focused on profile pages and status updates. VK was essentially functioning as a Facebook-Spotify hybrid!
3. Russian Users Believe VK is Better than Facebook
It is not just that VK is more commonly used in Russia according to a study done at Germany’s Heinrich Heine University, VK users consider it to be the superior social media platform overall! A survey conducted on people who used VK and Facebook found that VK was considered more fun, easier to use, and more trustworthy overall.
4. VK’s Website Design Rarely Changes
In fact, looking at VK’s current website design, you might think you were on Facebook a few years ago. While new Facebook updates are constantly occurring in an effort to keep up
5. VK Has a Fantastic Search Algorithm
VKís search function is, again, similar to Facebook. That being said, Facebook has mostly moved away from prompting users to add a significant amount of personal information in profile forms (moving more towards the visual Timeline featuring photos and videos).
In contrast, when I signed up for a VK account while writing this article, I had no fewer than 50 different boxes I could fill in on the profile (and VK repeatedly recommended that I fill them in while I browsed the site). Because it collects so much data, VK can truly narrow down its millions of users to find the person you are looking for based on any information you have about them.
6. A VK Security Breach was Recently Exposed
In June of this year, the security breach was exposed when a hacker offered to sell 150 million accounts (including names, logins, plain text passwords, and phone numbers) on the dark web. It's thought that the security breach occurred in 2012 or 2013, and it is being hypothesized that it is related to the LinkedIn security breach reported earlier this year.
7. The Most Common Password on VK is ì123456î
One piece of information that was learned after the VK database was posted online was that many of the leaked passwords were stored in plaintext by VK (not nearly as secure as most online password storage guidelines recommend!). Because of this storage system, the passwords were analyzed by leakedsource.com, who found that over 700,000 people used the password "123456," and another 400,000 used "123456789" (other popular passwords included "qwerty", "1111111" and "123321". The leak never should have happened, but this is definitely a good reminder to make sure that your password is strong, reliable, and secure! Remember not to use those we mentioned.
8. VK is More Popular with Young Users
Generally, VK users are under the age of thirty. This is an interesting demographic shift, given that Facebookís users are mostly ages 35 and up. The platform is losing younger users to social media apps such as Instagram and Snapchat. Some potential explanations for this difference are:
* VK focus on sharing audio and video files between friends
* Its decreased focus on adding only people you know
* The popularity of the social media site Odnoklassniki with older Russian adults
9. VK has had a Complicated Political History
Even though VK's origin story is very similar to Facebook's (a university student named Pavel Durov created it for other students to stay in touch with classmates), it has had a much more complicated trajectory. While many social media sites are used for activism, in 2011 Russian authorities asked Durov to shut down several pages dedicated to activist groups within Russia. After Durov refused, complicated backroom deals and external pressures resulted in him selling his shares in VK, which is now primarily controlled by corporations and individuals who are more cooperative with the government.
10. VK Isn't Overwhelmed by Advertising
Advertising on VK is not overwhelming in the way it is on many other social media websites. For starters, when you use VK in a language other than Russian, chances are you will not see any advertisements at all! Even in the default languages of Russian or Ukrainian, ads are generally considered to be much less intrusive, and brands do not have quite the same level of involvement with VK as they do on other social media platforms.
What We Can Learn from VK
Russia is considered to be one of the most active countries on social media in Europe, and the success of VK is the platform has a lot to do with that. In a world where every social media platform is vying to be the most relevant platform across countries and demographics, VK successfully targeted a single geographic area and became wildly successful because of its ability to tailor its platform to its audience's needs. While it ís unlikely that too many existing platforms will follow in its footsteps, there is a lesson to be learned from this approach for new social media apps and websites being developed maybe broad-based appeal doesnít need to be the goal!
What do you think about VK? If you're a VK user, we would love to hear your thoughts in the comments! If you aren't, Skin18 would love to know what surprised you most in this article.