Imitation is the most social form of flattery

The social media industry is always exciting, with new social media sites popping up all over the World Wide Web offering different concepts and uses. Two of the most notable social media platforms that have grown exponentially in recent years have not been born on an American university campus nor hatched by the nerds in Silicon Valley in San Francisco Bay. They have come from China and Russia.

These two sites both have similar product offerings to Twitter and Facebook, but have the advantage of hindsight at their disposal. Being one-step behind the likes of Facebook and Twitter is not such a bad thing, as these two sites can essentially use Facebook and Twitter as their test Guinea pig. Through cannibalising the best parts of Twitter and Facebook, and adding features that are relevant to their audience, these two social media platforms have been able to grow at a rapid rate, and show no signs of slowing down.


Vkontakte (VK), which in English translates as “In Contact” or “In Touch”, launched in 2006 and is the most visited site in Eastern Europe, with more than 310 million profiles and over 70 million average daily users. On the surface, it looks like Facebook with a similar interface layout, colour scheme, and logo style, which has proven to be a lucrative tactic for the social media platform. Its ability to imitate Facebook’s global solutions and tweak them so that they are relevant applications for the Eastern European is the heart to its success.

Sina launched Weibo in 2009 and is one of China’s most popular social media platforms, and currently has around 198 million active users, according to China Internet Watch. If Twitter and Facebook had a baby, it would be Weibo; it has Twitter’s looks, with Facebook’s brains. The platform has the same micro blogging concept as Twitter, but with the additional features you would expect from Facebook.

Regional social media sites such like Weibo and VK are invaluable to marketers wishing to break into these two lucrative markets. Facebook could be considered the king of social media advertising, but it has the fundamental flaw of being unavailable in China, one of the most lucrative markets on Planet Earth. Facebook and Twitter could also be facing further trouble according to a report by the Guardian. The British newspaper reports that Russia could potentially block the social media giants if they fail to adhere to their laws and regulations – which would only be a further promotional tonic for VK.

Platforms such as Weibo and VK should not only be considered useful for targeting external audiences. They could also prove invaluable tools for targeting expats, holidaymakers and international students.

There is no arguing Facebook is a strong multi-national marketing tool with its 1.49 billion monthly active users. While these smaller regional sites cannot offer the same amount of reach, what they can offer is an already segmented and identified target population.

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