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Russian Businesses Underutilise New Media

Russian businesses have been slow in adopting new media tools. Many companies continue to rely on official websites to reach out to customers and avoid using social media and blogs, as they are not ready for an equal dialogue with external audiences, according to Iosif Dzyaloshinsky and Maria Pilgun, professors of the HSE Faculty of Communication, Media and Design.

International companies are increasingly using a variety of social media, while their Russian counterparts are often reluctant to go beyond the basics, report Dzyaloshinsky and Pilgun in 'Transformation of Business Communications: Using Social Media'.

While Russian companies have virtually given up on traditional media, they have not yet fully embraced the use of web-based media for external communications. See Companies Skip Social Media in Internal Communication for details on how they use the internet for internal networking.

Dzyaloshinsky and Pilgun examined the use of new media by some of the most and least advanced Russian businesses by studying two samples based on data collected over 4 years from the Expert 400 rating of Russian companies. The samples included the top 25 and the bottom 25 of the 400 rated companies; in addition, the authors conducted a series of in-depth interviews with 10 experts, 10 CEOs and three public officials in 2014. Dzyaloshinsky and Pilgun also examined the companies’ use of blogs, RSS-feeds, video hostings and accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Vkontakte, YouTube, etc.

Leading Companies More Likely to Use Social Media

Dzyaloshinsky and Pilgun identified five key target audiences for business:

  • Investors, IR;
  • Government and Community, G&C;
  • Suppliers, B2B;
  • Customers, B2C; and
  • Media, MR.

The researchers examined the range of social media used by leader vs. laggard companies in reaching out to the above target audiences, as well as the extent of their use.

They found that successful companies were more likely to use various types of web-based media. “The vast majority of the first sample have been using more than one type of media to post their PR messages, and have a presence, on average, on two to four social networks,” note Dzyaloshinsky and Pilgun.

Table 1. The use of new media in communicating with target audiences by companies ranking from 1 to 25 in the Expert 400 rating

TA

Web site

RSS

Blog

Social network

Video hosting

IR

23

6

1

1

1

G&С

16

6

4

5

5

B2B

17

11

4

6

6

B2C

4

3

6

4

4

MR

24

14

9

8

10

Source: Dzyaloshinsky and Pilgun's paper

Note: TA - target audience.

Websites Primary Means of Communication

In contrast, companies with the lowest positions in the rating tend to limit their use of online media to just one, usually the official corporate website with limited feedback capacity.

Table 2. The use of new media in communicating with target audiences by companies ranking from 376 to 400 in the Expert 400 rating

TA

Web site

RSS

Blog

Social network

Video hosting

IR

9

1

0

0

0

G&C

3

0

0

0

0

B2B

16

1

1

0

0

B2C

5

1

1

2

2

MR

17

3

3

1

1

Source: Dzyaloshinsky and Pilgun's paper

Interestingly, both leaders and laggards share a preference for official websites as their primary means of communication – even though, once again, leaders are far more active than laggards in using this resource.

Benefits Underestimated

Generally, Russian companies agree that effective communications with all five key target audiences are imperative for success, and tend to discount the role of traditional media other than TV advertising. Instead, all companies, large, medium and small, increasingly rely on corporate websites, RSS-mailings and blogs, and all have a presence on social media, according to Dzyaloshinsky and Pilgun.

However, Russian companies – even though they outwardly agree that using new media for communication is important – tend to view them as a modern whim of little practical use unless the company is in the retail business. According to Dzyaloshinsky and Pilgun, in-depth analysis reveals "a negative attitude towards social media presence, which is seen as something that everyone has to do today whether or not they need it for their business."

No Need for Crowdsourcing

According to experts interviewed by Dzyaloshinsky and Pilgun, Russian companies, as opposed to their Western counterparts, tend to use social media for image and PR purposes, rather than for crowdsourcing.

Meanwhile, crowdsourcing enables companies to engage in productive collaborations with the widest possible audiences and facilitate collective brainstorming, which is beneficial both for the company and for the people involved.

Companies worldwide use crowdsourcing for a variety of purposes. In India, Google maps used crowdsourcing by giving out free GPS devices to volunteers who then generated detailed maps of Indian cities.

Similarly, Folding@Home, a distributed computing research project, operated by Stanford University, that simulates protein folding to study diseases such as cancer, Alzheimers and sclerosis, involves more than 350,000 volunteers who have provided the idle processing resources of their computers for the project.

Russian companies, however, have not yet gone beyond crowdsourcing basics, such as asking users to devise a product name or marketing slogan. Very often, smaller Russian firms that cannot afford professional advertising use crowdsourcing, and the results are usually less than impressive.

Successful Russian companies are far less likely to tap into crowd wisdom, and even if they do, the results are not nearly as good as in the West, according to Dzyaloshinsky and Pilgun – perhaps because "Russian businesses are usually not characterised by openness to the public; in addition, experienced professionals are reluctant to provide their time and efforts for free."

Businesses Unprepared for Dialogue with Customers

Social media, by definition, are interactive and involve a wide range of potential and actual contributors and facilitating fairly equal communication, where everyone perceives everyone else as entitled to their own opinion.

This type of communication is participatory and inclusive, with a diversity of opinions, attitudes and interests. According to Dzyaloshinsky and Pilgun, new media are shaping new patterns of communication.

Russian companies, however, are not always prepared for such new patterns and tend to impose their ideas and opinions on the audience.

According to Dzyaloshinsky and Pilgun, the experts they interviewed for the project believe that "many Russian businesses are not yet ready for an open and equal dialogue with their audiences."

 

Author: Olga Sobolevskaya, June 17, 2015