Russia's largest social network, VKontakte (VK), continues to outstrip Facebook in user growth on the back of a shareholding row and the upcoming Winter Olympics.
The Russian network has recently registered a record 60 million visits in one day, founder Pavel Durov reports on his VK page.
In 2013, the average daily number of visits for VK stood at 56 million; 14.5 million Internet users visited only this social network every month, ignoring all competition services. A recent Citi report says that Durov's project came eighth globally in terms of growth rate last year, leaving Facebook in ninth position. VK's user numbers grew nearly 20% in 2013.
Experts put this growth dynamics down to the recent scandals involving VK, and to the network's partnership with the Sochi Winter Olympics organizers.
The media recently reported that Durov might leave VK to concentrate on his Telegram messenger application project. Although immediately denied by VK spokesman Georgy Lobushkin and by Durov himself, the reports led to a surge in user activity.
Popular Western technology blog Mashable describes VK as "the Olympics' social media secret weapon". The 2012 Olympics were labelled as the world's first social Games. The upcoming Winter Olympics, which will open on 7 February, are going to require even greater social network exposure, says Alex Huot, social media director at the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Facebook and Twitter will certainly be heavily involved as well, because these two platforms are used by a majority of sports fans around the world. VK, for its part, will debut in this role; its mission will be to interact with the Russian fan base.
According to the Internet analytics company ComScore, over 49 million people visited VK last July, spending more than five hours on average on the website. During the same month, fewer than 8 million Russians visited Facebook, each spending just around 30 minutes there.
An average of 10 messages get posted on VK's Sochi Olympics page every day, each scoring between 500 and 3,000 likes. It is therefore obvious that using the service to promote the upcoming Winter Games was a wise decision on the part of IOC. Facebook's Russian users have proved completely inactive in this respect.
"Russia has not yet had their first social media Games, and there is no doubt that these [Sochi] Games will be just that for them," Huot told Mashable. "What is really exciting to me is that we will bring the Russian-speaking world's 'fan experience' of the Games to the West via social media. We will also tell the stories and achievements of athletes from the West to Russians, which will build an Olympic virtual fan bridge."
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