The sixth most visited website in the Russian Federation, according to SimilarWeb, also has the honour of being one of the Russian social networks. We are talking about Odnoklassniki (Ok.ru), a platform born by and for Russian students who have lost contact, although it is currently used by a very wide spectrum of users of a different nationality, age and status.

According to Global Digital Report 2018, the number of users on social networks exceeded 3.196 billion in 2018, 13 per cent more than last year, in the absence of a quarterly closing to confirm the data. In the coming years, however, its growth will slow (5.6% in 2019 and 4.7% in 2020 compared to 6-7% in 2018, according to Statista), which means that the best-established networks will begin a period of consolidation.

Due to its privileged position in this market, Facebook, Instagram and other popular networks will surely prosper, as will other more minority platforms, such as Odnoklassniki, the most widely used social network among Russian users over 25. But why does this site attract so much attention and what are its main features?

Odnoklassniki, the second most used social network in Russia

Odnoklassniki was one of the first social networks promoted on Russian territory. In its origins, it was developed so that former school and university students did not lose contact (hence its name, odnoklassniki, meaning ‘classmates’), something it shares with Facebook, which was launched with the same objective.

Today, however, the social network Odnoklassniki is much more than a meeting point for old classmates. Its functioning, which will be explored later, is similar to that of other social networks. Users are free to create a profile with their personal data, share images, videos and textual content or comment on the publications of other Odnoklassniki members.

Although Facebook and Twitter have abbreviated domains (fb.me and t.co, respectively), none of these social networks use them as their main domain. In contrast, Odnoklassniki began operating under the domain ‘Odnoklassniki.nu’ and then adopted the ‘Ok.ru’, which would end up changing even the logo of this platform, composed of an ‘o’ on a ‘k’ turned about 90 degrees, forming the image of a minimalist mongote.

Odnoklassniki started out with obvious geographical and linguistic limitations. Such barriers have disappeared in recent years, albeit belatedly in the opinion of niche specialists. After being translated into Ukrainian, Belarusian, Kazakh, Uzbek and Armenian, its developers launched the English version in mid-2013, in response to the expansionist ambitions of the Mail.Ru Group.

Today Spanish-speaking users (who comprise a very small percentage of the Odnoklassniki community) can use this platform in their native language, as it has already been translated into 14 international languages. The usability and functions of Odnoklassniki in Spanish are the same as in the other versions.

The popularity of this social network also experienced a boom at the end of 2013 with the release of Odnoklassniki.ru: naCLICKay udachu, a film directed by Pavel Hoodyakov, which featured the performance of Snoop Dogg and a rather disparate plot, although it served to promote this platform. Unlike The Social Network, this film is not a biopic.

Odnoklassniki, in data

Although its beginnings were not glamorous, it can be said that today Odnoklassniki ‘sits’ at the table of the giants of his sector, with enviable figures:

  • In Moldova, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan it is the most used social network, while in Russia it is the second most used, only behind Vkontakte.
  • Odnoklassniki receives 1.5 billion visitors per month and has 200 million registered users, mostly Russian women (69%) and aged between 22 and 32.
  • A Gemius study stated that Odnoklassniki.ru has the most financially reliable audience in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Albert Popkov, the Russian entrepreneur behind Odnoklassniki

If Facebook has Mark Zuckerberg behind its back, Odnoklassniki has Albert Popkov, the ‘father’ of this social network, launched in March 2006 and which was an immediate success in the following two years, arousing the interest of various groups of private investors, who did not take long to acquire a stake.

In 2010 Internet Digital Sky Technologies took control of the company after acquiring the shares of Forticom, accumulating a share of 80% of the total shares. Subsequently this group of investors completed its acquisition, buying the remaining 20% that was held by Albert Popkov for $14-28 million, according to the newspaper Vedomosti.

However, the path of this social network Odnoklassniki to fame was not without obstacles. In 2008, for example, I-CD accused Albert Popkov of violating his copyright, a recurring problem on Facebook and other similar platforms. This and other lawsuits, however, were resolved without major difficulties.

What are the most interesting features of Odnoklassniki?

One of the most laudable sections of Odnoklassniki is the variety of options and functionalities it provides to its users. In addition to its friends search engine and all the typical functions of a social network (status updates, sharing photos and comments, etc.), Odnoklassniki has specific sections for lovers of music and multimedia content: OK Music and OK Videos.

In the same way, they highlight the interactive functions that can be integrated through APIs, which allow you to add games and applications, create integrated e-shops, and so on.

Groups, one of Odnoklassniki’s great strengths

In addition to its most daring initiatives – such as the recent launch of a marketplace in Kazakhstan to challenge US and Chinese e-commerce companies – Odnoklassniki has perfected some of its most interesting options. By far, Ok.ru groups occupy a prominent place in their digital ecosystem, adapting perfectly to the way their users communicate.

Creating and managing groups is a typical function in any social network, but it surprises its success in Odnoklassniki, in many ways comparable to Facebook groups, bridging the gap. Communicating with users with similar tastes and ideas is not the only advantage of these groups, where companies and professionals have the opportunity to promote their products and services.

But what exactly can be done in Odnoklassniki groups? Sending text messages, creating discussion/debate topics, participating in them, creating photo albums, publishing videos and launching contests and promotional events are among the most used functions of this social network, which in this sense has little to envy the most popular platforms, despite being a step below in terms of navigability, speed and safety.

Advertising, the master pillar of Odnoklassniki’s business model

Odnoklassniki’s business model is no different from that of its competitors, basing its revenues on advertisers and sponsored content. Branded pages, which proved to be a great ally for Facebook advertisers, were introduced with similar features in Odnoklassnik.

They have a basic design, an optimal organization and the presence of administrators, who are free to share publications, images or videos, and divide them by categories. If the competitors of a brand would like to keep an eye on their target, in Odnoklassnik, because the followers of each brand page are visible in the tab ‘Members’, in a similar way to the followers of Twitter.

It is not strange, then, that Odnoklassnik and its 200 million registered users have managed to bring brands such as Coca-Cola, Ford, BBC (News Russian), M&M’s, Samsung, Ferrero, John Deere, Kinder or Sberbank, among others. Although we do not know the return on investment offered by Odnoklassnik to its advertisers, it seems clear that it is an excellent channel to connect with a segmented audience, give greater exposure to the brand, improve engagement or exploit new markets.

The profile of Sberbank, one of the largest Russian banks, is representative of what a brand should be looking for in Odnoklassnik, as it has more than 600 thousand followers and a long trajectory (it was created in 2013). In the news section alone, there are about 1500 active debates, which shows that they are able to arouse interest in Sberbank.

In view of the above, the success of the social network Odnoklassniki, a platform that nevertheless has a long way to go in its expansion in the West, is not surprising. Today it is difficult to imagine it competing with Twitter, Facebook and other giants at an international level.