Ukraine is not a tweeting nation yet, but give it time
Last month Twitter proudly announced that it has more than a half-billion users. Star micro-bloggers include Lady Gaga, Britney Spears and Barack Obama.
However, Ukraine – despite having plenty of tweeting celebrities -- lags.
But even counting the numbers is a challenge since Twitter has no statistics for Ukrainian users. “For Twitter, Ukraine is not an interesting market,” says Maksym Savanevsky, a social media expert and founder of Watcher, a website that follows up on what’s going on in virtual reality.
According to Google Analytics, the number of daily Twitter visitors from Ukraine hovers around 120,000. But Yandex.ukraine estimates the number of Ukrainian users at 500,000. At the same time, GFK Ukraine, a market research company, found that a quarter of Ukrainian twitter users ignore their accounts completely, while 28 percent check them only occasionally.
Low activity means that this style of networking is less attractive for big shots. Ukraine’s most popular twitting star is the imprisoned former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who has 91,547 followers. She started twitting in February 2011, and continued doing it for six months throughout her trial.
Her last tweet was on Aug. 5, when she was arrested. Her followers have increased three-fold since then, which pushed her up to the 8,000 top twitter users.
No other Ukrainian politician has come anywhere near that. Natalya Korolevska, for example, also formerly from Tymoshenko’s faction in parliament, only has 199 followers despite twitting regularly. Some pop stars use twitter, too.
Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, lead vocalist of Okean Elzy band, has 80,342 followers – the second biggest crowd after Tymoshenko. His spokesman says, he likes Twitter because “the 140 symbol - format is just what he needs, as he doesn’t have much time to spend on the web.”
The worldwide trend is that Twitter is developing fast enough to overtake Facebook at some point. According to analytical website socialbakers.com, the number of Facebook accounts in the world is about 800 million, compared to Twitter’s 500 millions.
But in Ukraine the Facebook to Twitter ratio is very different, with 1,773 million Facebook users and 500,000 Twitter accounts, a big chunk of them dormant. Moreover, the daily Ukrainian audience on Facebook is about eight times bigger than the one on Twitter.
Tatyana Lokot, head of new media programs in Kyiv-mohyla Journalism School, says that Facebook and Twitter are so different that they should not even be compared side to side. There is one similarity between the two, though. At some point, a critical mass of Ukrainians came to Facebook and turned it into a vibrant online community. This is yet to happen with Twitter, she says, as few Ukrainians understand its importance for business, civic activism and research.
“The same was with Facebook. At first it was used only by those Ukrainians, who had a friend abroad, then by journalists and marketing people. And then there was a point when people understood Facebook and real- ized it’s localized enough and full of Ukrainian content, and that it can be interesting for everyone,” she says.
Savanevsky says one of the main factors behind Twitter lagging is the low smartphone usage rate. GFK Ukraine recently found that only about 16 percent of all cell phones sold in 2011 were smartphones, commonly used for twitting.
“Another reason is that in Ukraine social media are rarely mentioned in offline publications,” Savanevsky says. “So people who could potentially join Twitter don’t do it because they simply don’t know about it.”
However, Savanevsky claims Twitter will catch up.
“Those things are very unpredictable. It may happen that 10,000 Ukrainians who join Twitter in the next month will be so active that Twitter will get another 100,000 Ukrainian users very soon”, he says.
He added that he expects a five to 10-fold increase in Ukrainian Twitter in the next two years.
Kyiv Post staff writer Olga Rudenko can be reached at [email protected] com.