Ukraine is not a tweet­ing na­tion yet, but give it time

Kyiv Post - - Lifestyle - BY OLGA RUDENKO

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 so­cial­bak­, 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.

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