http://vk.com is a Russian version of Facebook. It was meant as a website where people could reconnect with their classmates. Vk.com was created in 2006 by Pavel Durov and had great potential. Unlike Facebook, Vk (which stands for vkontakte (в контакте, Russian) and means “in touch”) has a few extra services such as music, videos, opinions, and bookmarks. Today, the website has over 43 million profiles from Russia, Ukraine, Belorussia, Kazakhstan. Its positioned as “fast and esthetically pleasant way of communication online”.
Today, this website has a lot of people against it due to a several reasons:
- Some think vk.com sells personal information to the FSB (the organization that came after KGB) in order to use that information against users of the website. Thus, there have been cases when people would post something negative that is related to politics and that would be enough evidence to start a court case against the user.
- Vk.com has no age limit, therefore, it is feared to be a way for pedophiles and criminals to talk to young kind or trusting adults in order to cause harm.
- Vk.com requires a fee to join that could be paid by sending a text message during the sign up processes. This leads to information leak and raises security questions.
This is a picture from one of the groups on the website. The group is called “Child’s fashion”.
Since Vkontakte is being compared to Facebook a lot, I am going to draw one like of comparison. Facebook is now thought of as a dying website. Facebook overwhelmed its users by upgrading its interface way too often; most people stop or slow down on posting their statuses; a security question is a huge problem for Facebook.
But if I had to choose between those two websites, I would say Vkontakte has a much shorter life spin left. There is not much its PR department can do in order to have people stay. Most of my friends use vk.com just to share some funny pictures or to listen to free music.
In order for Vkontakte to gain public’s trust back, their PR department will have to follow these steps:
- Work on the security problems. Make sure vk.com’s name is NOT involved in any online related court cases or newspaper’s articles.
- Get involved. Sponsor some major event in Russia. Preferably, in Saint Petersburg where the head office is located.
- Stop the public image of a big joke website. The website has a tech support team that keeps getting funny/bulling questions which shows that people do not take any of the support seriously. (picture under: “How do I clean my cat’s litter box?”, picture of the tools needed to do so sent by the agent of the support team, “Can I get the detalized instruction?”, another picture from the agent”
- There has to be something done about safety of younger users of the website. In the States there is a sex offenders website which could be collaborated with Facebook along with parental control options, so children would not get in trouble by talking to somebody online. Since vk.com is already compared to Facebook that much, they might as well copy this technique of keeping their young users safe.
- Stop charging people money for joining vk.com. If it is meant to be an online communication website, there is no reason to charge those who want to join. It is in vk’s best interests to gain more new users who do not have a judgement again the website. Cancelling the cost will give an opportunity for new audience.
Even if those steps would be completed, I do not think Russians will ever trust Vkontakte again. Typically, we are a very skeptical nation. We tend to give all of our trust at once, but once it’s broken, there is pretty much nothing a company can do to gain it back. It is not easy to do business in East Europe.
I do not think Vkontakte will gain its popularity back.
Therefore, I do not think their PR department will be successful in anything they might try to do.