This is the second entry in my social media multi-series guides per country where I go over everything relevant regarding that country’s social media usage.
In this article, we’ll be looking at the Russian Federation, what social media networks they use, how often they use them, what they do on social media, and more.
If you’re coming here from my first entry where I’ve analyzed the US, a quick disclaimer – I may or may not approach the same topics as I did in that article.
Official data about Russian social media usage is scarce and in small quantity.
Here’s a summary of what we’ll be talking about:
- Total number of social media users between 2015 and 2023
- Total share of social media interactions (shares) per platform between 2009 and 2023
- Penetration rate of social media platforms in Q3 2022
- Most used social media platforms in October 2022 by monthly publications
- Number of monthly active mobile users on VKontakte from 2015 to 2021
- Number of VKontakte users from 2018 to 2027
- Percentage of daily Russian social media users August 2011 – April 2022
I’ll be splitting this article into numbered sections, just like I did with the first entry in this series. Let’s begin!
Section I: Total Number of Social Media Users 2015 – 2023
We’ll begin by looking at the total number of social media users in Russia between 2015 and 2023. Throughout the years, Russians have started using Western social media platforms more frequently, as you’ll soon see.
It used to be that VK (Vkontakte), Russia’s proprietary social media platform, was the most popular. But that’s no longer the case.
Check out the chart below first:
|Social Media Platform||Total Number of Social Media Users||% Increase Year over Year||Social Media Penetration|
|2009||~18 million (estimation)||~12.6% (estimation)|
|2010||~23 million users (estimation)||~27.77%||~16.10% (estimation)|
|2011||~33 million users (estimation)||~43.47%||~23.07% (estimation)|
|2012||~40 million users (estimation)||~21.21%||~27.89% (estimation)|
|2013||~47 million users (estimation)||~17.5||~32.75% (estimation)|
|2014||~53 million users (estimation)||~12.76%||~36.85% (estimation)|
Disclaimer – the data showing the total number of social media users between 2009 and 2014 may be inaccurate or unreliable, so take it with a grain of salt.
I gathered it from a bunch of websites or calculated it myself based on other stats. As for the data between 2015 and 2023, it’s based on research from Statista (linked above).
Anyway, you can see how Russia’s social media user base really went through an upshift over the years.
There was a sudden and massive downshift between 2016 to 2017 when the total number of social media users dropped from 68.5 million to 55.9 million.
I don’t know precisely what happened there since Russia isn’t exactly known for making this type of information. Plenty of things happened in Russia both in 2016 and 2017, as you can see.
As for the massive surge of social media users from 2021 onward, that’s most likely caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and its associated restrictions.
With many Russians being isolated at home, they had to resort to social media to keep up with the news and contact friends and family.
As of 2023, Russia’s social media penetration sits at a “healthy” 72.55%, which is much higher than in previous years.
Moreover, since the Covid pandemic more or less ended but Russia’s social media penetration is still high, it might not drop to pre-pandemic levels.
The Russian population might have permanently increased in social media population because of the pandemic.
I’m inclined to believe that’s a good thing, especially with how restrictive the country has been, and with the recent “invasion” of Ukraine.
In any case, let’s move on to the next section!
Section II: Total Share of Social Media Interactions per Platform Between 2009 and 2023
For this section, I’ll be looking at the share of social media interactions per platform in Russia between 2009 and 2023.
What do I mean by this? I’m talking about those share buttons you often see on various websites online.
Some of them are for Facebook, others for Twitter, Instagram, and so on. Whenever someone clicks that share button, that’s a social media interaction.
With Stats Counter’s help, I’ll be looking at the percentage (out of all social media shares) for each platform regarding these social interactions or shares. The platforms I’ll be talking about are:
Why is this stat relevant? Because they reveal each platform’s popularity in Russia when it comes to sharing content. The more shares for a platform, the more popular that platform is among users.
The way this stat is calculated is simple:
- Observe the total number of shares for all platforms over a year
- Observe the total number of shares for specific platforms over a year
- Calculate the difference between the previous two values and obtain the percentage
- The resulting percentage is the “popularity” of a platform compared to all other platforms, in terms of share percentage
Disclaimer for the chart below – The data I’m about to show you only shows the “relative/indirect popularity” of a social media platform by calculating the interactions of users with “share” buttons on various websites in Russia. It does NOT show how many users use a platform nor does it rely on data supplied by the social media platforms themselves.
However, Stats Counter, the platform I’m taking this data from, has a sample of 39.8 million websites that it uses to obtain information about social media interactions. It’s fairly reliable but arguably “less reliable” than something like an official monthly penetration rate for social media platforms.
I hope I’ve made it clear enough. Now that it’s clear, you can find the chart I mentioned below:
There’s a whole lot to unpack here. First of all, I should explain what VKontakte is. Essentially, it’s a Russian online social media site that focuses on sharing videos and audio between friends.
It’s the largest Russian-made social media platform but not the most used platform in Russia, based on 2023’s stats.
Facebook held that honor with 46.21% of total social interactions/shares from all other social media platforms. It had 215% more social interactions across millions of Russian websites than VKontakte, apparently.
No platform came even close to Facebook’s engagement. However, you might notice how Facebook’s year-over-year social interactions/shares are wildly unstable.
In 2022, it only had a 10.55% share of social interactions.
Even VKontakte had its rough years and then proceeded to return to higher social interactions in the following years.
So, 2023’s stats (the year isn’t even finished yet) don’t necessarily predict how the future will unfold.
What is clear, though, is that Tumblr is not exactly very popular. In 2023, it only accounted for 1.72% of the total social media interactions, which is minuscule compared to other platforms.
Instagram is doing even worse, at 1.48% share of the total social media interactions. Russian users aren’t sharing things on Instagram, it seems.
Pinterest sits much better at 13.33%, which is certainly weird given that I almost never hear anything about Pinterest. It’s mostly a ghost social media platform.
All in all, for 2023, here are the social media platforms that garnered the most shares, in order:
- Facebook – 46.21% of the total social media interactions/shares
- VKontakte – 14.67% of the total social media interactions/shares
- Pinterest – 13.33% of the total social media interactions/shares
- Twitter – 10.13% of the total social media interactions/shares
- YouTube – 8.39% of the total social media interactions/shares
- Tumblr – 1.72% of the total social media interactions/shares
- Instagram – 1.48% of the total social media interactions/shares
That’s enough about this section. Moving on to our third section!
Section III: Penetration Rate of Social Media Platforms in Q3 2022
For this section, I thought it important to take a look at the monthly penetration rate for the leading social media platforms in Russia. The targeted period is Q3 2022, thanks to Statista.
Check out the chart below:
|Social Media Platform||Penetration Rate||Share of Respondents who Said They Use a Social Media Platform|
Disclaimer – this chart effectively shows people who simultaneously use multiple social media apps on this list.
As you can see, in terms of penetration rate, the list of social media apps looks quite different from the previous chart.
Based on the percentage of social media interactions/shares, Facebook was the head of the pack. Based on the monthly penetration rate, Facebook is not even in the top 10 the most popular social media platforms.
The chart above shows that VKontakte has the highest monthly penetration rate at 75.3%, meaning that 75.3% of the Russian population was using it at the time.
That comes down to around 109,636,800 million people. Facebook, on the other hand, had 10,192,000 million users in the country. So, VKontakte had 975% more users in Russia than Facebook during Q3 2022.
Yet still, Facebook had 215% more social interactions (shares from other Russian websites) than VKontakte in 2023. Let that sink in…
Apparently, Russian would rather share stuff on Facebook than on VKontakte on any other social media platform.
The second most used social media platform in Russia, based on market penetration, is WhatsApp, followed by Telegram and Odnoklassniki, another proprietary Russian social platform.
Still, the Meta Family of Apps isn’t lost on Russia either. WhatsApp and Instagram are extremely popular in Russia, especially WhatsApp.
It’s not unexpected for WhatsApp to beat VKontakte in the coming years in terms of market penetration, in fact.
Whether that happens or not remains to be seen. We still have more sections to go through, so keep reading!
Section IV: Most Used Social Media Platforms in October 2022 by Monthly Publications
Although this statistic isn’t at all unexpected, it’s still essential in understanding how Russian social media users utilize social media overall.
After all, you did see that there’s a difference between a platform’s penetration rate and whether people share content through it or not.
Now, take a look at the chart below showing the most used social media platforms in October 2022 by a number of monthly publications:
|Social Media Platform||Number of Monthly Publications||% Difference compared to VKontakte|
Yeah, this isn’t surprising at all. VKontakte is still the most popular platform in Russia, according to the number of monthly publications. Just look at the vast difference between it and other platforms.
Facebook had 4,625% fewer publications than VKontakte in the same month and TikTok had astounding 18,800% fewer publications.
This tells you that, for better or worse, VKontakte has a strong pull on the Russian people.
There isn’t much I can say about this but in the next section, I’ll show you the number of monthly active mobile users of VKontakte from 2016 to 2021.
We’ll see whether the platform has gained or lost popularity over time.
Section V: Number of Monthly Active Mobile Users on VKontakte from 2015 to 2021
VKontakte is popularly known as the Russian version of Facebook, though it doesn’t really look like Facebook at all.
Still, the Saint Petersburg-based company gained a lot of traction with the Russian people ever since its creation in 2006.
Below, I’ve included the number of VK monthly active mobile users from 2016 to 2021. It’s a small period, indeed, but we’ll still see a general trend from:
|Period||Number of Monthly Active Mobile Users||% Difference|
|January 2015||~40.34 million|
|March 2016||43.9 million||+8.82% from previous month|
|June 2016||46.9 million||+6.83% from previous month|
|September 2016||49 million||+4.47% from previous month|
|December 2016||51.8 million||+5.71% from previous month|
|March 2017||53.6 million||+3.47% from previous month|
|June 2017||54.5 million||+1.67% from previous month|
|September 2017||56.8 million||+4.22% from previous month|
|December 2017||58.5 million||+2.99% from previous month|
|March 2018||60 million||+2.56% from previous month|
|June 2018||59.2 million||-1.33% from previous month|
|September 2018||60 million||+1.35% from previous month|
|December 2018||60.04 million||+0.06% from previous month|
|March 2019||61.6 million||+2.59% from previous month|
|June 2019||62.6 million||+1.62% from previous month|
|September 2019||63.4 million||+1.27% from previous month|
|December 2019||65.2 million||+2.83% from previous month|
|March 2020||63.6 million||-2.45% from previous month|
|June 2020||64.5 million||+1.41% from previous month|
|September 2020||65.2 million||+1.08% from previous month|
|December 2020||66.6 million||+2.14% from previous month|
|March 2021||67.2 million||+0.90% from previous month|
|June 2021||66.3 million||-1.33% from previous month|
|March 2021||67 million||+1.05% from previous month|
|September 2021||67 million||0% from previous month|
In a little over 6 years, from January 2015 to September 2021, VKontakte gained 66% more users, from 40.34 million to 67 million. Clearly, the trend is positive, save for a few months when it lost a few million users.
In September 2021, the number of users remain stable at 67 million, the same as it was in March of the same year. However, that doesn’t mean anything since the platform went through multiple downshifts in user numbers in the past.
The general trend is still positive when you look at the whole period. VKontakte is gaining more and more users in Russia, no matter how you put it.
Curious how VKontakte’s user base will evolve in the future? The next section will show a prospective statistic with VK’s user numbers from 2018 to 2027!
Section VI: Number of VKontakte Users from 2018 to 2027
Being the most popular social media platform in Russia, and Russia being one of the world’s superpowers, I thought it necessary to take a deeper dive into VKontakte.
More specifically, I’ll show you a prospective analysis of VK’s user number over a period of 9 years, from 2018 to 2027.
Of course, any number going beyond 2023 is pure speculation based on Statista’s study. Take a look at the chart below:
|Year||Monthly Active VKontakte Users||% Difference|
|2019||70.92 million||+2.85% from the previous year|
|2020||71.92 million||+1.41% from the previous year|
|2021||70.53 million||-1.93% from the previous year|
|2022||69.19 million||-1.89% from the previous year|
|2023||69.66 million||+0.67% from the previous year|
|2024||70.42 million||+1.09% from the previous year|
|2025||71.09 million||+0.95% from the previous year|
|2026||71.63 million||+0.75% from the previous year|
|2027||72.04 million||+0.57% from the previous year|
Disclaimer – just in case you were wondering why this chart is showing higher user numbers for the 2018-2021 period than in the previous chart (in the previous section), it’s simple:
- The chart in the previous section showed the total number of users who accessed VKontakte from mobile devices
- This chart shows the total number of users across all platforms
So, based on this chart, VKontakte seems to be increasing at a steady pace over the 9-year period from 2018 to 2027.
In 2023, VKontakte appears to have around 70 million users (monthly active users), a slight increase from 2022’s 69.19. However, 2023 is far from over, and we may yet see a downshift in the future.
Statista’s chart does show that the uptrend continues until 2027 and this may very well happen but it’s pure speculation for now.
What I will show next is not speculation, though. In the next section, I’ll show you the share of Russian internet users who use social media daily from August 2011 to April 2022.
Section VII: Percentage of Daily Russian Social Media Users August 2011 – April 2022
As you’ll see in the chart below, Russian internet users have adopted social media quite a lot from 2011 to 2022. But not quite as high as you’d expect, really. I’ll give you my impressions about this below the chart.
|Period||Share of Russian Daily Social Media Users|
Remember, this chart is based on a survey that looked at the answers provided by 1,616 respondents throughout the years, from 2011 to 2022.
This might not be extremely accurate in showing how the entire Russian population uses social media.
However, it does show the overall trend based on what the respondents said. The growth in social media users is quite drastic over the entire period. A 400% increase from August 2011 to April 2022, to be more exact.
You can also see how, in the span of just one month (March – April 2022), the share of Russians using social media every day increased by a whole 9%.
I’m inclined to say that the recent war in Ukraine is part of the reason for this recent influx of social media users.
Russian citizens, and even soldiers on the front I’d wager, are posting on social media about what’s happening out there, checking out recent international news, government decisions, and so on. After all, social media is a prime place to get news.
I fully expect these numbers to go up in 2023 and onwards as more and more Russian internet users will begin using social media. The current geopolitical climate demands, as mentioned above.
What happens next is something I can’t predict but there’s every chance that social media usage will increase in Russia in the coming years. And then again, I couldn’t tell you how every social media platform will fare.
After all, Russia has imposed censorship on several social media platforms since the start of the war. Whether this becomes the norm or not, we’ll see.
This is as much as I could gather on the use of social media in Russia. I hope it has been educational and you found this information useful.
As always, stay tuned to Whizcase for more up-to-date, informative articles about social media across a wide spectrum of domains!
- Staitsta – Total Number of Active Social Media Users in Russia from January 2015 to January 2023
- Stat Counter – Social Media Stats Russian Federation
- Statista – Leading Social Media Platforms in Russia in 3rd Quarter 2022, by Monthly Penetration Rate
- Statista – Most Used Social Media Platforms in Russia as of October 2022, by Monthly Publications
- Statista – Number of Monthly Active Mobile Users of VKontakte (VK) from March 2016 to December 2021
- Data Reportal – Digital 2015: Russian Federation
- Statista – Number of VKontakte Users in Russia from 2018 to 2027
- Statista – Share of Russians Using Social Media Every Day from August 2011 to April 2022