How to build research communities in Russia

In a previous blog we talked about some general learnings when conducting communities in the BRIC countries. Last month we already shared our most important insights for Brazil, so let’s move on to Russia! It is quite challenging to set up a research community in the largest country of the world. Here are some general take-aways:
1. Recruitment: Trust is the main issue when recruiting participants. Convincing them to participate will be easier by involving some kind of human interaction, both from the moderators and the company. Major over-recruitment should be considered.
2. Activation: Keeping them interested will be an issue as well. Incorporating a sufficient number of contact moments (newsletters, text messages, chat sessions) and arousing their curiosity with secret content is crucial.
3. Incentivation: Spreading the incentive will help with the previous two issues: the trust level will increase once they have received part of their reward, and their motivation to keep on participating will be higher.
Let’s go into depth and discover more practical tips!


The first association everyone has with Russia, is mainly one of vodka-drinking men dancing the Kalinka in a hut somewhere in the Russian countryside. However, the Russian culture is much more than that, of course.
Did you know, for instance, that…

  • …most Russians distrust anything cheap?
  • …Russians are also extremely emotional and passionate, and although they don’t show their emotions in public, they cry and laugh and shout and play more than for example Italians?
  • …typical Russian schedules are constantly changing and everything takes longer than expected?
  • …Russia is the largest country in the world, incorporating 9 different time zones and compromising 83 different federal subjects?

These characteristics make a challenging climate for conducting communities. In-depth interviews with experts and an online discussion group with Russian participants helped us understand these challenges and define appropriate solutions to cope with them:

  • Geographically, we will have to take into account the different time zones: flexible posting timings and a broad range of kick-offs should ensure that everybody has the chance to participate. Still, we have to remember that Internet access is mainly available in the cities and becomes more expensive and less available the more we move East. The same goes for mobile, but here there is a large potential: according to Nielsen, Russians aged 24 or less are the third largest group of advanced mobile data users worldwide. Our recent study Social Media around the world showed that Facebook is the most popular social network. VKontact comes second, with a 52% awareness and 35% penetration. Definitely a lot of potential for online research communities!
  • Culturally we also face some important issues that should be taken into account: Russians don’t trust each other all that easily. It is all about mutual trust; showing respect and honesty are highly valued. It is also not easy to keep them motivated: Russian schedules are very flexible and if they are not guided into the right direction, they will not be motivated. However, once you have them on your side, their loyalty will be huge. Here’s a quote from one of our participants expressing her gratitude for being able to participate in a global community: “Thank you very much for this amazing experience! Invite me to new projects! I’ll be glad to participate again!” by Natusa

Let’s connect!

Let’s make it more tangible and give more tips on how to approach Russian participants. Meet Daria, a typical Russian participant:
Daria is a journalist, aged 25, and loves to read, enjoys other cultures and lives in Moscow.
Inform her… In order to make her eager to participate in the project, she will need to be informed about all technical and practical details: how long will it last, how many times should she post, when should she log in, how long should a qualitative post be, how can she upload a movie… Everything should be explained during the kick-off sessions. Even more, a “Frequently Asked Questions” section in the community should ensure her questions are answered at any time.
… but make her curious! That’s it for the technical details, but what about the content? Some mystery would certainly grab Daria’s attention and make her want more:

  • Secret room: implementing a secret room that only opens after a few days or weeks will make her curious. Leaving some hints about the content and probing on what might happen there will keep her involved.
  • Hidden content: a movie, a link to an interesting website, a recipe… anything could be hidden behind a link in a topic! Make it a challenge to find these extras: Daria has a real winner mentality!

Guide her through the process Daria expects the moderator to be professional, sociable and engaging. The moderator should make her feel at ease, be available for any answers and moderate the discussion in the right direction at any time. The moderator is seen as a guide: at all times, the group will follow his directions. Daria would love to get some personal feedback. After all, she is doing her best to talk in detail about the topic and to share her opinion. She expects this not only from the moderator, but also from the company she is ‘working’ for: both should show their interest and appreciation.

So what should you remember?

  • Gaining a participant’s trust will be the main challenge
  • A source of information in case of questions is crucial at any moment
  • Secret and hidden content keeps Russian participants interested
  • Both company and moderator should provide participants with enough guidance and feedback.

Want to know more about communities in BRIC? Stay tuned for the next blog post about India! Can’t get enough? Test your knowledge and play the game!

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