“I’ll find him in Odnoklassniki. He is a friend of my friend,” “OK, I’ll contact him on Facebook.” Both types of phrases have become frequent in everyday conversations. It’s all about social media’s growing popularity and the first phrase is associated with Odnoklassniki and the other – with Facebook. Two different types of social media, with different style of work, have impact on many Georgians’ way of living. Evidently some users are even ready to pay for various extra functions or points to their profile. In general, Odnoklassniki and Facebook somehow divide the society in big groups different environments, acquaintance and type of communication.
Odnoklassniki was founded in March 4, 2006 and is the analogous the site Classmates.com. According to the own survey of July 9, 2009, it has 40 million users and 8 million of them visit the site per day. As for Georgia, Odnoklassniki is one of the top 10 visited sites. Advertising company, Geoplus, which provides advertisements for Odnoklassniki, says that Odnoklassniki or Odno, as it is called by its users, has 45 thousand users in Georgia. This social media is mainly oriented on people, who have not seen each other for a long time. Odnoklassniki identifies people by the school, where they studied, universities which they graduated and jobs they have/had or even by places of military service.
The social media is favored by teenagers. Tika Samkurashvili, PR manager from Georgian Marketing and Communications Company (GEPRA), is one of those who go to Odnoklassniki as they turn on their computers: “Odno is my life. It is ON from early morning till late night.”
Not everybody signs up for it to find their classmates. Tako Rusadze, who also frequently uses the social media, had other interests: “I created an account because of an young man I liked, and I stayed there.”
As for the main features, Odnoklassniki holds three of them: picture galleries, groups and chat. There are no closed profiles, which means that every user can see others’ pictures. After some time it becomes clear that the social media, which was oriented on finding classmates, transformed in a site of relationships. To address users’ interests, Odnoklassniki developed the interface and specifically – chat system. Besides, the site administration started charging for services on Odnoklassniki.
It started in 2007 when for extra tools people had to pay 5 GEL. The process went on and in the end even registration on the site became payable. But interest in the website was so high that it did not prevent people from paying for the service. “I blocked my account several months ago, I closed my account, – says Ana Gorgidze – but 2 days later registered again.”
While Odnoklassniki impacts its fans in post-Soviet territory, the other social media has them all over the world. Facebook, the social media which Mark Zuckerberg created his Harvard dorm room, was launched in February 4, 2004, and is already known as the world social media. Facebook’s own statistics page inform that in 5 years it changed its interface 4 times and the number of active users exceeded 300 million. More than 2 billion photos are uploaded per month and 50 percent of users log on Facebook every day.
In Georgia more and more people become frequent users of this social network. Some part of it comes directly from Odnoklassniki. “To tell the truth, my friends found it tasteless and suggested me to register in Facebook” – says Nino Tefnadze, one of ex-Odno-users.
Tasteless or not, the reality is that Odnoklassniki is more popular than Facebook. More people know of the first, than the other – information service 09’s operator #26 says, she has never heard of Facebook. In spite of the fa Facebook is available in 70 languages and Georgian is among them, it might be difficult for beginners. The main problem is to switch to Facebook, since its features are different and more complicadet from other social networks, for example, Odnoklassniki. According to Leli Blagonravova, photojournalist, Facebook is difficult for people, who don’t know social media well. Due to this, communication is far different between them.
“Facebook is a real platform to express yourself in any way as you want; – says Tika Samkurashvili, – it’s a remarkable way for self-realization. You can create your own image for others.” Facebook has variety of tools and possibilities for public relations. One can not only register himself/herself as a user, but can also have a group, brand page or fan page. The user decides which one could be suitable to introduce himself/herself or some product to audience. The main feature of Facebook is that it is informational. Users, who have some kind of news or opinions, publish them on their profile and make it visible for their friends.
Unlike Odnoklassniki, Facebook does not have a good chat system. This is one of the reasons why people from Odno cannot get used to Facebook. They also find available big amount of information useless. Besides, they need entertainment and, as they say, Odnoklassniki is better in providing it to them. While talking about entertainment it’s worthy to mention that Facebook has social games like Pet Society, Mafia Wars, Farm Ville, which grow in popularity, while Odnoklassniki has none of them. And still the “Odno society” prefers their social media.
“I know that Facebook is better but I’ve got used to the situation in Odnoklassniki and I’ll leave it only if the site itself will be closed,” – says Ana Gorgidze. According to her on Odno it’s fashionable to have +5 points on every photo, presents and flash smiles. These payable details make the site more involving, eye-catching and, what’s important, more suitable for teenagers’ demands. Today it is already hard to say that Odnoklassniki is a social media that focuses on finding old classmates. Especially when many users register with nicknames, which means that they cannot be found by the search system with their real names. On the contrary, Facebook users have their real names registered in their accounts. This fact somehow creates a high level of trust. Tamaz Kupreishvili, journalist and a blogger, finds Facebook an inevitable part of his laptop: “Here it’s easy to talk to people on any theme you want. For example, if you like/dislike a TV show you can easily talk to the author and discuss or give some advice. All of this is impossible to make in Odnoklassniki.”
As for public discussion, Odnoklassniki is more closed for that. Although there are many discussion groups, like Poetry or Stop Russia, most of them appear to support the moderator’s opinion and frequently block others points of view. The same can be said about comments on pictures. Ana Gorgidze finds it flattering because “you have to write that it’s a remarkable picture, or a nice shot. If you write something bad, you might be blocked by the user.” In spite of this, Russian language site is easier for most part of Georgians rather than English language Facebook, which impacts mainly young generation.
Unfortunately, there can not be found an official sources about the number of Georgian users of Facebook. However it is evident that in one year they have become more and include even those celebrities like Kakha Bendukidze, Nika Memanishvili, Levan Ramishvili. Does this fact mean that a huge group of Odno’s fans will little-by-little disappear? Ilia Nikachadze, a Facebook user, thinks that “a lot will leave Odnoklassniki but some percent will stay there. These might be people, who really are fond of it or who find themselves older to learn English.”
Eventually, Facebook holds its position in Georgian society as an informative social media and spreads itself to large audience. As for Odnoklassniki, according to Nikachadze’s comment, it’s ruling popularity might fall if most Georgian users tend to get information rather than to chat with others. At last, the idea of two big groups of users really works.