MOSCOW: Facebook is ramping up its efforts in Russia, one of the few major markets where the social network does not lead its category.
According to figures from TNS Global, the insights provider, Facebook has 3.5m daily users in Russia, compared with local rival VKontakte's 22m and Odnoklassniki's 16m.
A key strategy being pursued by the American company to try and reverse this trend is attracting developers of apps, games and similar tools, which it believes could then bolster local membership levels.
"To get ahead in Russia, we need Russian developers who can develop great content in Russian," Julien Codorniou, Facebook's head of game partnerships in Europe, told Bloomberg Business Week. "The reason people love Facebook is because they can play games on it or because they can get their music there."
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's chief executive, recently visited Russia to speak with developers, emphasising the site's worldwide reach as its main strength. The firm also held a competition to find engaging new apps.
BoostMate, an app which provides users with additional ways to manage their Facebook friendships, took first prize, and Codorniou reported that instruments such as this would play a central part in the firm's future strategy.
"You only need one local success story to get people on board and even reshuffle the cards in a market," he said.
"There's already a dozen success stories in Russia," Codorniou added. "We want to put them forward and get others on board, with the argument that if you want to go big on the web and on mobile, you've got to go Facebook."
At present, around 63% of teens and adults access the web in Russia, a total which has risen from 39% in the last five years, according to TNS Global. The country's population stands at 143m people overall.
"There are few places in the world that have such a large number of potential users," said Brian Blau, an analyst at researcher Gartner, the research firm. "Internet penetration is still not that high, so there's room to grow and Facebook has to be there when more Russians sign up to social networks."
But Pavel Durov, the founder of VKontakte, said that his site's lead "has been widening" rather than closing.
"We feel no need to protect our home markets," Durov added. "The question is rather: Can Facebook hold on to its hegemony in the world?"
Data sourced from Bloomberg Business Week; additional content by Warc staff