• Fri. Jul 19th, 2024

Ukrainian Social Media: The New Level You’ve Never Heard About

Ukrainian digital is in the best of times now. No, this is not a mistake. Russia’s attack caused a great reassessment of values along with customer loss, and some agencies had to close. Meanwhile, we brought our quality to new markets and found out, first of all for ourselves, that Ukrainian social media were unique. With no exaggeration, they are a special phenomenon that grew strong in conditions far from favourable. That’s why they now differ so much from what brands do on social media in other countries.

I am Roman Gerashchenko, the CEO of Sasquatch Digital, which grew from a boutique company into a serious market player and one of Ukraine’s best digital agencies in 15 years. I know from the inside what helped Ukrainian digital become so powerful and what else we are capable of. I’d be glad to share this, so that you know for sure that production, IT, and the army are not the only strengths of our country. 

Several generations of Ukrainians were brought up in socialism. We had neither malls nor entertainment platforms for a long time, which made us read a lot. As you know, literature boosts creative thinking and phantasy. 

When the next stage of development brought technology to our society, we didn’t have large budgets. But those involved in the emergence of Ukrainian digital had a burning desire to produce something unique, not seen before. Later, businesses noticed the effectiveness of social media and invested in them because otherwise, further work would have been impossible. Schools and training programs were created; a new profession of an SM-manager appeared and gained popularity in Ukraine. That promoted social media marketing and made Ukrainian SMM into a separate element for benchmarking and inspiration. 

Ukrainian agencies (over 100 companies that provide professional social media services) designed incredibly original and relevant cases non-stop. We did what we could do in our small circle, remaining unaware of how much above the worldwide level we actually were. 

The time has come when Ukrainian creativity as well as digital is in that very Europe. Not as award-seeking tourists, but as proper players, contractors. Most of those who decided on that just had to do it. That was not planned systematic expansion, but an emergency evacuation in search of paying customers. The first feedback from the local clients, however, made it clear that we were not going back to the position of worthless outsiders, in which we had put ourselves deliberately. 

I identified three key factors that make Ukrainian digital agencies more productive compared to other marketing-oriented countries. These are service processes, legal aspects, and market drivers.

Service processes 

Ukrainians have always been extremely picky about service. The mix of hospitality, desire to please as well as exceed expectations, and demands in response goes beyond restaurant or hotel business. Service processes in our digital sphere are based on speed and consistency. I’m sure some of you have already interacted with Ukrainian contractors and appreciated the speed and quality of work with us. In many European countries, response time to business messages is officially fixed within 72 hours. That is, during the time a typical European manager needs to respond to a single letter, a Ukrainian one can create a brief and even agree on an estimate. How quickly and intensively Ukrainian digital specialists work causes mute amazement in the world business community. 

Legal aspects 

This factor, apparently, is not quite positive, but I’ll tell you as it is. Unfortunately, Ukraine is still in the conditions where the state cannot fully control the fulfilment of employers’ duties. In creative spheres, agreements between SM managers and employers might be purely verbal. Ukrainian employees have to prove that they are irreplaceable and increase their value. It’s impossible just to do your job without massive efforts. So even having found themselves in favourable legal conditions, our people continue to compete and invest in their work. Unless they are already burnt out, of course. 

By the way, I’ve noticed that the average age of digital workers is much lower in Ukraine than in other marketing-oriented countries. It’s quite obvious that the enthusiasm and energy of twenty-year-olds do not equal the experience of forty-year-olds. 

Market drivers 

One of the factors that propel Ukrainian digital onwards is the stimulation to internal competition and raising the bar. In this process, the branch media play an important role. They are quite few but really effective in building communication both with potential customers and with colleagues. 

Not that there are no such sites in European or American media space. Even opposite: this sector may be highly developed. But guess what? Many of them are purely commercial projects that sort info by price, not by meaning. 

The Ukrainian editions of AIN, Cases.media, MMR, Vector, Marketer, Speka, Bazilik.media have editorial policies and select publications for their audiences. Cases, experience, and inspiring content are among the key topics in our media. 

The analysis should take into account the overall level of digital penetration in Ukraine. Considering that abroad, SMS remains a basic communication channel and a bank card can’t be opened in five minutes without personal presence, our digitalisation is sky-high. Of course we did not achieve that in just one year: compare the dates when a certain business appeared on social media in Ukraine and similar ones in other countries. Social media activity in Ukraine is several years ahead of foreign companies. In general, this also affects the quality of the final product of Ukrainian advertising agencies.

In addition, Ukrainians are much addicted to smartphones and social media, which is also worth considering as a kind of a driver. Everybody in Ukraine makes content, some even at an almost professional level (with light, microphones, etc.). Ukrainian influencers have contributed to that. Look at whichever in this base; I guarantee that the level of their work, the price-quality ratio, and the final result will be much better compared to many of your country’s top bloggers. However, keep in mind the base does not include our real celebrity influencers. 

Perhaps the main thing to stimulate the never-ending development of Ukrainian SMM is internal competition. Traditionally, we share our achievements often and sincerely. Our team does the same to set the bar and inspire other agencies to work better. Nothing can stop Ukrainian digital on its way to global market leadership. 

Enough with theory, though. Let’s compare foreign social media communication to Ukrainian on specific examples. 

Examples 

Having analysed the content of well-known brands for the USA, Spain, and Germany, I concluded that they usually see social media just as another platform for global creatives. They shoot a commercial for TV, make it into layouts for outdoor ads, and adapt its format to YouTube, Instagram, or TikTok. And that’s all; the work with social media is over. Even if they design unique content, the approaches are the same as to outdoor ads. The final picture is perfect but not alive. In Ukrainian SM, craft creatives convey the atmosphere and set the mood of the audience. If it is FMCG, they often encourage people to run to stores for products. 

For one of our projects in Poland, we studied the confectionery market. An interesting fact was that far not 100% of those who worked were present on social media. Meanwhile, it’s even hard to imagine a place that opens in Kyiv without creating an Instagram page and a label on Google Maps. Before the full-scale war, a new restaurant or café opened every week 

in Ukraine, and their competition for consumers began in social media. 

But let’s get back to Poland. I can definitely single out MOD donuts in terms of content quality compared to its local competitors. The content this project makes is considered exemplary in the local digital circles. But at some point, you can notice the lack of professionalism: it is hardly possible to distinguish between branded content and a page with marks on user photos. Just look.

And now, compare: Milk Bar, Namelaka, Lila Cake, GOL’DA, Good Girl, МINISTRY OF SHAWARMA, Zhyttya chudovykh lyudey, Zavertailo, Vzyuzu, HONEY, Ponchyk Boy… oh, stop me! These are only a tiny part of places in Kyiv created without involving agencies. But who would call their photos unprofessional? Creative ideas for product content. A unique, recognisable style of texts… 

It would be right to look at communication from a different angle and compare the products that Ukrainian and foreign well-known agencies create for the same brand. Let’s switch to what is famous all over the world. Global brands with their budgets should set the bar! We’ll take the technology brand Lenovo for a quick analysis. 

Lenovo Ukraine 

The communication of this brand in Ukraine takes many details into account. The content is really high quality: craft local photos and videos, adaptation to the actual size of Instagram posts, focus on Reels, unique covers for videos, restrained highlights covers in the same style, quality texts with a product component, patriotic notes, and stable communication. 

Lenovo’s global page

To my mind, this page is weaker than the Ukrainian one. Namely, it looks like a collection of absolutely different, unrelated posts by various users. No visual integrity peculiar to the brand. Instead, there’s a mix of poor quality UGC, long promos, mentions of sponsoring athletes, and a kind of TikTok humour. The texts lack emotions as well as СТА. More than a million subscribers see that all!

Shall we look at other local manifestations of the brand? 

Lenovo Hungary

Hungary, at first sight, tried to form its own view of the brand’s SMM strategy. But along with local content, we can see the overuse of the format that resembles reposts from X (texts made of letters or numbers on a white background, by the global brand but in Hungarian). And, judging by the lack of covers on video posts, the Hungarian team does not seek to make a wow. 

Lenovo Sweden

In this case, it would be wrong to call the content hopelessly bad, despite the lack of a design system and the low frequency of posts. But if you look at the pages for Finland, the UK, and Norway, the repetition of the same images will strike your eye. It’s normal to use the global brand photo bank, but this is a kind of minimum SMM for those who economise or lack diligence.

Let me back my opinion with the cases of other global brands. 

For example, Pepsi. A strong brand, a strong communication platform. But let’s see how it expresses itself in Indonesia, in Brazil, and in Ukraine. What all these pages have in common is 

  • much craft filming, 
  • the communication of the brand’s values as well as emotional characteristics, and
  • a total lovemark. 

But the Ukrainian page has something that brings its SMM to a higher level. This is, first of all, the variety of tools and formats the content team uses. They intentionally focus on Reels, which is relevant on Instagram. The short animated videos are made with the use of 3D animation and the involvement of ambassador bloggers. For the New Year, Pepsi’s Ukrainian page even introduced a clip with influencers. In addition, the brand demonstrates its scale, which we can see at the link in the bio. It leads to Spotify with branded playlists, to TikTok Pepsi, and to the page of the music project theКщ brand supports.

A special niche is В2В communication on social media. L’Oréal Professional Paris built it successfully on Instagram. At first sight, its pages for the UK, for Baltics, and for Ukraine are identical, even the description in the bio is the same. But having plunged into the sense of the posts, you can feel the mastery of the Ukrainian team. They create not just a promo project to advertise the brand’s products, but no less than a treasury of applied experience, exactly what professionals are interested in. Here, you can find real ‘before/after’ pictures, proportion formulas, and similar highly specialised content that gives users more than they expect from a regular brand page. In addition, L’Oréal Professional Paris for the Baltic countries has to repeat posts three times in different languages, which users may find quite inconvenient. As for the project for Great Britain, it combines professional photo shoots with raw content shot on a phone.

Let’s look at the financial sector. How do the world’s banking and investment institutions communicate with their customers, particularly on Instagram? On the pages of BNPParibas, J.P. Morgan Private Bank, UBS, and Goldman Sachs, I see calm and balanced strategies. No one tells more than expected, some have more apt visual solutions, others less. But look at what Ukrainian Monobank does! It goes beyond the limits, builds a lovemark and fully matches the channel chosen for communication. After all, charts with basic macro trends are hardly relevant on Instagram. 

You may say such a strategy is not suitable for every bank. So I can show you the social media of more conservative Ukrainian financial institutions: PrivatBank, Oschadbank, or even that very UKRSIBBANK BNP Paribas Group. I won’t focus on the specific content solutions they use. I’ll only say that the pages have one thing in common: they’re all aimed at individuals and publish what is useful and interesting for direct customers. What other audience should you expect on Instagram?

You might say, “Too much attention to online; all the life and real money is offline”. I’d like it to be so, but there is life online, social media have billions of users who deserve quality work. After all, if you do something, you have to do it well. In addition, if you really see some shortcomings, you will also see opportunities to make your projects stand out. 

In case my evidence is still not enough for you, I suggest researching Ukrainian social media on your own. Or using direct contact, as nothing can be more convincing than your cooperation with any Ukrainian agency.


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