Russia and Eastern Europe See New Facebook Growth in August 2010

[Editor’s Note: The data cited in this article is excerpted from Inside Facebook Gold, our data service tracking Facebook’s business and growth around the world. Please see Inside Facebook Gold to learn more about our complete data and analysis offering.]

Today, we’re breaking out figures from four fast-growing countries for a look at their potential: Russia, Hungary, Romania and Ukraine. These countries, all in the same region, averaged 13.7 percent growth in August, a rate usually only seen in the fastest-growing countries.

However, the four — particularly Russia — also present a complicated market for Facebook. As in the case of South Korea, whose rapid growth we wrote about in July, local social networks and customs have led many to speculate that Facebook will never secure a foothold.

First, the figures. Here’s what growth looked like in August for the four:

So what’s supposed to be holding these markets back? It isn’t internet penetration, certainly. The three Eastern European countries can offer over 30 million internet users, while Russia is good for about 60 million.

The challenge comes from so-called ‘local’ social networks, Vkontake and Odnoklassniki. Aside from bearing an extremely close resemblance to Facebook, these networks may be able to offer something Facebook can’t. Here’s a recent take from local social media expert Katya Trubilova:

Vkontakte offers a special feature which attracts more new members daily and makes them spend a lot of time online. Members are able to view thousands of pirated copies of domestic and foreign movies translated into Russian. In addition, it’s possible to upload and download video and audio files via VK Tracker application. This is the most significant advantage of Vkontakte over Facebook. It can be perceived that the majority of Vkontakte members will not be as easily persuaded to join Facebook and to give up their convenient online entertainment.

While Facebook’s architecture, security, and newest features are a match for any social network in the world, it certainly can’t provide a free copy of Inception.

However, there is some hope for Facebook. As we just reported on Inside Social Games, social game developer Playdom has been brave enough to venture into the Russian market with local publisher i-Jet, starting an anti-piracy initiative for games.

Over time, other content may be cleaned off Vkontakte, leaving a more even playing field. And even with the current state of affairs, Facebook’s surging ahead regardless.

The traffic and growth data cited above is excerpted from the full Facebook Global Monitor, September 2010 edition. The Global Monitor is available through Inside Facebook Gold, our data and analysis membership which also includes analysis on developments, risks and opportunities in the Facebook business ecosystem. To learn more or join the membership, please visit Inside Facebook Gold.