For many Western Internet business makers is Eastern European digital market a big mystery, despite the fact it is growing really fast and will be more and more important for big global players. Do you know anything about the online media landscape in Czech Republic, or have you heard something about the local search engine Seznam, which has much more users in Kafka’s motherland, than Google? Today i’m talking to Adam Zbiejczuk, who calls himself Social Media freak, which i can really confirm. Adam is a specialist for Social Media Marketing in Czech Republic, an excited Klout-User, community Manager for BMW Czech Republic across main social media channels,co- owner of the Social Media Marketing agency, grounder of BabelGuide Blog and organizator of BabelCamp. This man is a real energizer, let’s talk to him, probably he will reveal some secrets about digital trends in Czech Republic!
1. Hi Adam, as far as i know you are one of the most social connected users in Czech Republic and popular social media evangelist. Please tell some words shortly about what you’ve done before and what are your projects now.
I studied media studies in Brno, but since 1997 I was in love with the internet. Among my projects were an on-line student magazine, aliterature portal, a review site of electronic music in English – I also worked on some commercial projects. My bachelor thesis was about net art – this led to organizing a new media festival called Brno Zoom and a job in a very small punk production agency. As I always wanted to surf the wave of new things (I was among the first Czech Orkut and Facebook users), I decided to wrote my MA thesis about Web 2.0. At that time I also planned to apply for a job in Google, but in September 2007 I was approached by a girl working for mBank. The Polish bank was about to start in Czech Republic and Slovakia, but especially in case of Prague office, they were short on staff. I met with Wojtek Bolanowski, head of marketing and he convinced me that the project is very different from any existing banks on the Czech market. I still see my two years in mBank as my biggest lesson.
Anyway, after two years there I moved to Ataxo, a leading performance marketing company in CZ/SK/PL to build a business case for social media there. Eventually, only one was carried out – together with a team led by Josef Slerka (@josefslerka), a great scholar, manager and creative person we created Ataxo Social Insider, a tool for monitoring social media in CZ and SK. I also worked for quite some big companies among our clients including Apple, Generali, Hypotecní banka and others. The company later merged with its main local competitor (whom I always respected a lot), H1.cz. Though the team was great, we had one of the best open spaces you can think of in Prague and there were many interesting projects, like some others I decided to leave tostart my career as a freelancer in Jan 2012. I think it was a great decision. Now I can choose the clients that share the same mindset about social media. I have a reputation among my colleagues and marketing professionals, but I’m not very famous among clients. So those who approach me basically all have a deeper interest / understanding for the subject, which makes it easier for me to work with them. I cut off the people that are ignorant to the subject.
2. How popular are social media in Czech Republic and is there any local social media space?
I think we are similar to neighbor countries, Facebook is clearly number 1 (close to 4M profiles – which is not the same as “people”, since it would mean the penetration of population 15-20 is way over 100%), many people use LinkedIn (250k) and you can find journalists, bloggers, marketing people and Justin Bieber fans on Twitter too (over 150k users – together both CZ and SK). The local platforms are dead, though still some of the discussion servers like okoun.cz or nyx.cz are old and respected havens for power users (for example most of the funny Czech memes originates there), and you shall not underestimate the power of “servers for mums”, these are highly popular and can have a lasting SEO effect. The smart phones are on the rise and so is Instagram and slowly also Foursquare. The rest is basically unimportant.
3. What is the value of social media marketing in Czech Republic, is it an integral part of every marketing strategy or still only a kind of play ground for some big brands?
The demand for social media is high, every company seems to believe that they have to be on Facebook at least – but often without a deeper reasoning why and how. The budgets are very limited, especially for content creation and managing the community. You still often see the run to have the high number of fans. I enclose my favorite picture I use in almost all of my presentations / courses. It’s from South Park episode Gnomes. And you can see, that “Collect fans” – ? – Profit is a way too common social media strategy.
So to sum up – some of the big companies and even some of the small ones already incorporated social media deeply in their marketing strategies. Others are rather trying. But often there isn’t a separate budget for these activities and everything runs on a small scale, DIY way. The size of the company is not the most important factor as Facebook is seen as a very important mean by mobile operators as well as restaurants or bars.
4. You are the owner of the Social Media blog “Babel Guide”. Please tell some words what was your motivation to start this blog and what is the main value for its readers, especially from other western countries.
The main idea behind the project is quite simple. I believe that social media professionals should learn more about what is going on in
the neighboring countries. We all follow US based news (Mashable, Techcrunch, RWW and so on), but Czech people know almost nothing about Hungary or Poland and the use of social media there – though thesituation on these markets is probably much more similar than the US or UK market. So I think we should make the steps that would help us to get know each other. The name Babel Guide was chosen as both social media landscape and Central Europe is kind of “Babel”. I started it as a one man show and learned it doesn’t work – I also had to work, I’m a PhD student and a fresh father. So I decided recently to relaunch it as a team project. I have had about ten people that said they would like to participate and I hope I will manage to help them as an editor. I can’t pay them, but they can use the articles in the native language elsewhere, they will have some “internal resources” available exclusively (we will together create some kind of “Who is who” in social media in CEE wiki). And their articles should get the publicity they wouldn’t get publishing each on their own. The main value for readers from Western countries should also be clear – we hope to bring you valuable insights on what’s happening in CEE. Interviews with the best people, case studies of the best projects, presenting social media startups (the first in the series is theinterview with Lukas Korinek).
5. On what development stage is Czech Online Market right now, and is there some more developing potential from your point of you?
I believe the time has come for inbound marketing, real time bidding and retargeting. The performance marketing market is generally quite mature (PPC, SEO), but I think there’s still a lot to do with the on-site factors, e.g. the quality of web sites is not always in such a state it would deserve. And now I mean especially service design and UX. The websites’ purpose is not to look cool, but lead the user towards the desired action. So it’s once again a lot about measuring, testing, trying.
We were a bit stuck on the side of mobile – due to the operators’ policy that made mobile data (as well as other services) extremely expensive compared to neighboring countries like Austria or Poland. Just recently the price for ‘unlimited tarif’ (unlimited calls and sms + 1GB of data) has dropped from 130 to 30 Euro.
Czech market is said to be maybe the most competitive in number of e-shops per capita, there is also a huge market for Groupon-like servers; still, we don’t have a local version of eBay, Amazon or Groupon. Local companies are already well settled and I suppose it won’t be easy for the international hegemons to enter in that space (as Google learned).
And maybe also interesting – over the last couple of years the start-up scene really grew. There are quite some different incubators and programs, we have some promising startups that are known outside CZ (SocialBakers, Webnode, Y-soft). AVG and Avast, well-known free antivirus solutions are based in CZ, as well as Gooddata. Both Prague and Brno host large sites for multinational corporations like IBM, AT&T and many others.
6. Unfortunately here in Western countries it is really difficult to get some information about what is happening in online marketing industry in Czech Republic. Could you please name some core points, which every western online marketer has to know about the Czech Online Business?
There are differences. Czech market has some specific issues. First thing many foreigners might be surprised of – we have a rival to Google that still holds about 50% market share in search. But Seznam is more than that. They have great maps, the most used e-mail service in the country, run content and music sites, biggest reality estate site, and many more. They also have Sklik, a system similar to AdWords. The local social media sites were however totally run over by Facebook.
Czech users want the services and campaigns not to be only translated, but localized, taking in account Czech mentality, humour, customs. There’s for example growing anger against Santa Claus, St. Valentine or Halloween as these are seen by many as commercially based imports lacking tradition in Czech Republic. So especially if your brand want to play with ‘traditional’ values, you should be aware of local differences.
There are tools that can help you to orientate within the market. Be it klaboseni.cz / obrazeni.cz – local search engines / archives for Twitter and Instagram, or netmonitor.cz – a service that reports visitors for all major sites in Czech republic (except for Google, Facebook and other international services).
7. What are the main online marketing or social media events you would recommend to visit in Czech Republic for western visitors?
There are quite some events, but I would recommend two main ones. For social media that must be Social Marketers Summit in Prague. Majority of the guests were professionals from abroad, the main language was English and the networking is great. I covered last year’s event here. Than there’s a more general event, Webexpo - it became a leading Czech Internet conference with many speakers and a high quality of most of the presentations. This year it will be all in English, so the international aspect will be even bigger.
Thank you Adam for your extensive answers and such interesting market insights from Czech Republic. We wish you much success for your projects. Stay social!:)
On the 31st of August Adam was a host of the first Social Media conference BabelCamp, which focused on the current trends in Eastern Europe. Thirty speakers presented their points of view and about 200 visitors had a unique networking experience. In order to get a feeling how it was, take a look at some pictures below.
Dear readers, if you need to know more about digital landscape in Czech Republic, just leave your comments and questions below .