By Erica Marat
As Russian president Dmitry Medvedev visited Apple, Twitter and Cisco headquarters during his visit to the United States, he began to ‘tweet’ live. Twitter is a social networking and blogging site used by over 100 million worldwide.
Among Medvedev’s first followers and promoters were U.S. President Barack Obama and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California.
In his first Twitter post Medvedev allowed himself a small typo – showing that his tweets are spontaneous and friendly, truly reflective of his first impressions of Silicon Valley. Although Medvedev had tweeted before his visit to Silicon Valley, those posts were stiffer, probably prepared by his team of personal PR agents.
As Medvedev began tweeting, his followers on Twitter grew by roughly 10 new users per second, reaching 10,000 followers within a few hours. Given that Twitter is still struggling to gain its market share in Russia, Medvedev might as well be the chief promoter of this social networking sight.
Medvedev’s tweets are yet another reminder of his differences with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. It is the president’s very own soft-power, aimed at charming Russia’s progressive youth who speak foreign languages, travel frequently, and refrain from joining the nationalistic anti-American crowd. These youngsters use US-invented Facebook to keep in touch with friends, as opposed to the homegrown Odnoklassniki network, often considered as backwards.
One representative of an IT company in Moscow told Jamestown that Medvedev supporters use Facebook and those of Putin use Odnoklassniki. While Facebook offers modern design, Odnoklassniki is a network, “where people post their pictures taken against carpet on the wall,” says a young employee of Livejournal, a large social networking company acquired by Russian investors.
During his visit Medvedev also met with Russian expats working in Silicon Valley. “Our Skolkovo must become a system that like a sponge will absorb variety of people and their ideas. But this should not be done by order from above,” tweeted Medvedev, addressing the concerns of some in Russia that his programs of modernization and diversification would be imposed in a Soviet style, rather than nurtured from below. It is no wonder support for Medvedev continues to grow.