Just taking a look at Draugiem Group's Riga modern headquarters you get the sense that the company is still thriving and not slowly dying off, like every other regional social network has after Facebook started dominating the planet. Draugiem.lv still has the most active users for any social network in Latvia, counting 1 244 872 users to Facebook's 327 940 and Twitter's 62 000. Latvia only has a population of 2.2 million, giving Draugiem a very high penetration rate.
Perhaps one way the social network has been able to stay on top has been its focus on fostering the development of several startups, which have turned into their own companies. The Draugiem Group now consists of 14 companies and over 100 employees, providing a range of solutions from SMS marketing telemetry and GPS devices, web applications, and even a television platform with social media integration.
The group's companies include Vendon is one of their companies you might recognize, while others, like Friendly Bracelets make you wonder what they're doing in the bracelet game. But hey, they're diversified and they're doing well. The Draugiem Group's turnover is around €14.8 million.
Most users on Draugiem.lv also have an account on Facebook so they can stay in contact with their international friends, but Jānis Palkavnieks, spokesman for the company, says that Draugiem is more of a home for Latvians to connect with friends and family. "This is an especially important aspect for those Latvians living abroad – to have this link with home. Latvians mostly prefer local brands, and on top of that, we’re able to react very quickly to change or invent something. Facebook is a large international company, and so they are not as flexible as we are. Our company’s vector – what drives the direction and magnitude of our work -– is person-centered technologies"
"We follow relevant world tendencies, and offer our users the same opportunities as any global social network, not blindly copying them, but rather adjusting them to fit the local mentality and target audience."
Draugiem.lv has a 95% rate of loyal users, and all other qualitative statistics are noticeably higher than those of competing social networks in Latvia. Palkavnieks also points out, "It’s important to note that draugiem.lv is still the first choice amongst youth – an audience, that still doesn’t have it’s own 'environment'. That allows us to be quite convinced about the future, while at the same time the global competition pushes us to constantly develop ourselves."
Latvia is the last country in Europe where Facebook is not the market leader, and I hope they're able to keep innovating and keeping their users happy. While the Myspace story serves as a reminder that social networks can go out of style quickly, I'm still a sucker for one country still stay away from the ubiquitous Facebook culture, especially considering the social networks $12.1 billion raised in their IPO.