Studying U.S. keeps East European marketer a step ahead


I decided it would be fun to feature some of the great people of the {grow} community from time to time. You’ll probably recognize the name Kimmo Linkama as a regular contributor who has distinguished himself with his insights and perspective.

Ever since I connected with Kimmo there have been two things on my mind:  How did he get such a cool name and what’s it like to work in social media in Estonia. So I decided to ask him … and share it with you!

Mark:  How has your career path led you to your interest in social media?

Kimmo: I’ve had the good fortune to see marketing communications from all sides. I’ve worked on the agency side and the client side, in advertising and in PR, and have had assignments with both national and international audiences. Finnish marketing communications works on pretty much the same principles as in the US, so now that social media is clearly becoming the next “big thing” in marketing, especially in my B2B niche, I need to know what’s happening and what are the best strategies.

Mark: And how’s business in Estonia?

Kimmo: Let me first give you a little background. I’m originally from Finland and moved to Estonia about four and a half years ago.  Business is difficult in Estonia, especially with the recession, and I still work almost 100% for Finnish clients.

Europe, in comparison with the US, is extremely fragmented. There are 50 countries and 230 languages (although the official European Union languages only number 23). Estonia, where I live, has a population of 1.3m, about the same as Philadelphia. Finland’s population is 5.3m, a little more than Los Angeles and is the most sparsely populated country in the European Union.

From where I live, Otepää in south Estonia, it is only some 160 miles “as the crow flies” to Helsinki, Finland, where most of my clients are located – although there’s a two-hour boat trip across the Gulf of Finland in-between.

Mark:  Sometimes I feel like the social media trend swamped marketers here in the U.S. and we’re still recovering. You are in a unique position of being able to watch for what is happening in the rest of the world BEFORE it hits your region and your customers. How does that help you or hurt you?

Kimmo: It definitely helps.  Although most ideas that are taking off in the U.S. reach even my remote corner of Europe very quickly, there’s still a slight delay.  That’s why I am – as you said – in a unique position to get on board a little before a new trend becomes mainstream here. The benefit, of course, is that I’m able to get some hands-on experience in social media, so when it begins to really catch on as a marketing ideology, I will know better what I’m talking about and be able to help my clients in a relevant way.

Mark: What social media platforms are being used in Eastern Europe?  Are entrepreneurs developing regional-specific platforms or are you seeing global apps like Twitter take off?

Kimmo: We have the whole spectrum: blogs, forums, chats, microblogging.  There are regional-specific platforms, but on the whole I think the global applications have so much critical mass that they will eventually come to dominate. For example, the development of the Finnish Jaiku microblogging app, roughly similar to FriendFeed, began almost concurrently with Twitter. When Google bought Jaiku a couple of years ago, it has gradually stagnated, and now a new development, called Qaiku, is trying to take its place. I have my doubts about the chances of survival of these regional developments against the big globals, though. It is more probable that a bigger player will buy them in the end.

Mark: What is social media adoption like in your region? Is it being used for business? What are the hurdles?

Kimmo: Finns have always been pretty tech-savvy. Blogs are proliferating, and Facebook is very popular. A fair number of companies have adopted blogging as one of the ways to get their message out, but for example Facebook seems to be mostly for personal-type contacts. I haven’t yet seen many serious attempts at business use, although some companies do have a Facebook presence. The company pages, however, seem to be mostly of the press release type, publishing company news rather than encouraging dialogue.

Microblogging is done more by individuals; so even if they are clearly associated with their employers, the messages mostly have a personal point of view. I think the biggest hurdle for wider business adoption – if we rule out lack of knowledge – is exactly the same as everywhere else: businesses are so used to traditional push marketing that the idea of losing control of the message is frightening. It takes time to alleviate this fear, but as the trend grows stronger, everyone will have to go with it one way or another.

I also don’t know how many agencies really know how to go about this “new way of marketing” when it comes to recommending the best ways to their clients. I’m hoping my social media experiments, if you will, enable me to fill that void for my part.

Mark: Kimmo, you have such a cool name. Is it a family name or just a common name in your homeland of Finland?

Kimmo:  Thanks for the compliment! Kimmo is not a very common first name.  I looked it up and there are about 18,000 men with that name. Its roots are sometimes traced back to the Greek St. Evdokimos, but I don’t know how scientific this is.

Feel free to ask Kimmo additional questions in the comment section …

In addition to his contributions to the {grow} community, Kimmo’s blog, “Marketing Communicator” can be found at:

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