NEW DELHI: Indian businesses are using social media primarily to build communities and highlight brand news, with the most aware companies already moving beyond Facebook and onto emerging platforms, according to a new study.

The Social Media Marketing - India Trends Study 2013, from consultancy Ernst & Young, was based on a survey of 48 social-media savvy organisations in that country.

As well as building communities (95.7%) and highlighting brand news (76.1%), companies polled for the report said they were using social media engagement to provide customer service (58.7%), generate leads (43.5%) and carry out research (41.3%).

"Social media is fast emerging as a means of partnership between organisations and their customers, leading to continuous engagement and deeper loyalty," Dinesh Mishra, an Ernst & Young Advisory Director and Leader, told the Times of India.

"Many Indian organisations are already using social media," he added.

Facebook was most important platform for marketers in India for engaging customers, followed by Twitter, YouTube and blogging, but almost half of respondents were already using emerging platforms such as Pinterest, Google+ and Foursquare.

There were 78m Facebook users in India in 2012, according to digital research firm eMarketer, with that figure predicted to almost double by 2014 and then almost double again by 2017.

Most organisations (83%) told Ernst & Young they had used social media ads to promote online campaigns and brand awareness, and 89% said they had found them beneficial in achieving campaign objectives.

Image-based contests also proved popular with online fans and many companies are organising these on a monthly basis.

Measurement of social media efforts was largely based on platform-specific parameters, with 81% of respondents citing likes and comments as effectiveness metrics.

A small proportion were looking at leads and brand visibility (both 7.1%) and changes in sentiment (4.8%).

Almost half of indicated that social media accounted for between 1% and 5% of marketing budgets. But there was also a general expectation of a greater focus on this channel in future.

Data sourced from Ernst & Young, Times of India; additional content by Warc staff