NEW DELHI: Brand owners such as Bharti Airtel, Ford and Domino's are making greater use of social media to engage India's rapidly-growing online audience.

Bharti Airtel, the telecoms group, worked with Digitas India, the agency, to create the Airtel Soccer Facebook page, based on a tie-up with Manchester United, and which now boasts over 405,000 fans.

The firm also runs a customer service account on Twitter, providing information, helping subscribers resolve problems, and keeping web users up-to-date with the progress made on their queries.

"Our spending on online activities has doubled this year and social media is an integral part of it," Mohit Beotra, head of brand and media at Bharti Airtel, told Business Today.

Elsewhere, Ford India, the local arm of the US automaker, used Facebook when promoting the latest Fiesta, uploading videos showing how four people found driving the car, and securing more than 140,000 "likes".

Deeptie Sethi, Ford India's head of communications, said: "It is all about having a dialogue with your customer. Handling social media accounts is like nurturing your baby."

Volkswagen, another carmaker, also made strong use of Twitter when launching the Jetta in India, using the "#anything4jetta" hashtag. The campaign generated 54,000 "tweets" in three days and attracted 4,000 new followers.

"We wanted to communicate and engage with users on Twitter in a way which encourages them to be innovative; which is one of the core values for Brand Volkswagen. What better medium than social media?" Bishwajeet Samal, head of marketing communication, at Volkswagen, said.

Domino's Pizza has built an ecommerce ordering and payment tool linked to Facebook and Yahoo, as it seeks to reach India's internet audience, reaching between 35m and 50m people, according to the company.

Harneet Singh Rajpal, VP, marketing, Domino's Pizza India, said: "That is the kind of potential market that we see ... So launching the online ordering system is an extension to reach out to consumers."

The organisation believes that online could deliver 6% of sales this year, and anticipates this channel should gain greater importance going forward.

"In India, the penetration of internet is very low. However, in developed countries around 20% to 30% of sales comes online. Though it is difficult to say when such can achieve in India, we expect a huge double growth in the few years," said Rajpal.

Data sourced from Business Today/Times of India; additional content by Warc staff