MUMBAI: An increasing number of major advertisers are heightening their use of Twitter in India, as rising smartphone use boosts the profile of the microblogging service among their customers.

It is estimated that as many as 2 million people in the Asian nation are regularly active on the social messaging site, leaving India behind only the US and Germany on this measure.

However, Twitter's membership in the rapidly-growing economy is dwarfed by that of Facebook and Orkut, which have audiences of 8 million and 16 million users respectively, but this situation could change going forward.

One major reason behind this predicted trend is the current rapid expansion in smartphone penetration in India, a process that is leading more consumers to access social media portals via their handsets.

Future network infrastructure improvements, which would improve the affordability of web-enabled devices like the BlackBerry and iPhone, could enhance this development still further.

The potential of the wireless platform in this area is demonstrated by the fact that some 400 million Indians send and receive text messages each day, while only 60 million interact with each other online.

ICICI Bank, the financial services giant, has around 500 "followers" on Twitter, and responds to between 200 and 300 "tweets" every day through its main customer services account.

A spokesman for the company said "we recognise that many of our customers and their influencers spend an increasing amount of time on digital and other user-generated media."

"Our first objective is to align our communication channels with those used by our customers and their influencers - be it Twitter, blogs or other online forums. We want to be present where our customers are."

Mahesh Murthy, founder and ceo of Pinstorm, a digital agency that works with ICICI, suggested that Twitter accounts have become a crucial aspect of general brand management.

"Even simple things like not having enough cash in an ATM get reported in tweets," he argued.

"It is extremely important to react at the earliest to such problems and the tweets give the bank ample opportunity to take quick action, remedy the situation, and preserve its brand image in the bargain."

Channel V, the music and entertainment station, currently boasts 3,550 "followers", with Tata Consultancy Services on 3,000, indicating the broad range of firms that are now using this medium.

Bharti Airtel, the largest cellphone operator in India, also announced a partnership with Twitter in October last year, which enabled its subscribers to send and receive "tweets" for free.

Rahul Welde, vp, media services, of Unilever's operations in Asia, Africa, West Asia and Turkey, added that 81% of companies are planning to boost their social media marketing spend in the near future.

"A huge number of networks have mushroomed over time, sharing info, photos, videos, crowdsourcing and relay building," he said.

Data sourced from Business Standard/Twitter; additional content by Warc staff