NEW DELHI: An increasing number of marketers are turning to social networks in India as they seek to keep up with changing behaviour among consumers.

According to figures from comScore, the research firm, the social network user base expanded by 37% in India in March 2010, compared with the uptick of 14% posted by the online population as a whole.

Orkut, owned by Google, was the top-ranked social network in the country in the third month of this year, with 18.1 million unique visitors in all.

“Simply putting an ad on a website has failed miserably in terms of getting eyeballs,” said Rahul Kulkarni, product manager of Google India.

“In the last three to four years, advertisers have realised that people do not use social networking to look at ads.”

Facebook is quickly gaining ground on Orkut, with 14.5 million unique visitors in March, while Twitter also reported substantial growth in uptake levels in India earlier this year.

Tata DoCoMo, the mobile provider, began to build a presence on a range of social networks upon its launch in 2009, with the specific objective of creating advocates for its brand.

“Many social media users are opinion leaders who can be turned into brand ambassadors,” Gurinder Singh Sandhu, its head of marketing, said.

“The best part is that you get a large secondary audience because of which the reach increases.”

The company now has 90,000 fans on Facebook, and it estimates that this group alone equates to a “secondary reach” of 3.9 million people.

Elsewhere, Tata DoCoMo has established its own online communities, forums that Sandhu argued have “become virtual customer service centres” allowing it to easily engage with subscribers.

Nike unveiled its India Football page on Facebook in February this year in anticipation of the forthcoming FIFA World Cup, and has already signed up 19,000 followers, 90% of which are under 24 years old.

“This platform helps us serve content to football crazy kids who can then share it with others on social networking sites,” said Sanjay Gangopadhyay, marketing director of Nike India.

“This is how we are working towards building such sports-specific communities.”

Kingfisher Airlines, the air carrier, has centred its social media efforts on Twitter, the microblogging property, a strategy that it believes offers a variety of benefits.

"In the first phase, we aim to provide information about new news at the airline and get feedback; in the second phase we will go into customer care and service," Kingfisher's Prakash Mirpuri said.

"Twitter provides a platform for us to achieve these objectives at greatly lower costs."

Unilever's Lipton Tea recently introduced an online ad campaign, Stay Sharp, featuring an interactive jigsaw, which was promoted via Facebook and blogs, and rapidly received 200,000 visitors.

Cadbury, the confectionary giant, also used social media to support its Meetha Bomb brand, developing a tool enabling netizens to insert pictures of themselves into a clip that then turned their face into chocolate.

Data sourced from Economic Times; additional content by Warc staff