NEW DELHI: The Indian social media user base is likely to reach 100m people in the near future, with mobile phones playing a key role in driving popular uptake of this channel.

Nielsen, the research firm, estimated 50m netizens in India now utilise services including Facebook, Orkut and Google+.

It further revealed that the country's internet users dedicate more time to this pastime than any other online pursuit.

Currently, 80% of the Indian social media population are active on these platforms for a minimum of 15 minutes per day, and 30% of members spend at least an hour using them on a daily basis.

Looking ahead, Nielsen predicted 40m Indians will log on to social sites through a personal computer by the close of next year.

Another 60m should do so from a mobile phone, indicative of the crucial position wireless devices have in fuelling the development of digital habits in the country.

The primary factors contributing to this trend incorporate the declining prices of smartphones, which have fallen by approximately 50% during the last 12 months, according to Nielsen.

Consumers are also increasingly "seeking out" handsets providing web access when purchasing new phones, particularly benefitting lower-cost devices run by Google's Android operating system.

Based on an assessment of existing social media pages from the telecoms, soft drinks and auto sectors, Nielsen reported visitor behaviour was broadly similar irrespective of how many "fans" a brand has accrued.

Using a ten-point scale of engagement, it found scores "clustered" around seven points across the board, suggesting companies had failed to achieve stand-out measured against their rivals.

"Clearly, brands are not differentiating on engagement levels," Farshad Family, managing director, Nielsen Media India, told the Business Standard. "The good news for brands is that consumers are open and willing to engage with a brand."

Free products, competitions and games were among the most popular features offered by brand pages, alongside more intangible associations such as being "hip" and "aspirational".

Data sourced from Business Standard; additional content by Warc staff