NEW DELHI: An increasing number of Indian consumers are regularly using social media sites like Orkut and Facebook, a trend that is encouraging many brands to follow a similar strategy.

Research from RK Swamy BBDO, the ad agency, found that members of younger demographics in the Asian nation can spend 25,800 minutes a month, or 14 hours a day, on the web or their mobile phone.

Moreover, 82% of this audience frequently utilise "chat" services, while 40% are currently members of at least one of Orkut, Facebook and Twitter, a figure that is rising all the time.

With regard to mobile, the penetration rate currently stands at 44% nationwide, indicating that digital media in its varying forms still has considerable room for growth.

Srinivasan K Swamy, chairman of RK Swamy BBDO, thus suggested "this is an indicator where marketing should head" in the future.

Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant, is one advertiser attempting to employ these channels to connect with shoppers in India.

Rahul Welde, vp, media services of its operations in Asia, Africa, Middle East and Turkey, said "social media is a reality today. You can't ignore it."

"A huge number of networks have mushroomed over time, sharing info, photos, videos, crowd-sourcing and relay building. Social media, which had a humble start in the form of celeb fan clubs, has today become a must-have for all," he added.

"It is the huge number of people joining it every day which is making heads turn. Also, what's interesting is that people do not stay content with one networking site. They keep on becoming members of different networks at the same time."

The Anglo-Dutch firm has recently heightened its focus on co-creation, and Welde said this offers "many more ideas at the fraction of the cost of conventional approaches."

However, while media habits are fragmenting, Welde added that more traditional platforms like television still play a vital role.

"TV in Asia is growing, not going, in terms of content, channels, segments and technological advancement," he said.

"Mass media's influence is still valuable and strong in many parts of the world. However, social media should be at the heart of any marketing activity."

The mobile web is another way Indian consumers are accessing new media services, and Deepak Gulati, president of Tata Docomo, the wireless specialist, expects this habit to gain further traction.

"Social networking is one of the fastest-growing areas and mobile internet fits perfectly into the scheme of things as it allows friends to remain in constant touch irrespective of the time or their location," he said.

Data sourced from Business Standard, Afaqs, Exchange4media; additional content by Warc staff