NEW DELHI: Usage of social media in rural India has doubled in the past year according to a new report although the total number is still relatively small at 25m.

A study published by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and Indian Market Research Bureau (IMRB) International said there were a total of 143m social media users in India as of April 2015, the Times of India reported. 

The majority of these – 118m – were in urban India, where growth has been rather less dramatic, at 35% year on year. And the top four metros accounted for almost half the urban total, so there are still twice as many social media users here as in all of rural India.

The profile of users was heavily skewed towards young men and students. The study reported that college-going students made up 34% of all users and school-going children 12%; young men outside these two groups made up another 27%.

And six in ten users access social media via a mobile device, which the report described as "a promising sign" – as mobile traffic is expected to increase so too will the numbers accessing social media this way.

US research firm eMarketer has predicted that the number of mobile Facebook users in India will pass 100m this year and overtake the US by 2017.

Kirthiga Reddy, managing director of Facebook India, recently highlighted the trend towards watching video, adding that most video viewing on Facebook happens on mobile.

While India faced issues around the expense of getting online and consuming data in this way, "these are challenges," she said, "they are not barriers".

Brands could tap into consumers' desire to discover new information and new forms of entertainment.

"If you are in a country like India and are buying a type of product for the first time, ads with product specs or information about that offering would be useful to making an informed and important buying decision," she told Exchange4Media.

Data sourced from Times of India, Exchange4Media; additional content by Warc staff