BEIJING: The number of Chinese consumers using social networks will climb to 124 million by the end of 2009, as portals like QQ and Renren continue to gain traction in the world's biggest online market, the China Internet Network Information Center estimates.

According to CNNIC's figures, around a third of netizens in the Asian nation will have joined at least one social networking portal by the close of this year, with many belonging to a number of different sites.

Some 52.6% of people that access these web properties are aged between 20–29 years old, while the average user has a total of 2.78 accounts overall.

More specifically, students were said to make up 50.3% of the audience for these Web 2.0 platforms, with a further 31.1% of members being categorised as "professionals".

The most popular social networks at present include QQ, which was utilised by around 50% of a panel surveyed by CNNIC, a figure that fell to 37% for Renren, 36.6% for Sina Spaces, 27.1% for, and 26.4% for Kaixin001.

Posting messages to "friends" was the activity respondents engaged in most frequently, and was mentioned by 51.2% of those polled, followed by sharing photos, on 48.6%, taking advantage of blog and diary functions, on 41.5%, and playing online games, on 27.4%.

Some 60% of contributors spent at least an hour a day on these websites in all, with more than four in ten saying their main reason for doing so was to "kill time".

In terms of the features participants would like to see added in the future, 40.9% desired greater mobile access, compared with 25.6% hoping for more third-party tools and "apps", 22.6% for a search facility, and 21.6% for instant messaging.

With regard to advertising, just 15.2% of the sample were opposed to any form of commercial communications, while 29.9% stated that polls and "question and answer" formats were their preferred method for interacting with brands.

Around a quarter favoured ads tailored to specific topics or that were placed on the homepage of the social network in question, while 22.1% did not mind having ads served on their personal page.

Furthermore, 16.1% were happy to consume in-game advertising, as were 11.5% when it came to viewing executions promoting specifically offline activities.

Data sourced from People's Daily, Marbirdge Consulting, JLM Epoch; additional content by Warc staff