Rising internet penetration coupled with high mobile internet usage is fuelling social media in both rural and urban India

It is not just the metro cities that are being swept away by the social networking wave. Small towns -- with population between 2 to 5 lakh -- now make up for 35 per cent of all social networking users in urban India. This is more than the 19.7 millions users (34 per cent) in the top 8 metro cities combined.

The findings, produced by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) in collaboration with IMRB International, notes that almost two-thirds of all active internet users (80 million in December 2012) in urban India use social media. While young men and college going students have the highest usage with 84 and 82 per cent respectively, only 52 per cent of working and 55 per cent of non-working women use social media. Not surprisingly, 97 per cent of social media users in urban India use Facebook, with Google Plus (34 per cent) and LinkedIn (17 per cent) coming second and third. Twitter follows at fourth place with 14 per cent.

However, the use of the professional networking site LinkedIn is higher among women and persons above 25 years of age. Indians are also spending similar amounts of time on social networking on weekdays (29.6 minutes) and weekends (28.8 minutes).

The report attributes this growth to the rising internet penetration, through increased affordability of smart phones and consequent mobile internet use. Preetesh Chouhan, vice president Asia Pacific of video advertising company Vdopia, said with the availability of cheaper smart phones, users now have access to internet at one-third the price, “This allows the ecosystem to grow at a greater pace.”

The study also looks at the most popular activities Indians engage on Facebook. A remarkable number of Facebook users in urban India, around 74 per cent, use the site for applications. Only 11 per cent use it for chatting or messaging, 21 per cent and 11 per cent to watch photos and videos respectively, 34 per cent to find friends and 47 per cent to access groups.

According to another report by IAMAI and IRMB, the online advertisement market in India, comprising search, display, mobile, social media, email and video advertising, has grown by 29 per cent over the previous year to reach Rs 2,260 crore. The figure is projected to reach Rs 2,938 crore by March, 2014. Advertisements on mobile phones and tablets have also grown substantially. Social media, email and video advertising constitute 13 per cent, 3 per cent and 7 per cent of the online advertising market, respectively. According to Shabir Moomin, chief technology officer and managing director of Zenga TV, FMCG, automobiles, financial and digital products are popular among Indians for advertising.