Sunday, March 18, 2012

Social Media in India 2012 – User Base & engagement expected to increase

Similar to the global phenomenon Social media in India is driven by young and educated in the cities and towns across India and 2011 saw a tremendous rise in the number of users and their activity in terms of time spent, engagement levels and quality on various social networking sites. According to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India there has been rapid rise in the number of internet users in India and has reached 121 million users in 2011. Broadband too has seen significant growth in 2011with 13.30 million users (22% YoY) compared to 10.92 million users in 2010 and is expected to reach 15.9 million users by end of 2012. 80% of the internet users are urban users and 20% are rural users in India and educated young people and professionals across industry verticals like IT, BFSI, Retail, Automobile, Pharma, etc are driving the social networking sites usage in India. Indians migrate to United States (US) for education and jobs and most of them will be in constant touch with friends in India which led to the rise in usage of social networks and it was even more increased as US companies set up offices in India employing thousands of people here, Indians using more technology products like mobiles, laptops, other computing devices like PCs, tablets and finally the voyeuristic appeal with open networks drove the usage further.

Most popular social networking site in India is Facebook as recently it has dethroned Indonesia from the number 2 slot with 46 million monthly active users in February 2012 on the site, an increase of 132% from the prior year. 75% of Facebook users in India are male and metro cities dominate the usage in India. Google+ has a total user base of 12.3 million in India with 86% of the users being male and dominated by students and young professionals. Twitter has a total user base of more than 14 million in India and is the sixth largest country in terms of accounts and the micro blogging in India has not risen in India when compared to other social networking sites as Indians are not comfortable with a 140 character limit. LinkedIn the professional networking site has more than 14million user base in India and is one of the rapidly growing social networks in India.  Orkut was the initial dominant social networking site in India until Facebook entry and it has around 18 million user base in India but the network which was acquired by Google is fading into oblivion as Google is more focused on Google+. Indian social networking sites too have significant user base in India and Ibibo has around 12 million users base and BharatStudent has around 7 million users base.

Urban cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Ahmedabad and other tier 1and 2 cities and towns dominate the social networking usage in India. 75% is dominated by male and mostly the young students and professionals in the age group of 18-24 are dominating the social media usage followed by the 25-34 age group. They spend hours every month on the various social networking sites and actively engage with friends and others. Most of the users are using social media to stay in touch with friends, track and update their activities, social gaming, follow groups and communities, discuss social, political cultural and entertainment topics and also look for information about brands, products and also provide their feedback. People are actively voicing their opinions on the social networks as was evident during the Jan Lokpal movement by Anna Hazare and his team in 2011 and the movement was supported by people actively through the various social networks. Accessing and using the social networking sites through mobiles is also on the rise as most of the cell phone manufacturers selling in India are selling handsets that are easy to use for social networking and are having inbuilt social networking applications of the popular social networks at low prices.

There has been rapid rise in the number of ecommerce portals in India and also businesses selling their products and services online. Most of these businesses are actively engaging their consumers on the various social networks through games, contest, and other content. Telecommunications services providers like Tata Docomo, Airtel, Vodafone, Mobile handsets makers like Samsung, LG, Nokia, HTC, Automobile manufacturers like Ford, Maruti Suzuki, Mahindra & Mahindra, Volkswagen, ecommerce sites like Flipkart, sports goods manufacturers like Nike, Adidas, beverages like Bacardi, Pepsi, Coke and consumer products like Nestle Maggi, etc are all very active in India and many Indian users are actively engaging with these brands and companies. Content focused at Indian users both by businesses and individuals is being created and Indian users of the various social networking sites like the content and making the content viral like the recent song Kolaveri Di. Most of the celebrities belonging to the cinema world, sports personalities, politicians, artists, business leaders and activists are all actively engaging and participating in the various social networking sites. Indian Users are also actively engaging in the global issues and events on the social networking sites and voicing their opinions.

There also have been some issues with social networking sites in India and the government had issued notices to all the major players in the country in relation to the derogatory content and content that is hurting the feelings of certain sections of the people. The government has instructed the social networking companies to sensor such content and remove it immediately failing which strict penalties and legal actions will be taken against the companies responsible. The rapid rise in the social media usage in the recent years has forced the government for regulating the usage and the policy was framed last year in this regards. There were protests against too much regulation by the government as the users were concerned about their right to express themselves freely but due to certain incidents over the various social networks that hurt the sentiments and feelings of people government were forced to act and frame the policy.

With increasing penetration of the internet and improvement in the technology infrastructure in India, the social media usage in India is expected to increase and this will be even pushed further with significant rise in the sales of the mobiles, laptops, tablets and other computing devices in India. With availability of more information about brands, companies, issues, hobbies, interest etc and increase in presence of companies, governments, politicians, celebrities etc the social media usage across all the age groups is also expected to increase in near future. There is also significant push from the social networking companies and social gaming companies focusing on the Indian User base will also see growth in user base. These companies are localizing the content, providing language supports in local languages and also improving the underlying technologies so that the users can use these sites easily. Privacy issues in terms of individual privacy, personal data security, government and regulatory policy issues in terms of content and the issue of targeting the ads based on personal sensitive information are the significant negative factors that may hamper the growth in near future. 2012 will be interesting and exciting year for social media in India.


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