Social Media in Thailand | Update 2012

Since Bangkok just took on the number one spot of cities on facebook I thought this is a good reason to take another view on the social media scene in Thailand and South East Asia. This is, of course, not aimed to be a complete overview or an official resource. I simply state what came to my mind over the past months and what I witnessed when working with web addicts and social media geeks and freaks over here.

1.) Facebook

top 10 cities on facebook - 2012

top 10 cities on facebook - 2012

Well. Let’s have a look at the elephant in the room at first. Mark Zuckerberg….’s facebook! 🙂 Facebook is, of course, THE player in terms of social media. Like mentioned above Bangkok just surpassed Jakarta (that’s the capital city of Indonesia, my dear American friends – ;p) to become the city with the highest amount of facebook users. Worldwide. So as you can see the world wide web is not just happening in the US or the western world (even though most of you act like this).

In terms of growth Asia and South America kick ass at the moment and should be taken a lot more serious by most ‘big players’. It’s not only the English speaking market that needs to be served.

However facebook is, right now, still a tool to ‘play’ with. People usually go there to hang out, chat, share pictures or play games. In short: To do the obvious. It’s usually not used to shop or educated yourself. I’m trying to change that though (well at least the second part of this statement).

2.) Google+

Google+ is still in it’s very early childhood here in Thailand. South East Asia, Thailand in particular, is very slow in adapting new things & technologies. The new skytrain in Bangkok that connected the Airport with the city was almost every time empty for the first few months of its existence since Thai people simply were to scared to try something new. Technological enhancements need time and google+ is one of them. As soon as more ‘everyday people’ use Google+, Thailand will jump on the bandwagon and copy that behavior.

At the moment most Thai connections on Google+ don’t use it regularly since they don’t understand why it is different to facebook. Thai culture problem. But like stated above, this will vanish as soon as more people use it.

3.) Twitter

Twitter is getting more and more into people’s minds and on their phones. However the use of twitter is still mainly ‘chatting’ which is, obviously’ not it’s biggest advantage. As soon as you follow an ‘average’ Thai person on Twitter you’ll realize they communicate (chat) quite a lot and use Twitter very often instead of a messenger. Still a lot to learn here.

4.) Hi5

The second largest network in Thailand. Still everyone is there and doesn’t think about quitting it in favor for facebook or google+. Hi5 is the oldschool MySpace clone that simply could only survive in Asia were blinking websites with gifs and sounds are still modern and top notch. Honestly using it is a pain in the ass but Usability is never a big issue for Thai people. They expect things to be shitty, websites are no different.

5.) Others

The more familiar people get with the internet the more they use it of course. Same same (sic!) here in Thailand. Some of the ‘other’ networks that are used quite often are ‘interpals’ and, of course, services like tumblr and instagram. Right now it’s ‘cool’ to use the both last mentioned services. Makes you kinda ‘geeky’. Once more Thailand is a little behind but that will probably never change.

6.) Social Commerce / Shopping

No. Most people don’t do it, don’t trust and don’t want it – this goes back to some of the above mentioned facts: Shitty website that do not look trustworthy or work well and the fear of new technology. Paying over the internet? Are you crazy? I can’t even negotiate with the people selling there. It must be cheaper at the market around the corner….Thai thoughts.

Nevertheless many (foreign) companies realized there is a lot of potential growth waiting for them once those prejudices are taken care of so they now start investing in online shops (Samwer Brothers from Germany for example) over here and try to own the market in its early stage. Let’s see what they will come up with and if it works out.

7.) Mobile

Almost everybody has mobile phones and smartphones are getting incredibly popular. I think I don’t have one student who hasn’t at LEAST one smartphone (Blackberry, iPhone or Android with Blackberry and iPhone being the number 1). Main use: Sharing pictures and chatting. Secondary use: Nothing Tertiary use: Maps. Sometimes.

Freaks me out once in a while. The people here have no idea what a smartphone CAN be used for. The only purpose is chatting on facebook and uploading pictures. That’s it. A little sad but ones more: I try to change that 😉

If you want to know more or feel like I forgot something, feel free to leave a comment. I’d be glad to discuss this topic further.

  • Michele

    Did you intend to be gratuitously condescending toward both North Americans and your Thai hosts?
    When you’ve been there a little longer and/or become more appreciative of the history of public and cyber infrastructure nightmares that Thais are hoping to avoid by exercising caution, you may have a deeper understanding of what you’re seeing. I look forward to that blog post!
    Just curious – how long have Hi5 and Facebook been available in Thailand/Thai?

    • I really tried but didn’t succeed in finding the part where I’m condescending. If I may ask: How long have you been here for? I’d love to understand more of the caution they are exercising here. So far I only worked for over 8 years in this business and might not have the right angle on that. So I’d be happy to know more of course. Thank you in advance!

      I’m on my smartphone right now and 3g isn’t working well so I couldn’t spend to much time checking it but I’ve been told that Facebook is around since 2007 while Hi5 is around since 2003. Gotta confirm that information once I’m back home though (or you proof me wrong in the meantime).