Thai online influence: Friends/family top, advertising strong

Effective Measure, an online audience management firm, delivered an interesting presentation at last week’s Web Wednesday Thailand event providing data analysing what is influencing consumers in Thailand online.

Though I didn’t attend the event in person, the slide show is available online and below alongside a recap of the key takeaways from the survey of 3,000 online consumers.

Findings from the survey:

1. Social media is not just about sharing status updates and photos with friends on Facebook. It’s about using social tools to influence commerce.

2. People are far more likely to buy based on a recommendation from a friend or an unbiased review on a site.

3. Social commerce can take place both on ecommerce sites, but also on product review sites, forums, and all sites out there, as social media tools now all people to comment on all pieces of content.

4. Advertisers need to implement a strategy that includes social sites that influence commerce, banner ads and advertorials to maximise effectiveness.

For me, point two is the most interesting as it reinforces an observation made by comScore who looked at online influence on social media in Asia earlier this year and concluded a similar thing although Thailand – as is often the case did not feature in the study.

What is interesting about Effective Measure’s research is that it goes into detail based on location, which is a factor I’ve long discussed in Thailand. Urban areas like Bangkok are more advanced – in terms of hardware, connections and consumer habits – than rural and semi-rurals areas such is the large digital divide across the country.

Interestingly the data shows little difference between users based on location, which is certainly unexpected. Perhaps online habits are leveling out across the country given the huge growth in popularity of social networks, or perhaps – as the survey was conducted amongst 3,000 – those it connected with in non-urban areas are not representative of upcountry Thailand as a whole.

Advertising’s trustworthiness is also interestingly high, beating web forums (which are popular across the country) and around about level with newspaper and media articles, particularly in rural areas. I’ve said before that I believe advertising has greater respect in Thailand than western countries as it is so frequent around the country: whether it is the ad board but on the bonnet of a car during a gas fill-up, the realms of advertising in the background of TV shows, the multiple numbers of company logos that accompanying the credits on TV soaps or even the fact that some of the country’s football teams are named after and owned by consumer brands.

Social media itself is widely not trusted in Thailand, however the respondents are more trustful of comments from friends and family, a great many more of whom are likely to be using social media given that – for example – Facebook membership has more than double to 5.5 million users in the country over the last year.

Are social networks themselves not trusted in Thailand? It isn’t clear from the question and answers themselves, but social networks are given a similar level of trust as web forums and blogs, but remain less trusted than friends and family.

From the research we can conclude that social media isn’t a magic communication channel through which consumers willingly take messages and materials at face value. It has the same levels of trust as other social media – blogs and forums – however users are more likely to trust comments and opinions from those they know, many of whom are within networks in social media. The claim that brands have greater influence through social media than any other online channel is not supported by this research.

The rest of the presentation can be found on SlideShare at this link here.