Thai government taps Facebook for country rebrand campaign
The growth of Facebook in Thailand has been meteoric this year, with the estimated 2 million in January 2010 more than doubling to date. The social network service has become such a major channel for communicating that the government has turned to it to engage with Thai citizens to decided the strategy to rebuild Thailand’s shattered image internationally.
Traditionally Thailand’s government treats the internet with a large amount of distrust and an overactive censorship stick which has seen access to more than 100,000 websites banned in the country.
Though there is a huge amount of progress which needs to be made with the internet in Thailand – the soon-to-be held 3G license, low internet penetration rate and huge digital divide (which keeps many from the internet regularly) just a few that spring to mind instantly – but this is at least a step in the right direction. Including Facebook is an acknowledgement that social networking has become as popular as more traditional forms of communication, like text-messaging, and that Facebook is a ‘touch point’ that is as valid and well used as commonly visited public places like 7-Eleven stores, restaurants, banks and more.
Details below of the initiative are taken from a Bangkok Post article, with more details (in Thai) on the official Facebook page, Muang Thai Nai Jai Khun (เมืองไทยในใจคุณ), which (according to my unverified translation) means Thailand in our hearts.
The campaign urges citizens to vote for which image of Thailand they want the government to promote internationally. Four choices are offered:
– Thailand as a country of open-minded people with a positive attitude.
– Thailand as a country with local wisdom that is still open to the world.
– Thailand as the place where business, culture and nature converge into one destination.
– Thailand as a hub for investment and exemplary service.
Voting started yesterday and will continue until Sep 24, and can be done via the post, text messaging, and through many online venues including Facebook and Twitter. Full details are available on ThailandBranding.org
In addition, the Foreign Ministry has printed 4 million ballots for the project that are available at selected 7-Eleven, stores, Bangkok Bank branches, MK restaurants and Thailand Post.
Launched Friday the has lees than 300 friends (at the time of writing), it will be interestingto see how this number progresses as the mainstream media campaign and word-of-mouth online generate interest before the September 24 deadline. Not to mention I’m curious to see how responsive those responsible to the page are to comments and other interaction on the page.
Of course just how valued and respect this communication is beyond a publicity stunt is open to argument, but it seems likely the move to tap into social media to engage the public will not be the first.
It would be interesting to see what 4Chan – a “community of Web-savvy individuals powerfully coordinated…[with] a tendency to hijack the results of on-line polls”– would make of this.