Facebook surge puts Thailand into world’s top 25
Thailand’s Facebook membership number have risen to more than 5.7 million making the country’s the 21st largest on the social network according to statistics from Facebakers, a dedicated Facebook statistics and analytics site.
The scale is all the more remarkable consider that there were just two million Facebook members in the country at the start of this year. That is reflected by Thailand’s month-on-month growth rate – 7.07 percent – which is not bettered by many countries.
Dedicated Facebook blog Inside Facebook has picked up on Thailand citing its growth as the third highest in the world this year:
Among all countries listed in our monthly Global Monitor report, Thailand has the third highest 12-month growth rate, growing 320.5 percent since last September for a total of 5.4 million Facebook users at the beginning of October. Earlier this year, Hi5 reportedly had six million Thai users.
At its current growth rate, Facebook will exceed Hi5 in Thailand by the beginning of next year, if not sooner.
Being the third largest market is no easy task given Thailand’s initial membership was a sizable 2 million while many countries began with small user numbers making all growth proportionally greater.
Second, based on registered users alone (assuming we are to believe Hi5’s own claim of 6 million users) Inside Facebook may be correct, but it may want to reassess that comment in terms of monthly traffic – and thus active users – Facebook passed Hi5 a while ago.
Back in July Italian social media blogger Vincenzo Cosenza reported Facebook as the country’s dominant social network while Facebook’s traffic overtook Hi5, to become second only to Google, as late as May this year.
Quibbling over numbers aside Facebook has clearly taken off in a major way in the country – as I’ve chronicled through out the year – and the Inside Facebook graphic shows that Thailand’s growth beats any other country in Asia this year.
Thailand very often goes under the radar of digital media analytics firms, and social media pundits, but given its phenomenal growth few can argue that digital media is growing hugely in the country. Unfortunately Twitter does not break out official statistics, country-by-country, and, as stated, many of the firms who measure statistics for the micro-blogging service have neglected to include the country, so there is no basis for comparison with Facebook.
I’ll post further on this later today, including a look at how this phenomenal growth has taken place and how Facebook usage is likely to develop in the future.
Politically, Thailand’s strong use of Facebook has implications.
Known for restricted media freedom, often in the form of self-censorship, Thailand’s worldwide ranking on Reporters Without Border’s Press Freedom Index is a lowly 153, in stark comparison to its position as Facebook’s 21st largest user group. This is likely to make politicians, and those seeking to exert pressure on the country’s media nervous as social media and its role as a platform for open opinions, is far trickier to moderate and censor than media outlets.
While the government has blocked access to Facebook groups in the past, and punished citizens who post illegal content on the site, it is unlikely to go down the road of blocking Facebook given its public popularity and the message that such a move would send out to the rest of the world.
For now, Facebook and other social media presents channels whose objectivity, independence and basis for free speech could cause problems for government censors in the long-term.
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Part two of this series analysing the factors behind Thailand’s Facebook growth is here
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