Demand for flood info fuelling popularity
Published: 1/11/2011 at 12:00 AM
The number of Twitter users in Thailand has climbed 20% to 600,000 these past two months, spurred by heightened demand for flood information and updates outside of traditional media.
Meanwhile, the global research firm Frost & Sullivan is urging the government to use more English on its social media channels to help pull in more international relief aid.
User accounts in September and October increased by 20% to 600,000 compared with the more usual single-digit growth, said Supachai Parchariyanon, the managing director of McFiva, the local digital media agency that holds the ad management rights to Twitter.
He said tweeting volume doubled to 2 million tweets during the period, with #Thaiflood one of the hot tags.
Jake Wengroff, Frost & Sullivan’s global director for social media strategy and research, said social media has become the main channel for instant communications, especially during times of crisis.
The government has set up an official website at www.floodthailand.net, while the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Ministry has set up @FloodThailand as an official Twitter account to inform the public.
However, Mr Wengroff said social networking has so far provided mainly Thai-language updates on the crisis, impeding international relief aid from non-Thai-speaking foreigners and limiting information to mostly Thais.
Tiziana Bonapace, head of ICT at the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, said the Thai government needs to manage the spread of information via social networking sites to keep down panic.
She said it is important for the central authorities to set up a communications team in charge of social media similar to what the Japanese government did to allay online rumours after the tsunami.
The Traffy.in.th/i address will this week feed flood information from Twitter to allow users to obtain information about their locations, said Wasan Pattara-atikom, project leader for the Traffy information portal of the National Electronics and Computer Technology Center.
He said visitors to the site have been eager to learn their local flood situation.
The system can filter the information in the event of multiple tweets about the same location.
Previously, the Info.traffy.in.th website provided only traffic information but now offers flood updates and live CCTV broadcasts from 30 canals in Greater Bangkok. Visitor numbers have surged from 30,000 a day to 100,000, with 15-20 million page views, Mr Wasan added.