Thailand May Be Facebook’s Next Big Asian Market

[Editor’s Note: The data cited in this article is excerpted from Inside Facebook Gold, our membership service tracking Facebook’s business and growth around the world. Visit Inside Facebook Gold to learn more about our complete data and analysis offering.]

Long considered a bastion of the fading social networking site Hi5, Thailand appears to be on its way over to the camp of Facebook.

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.

Like other countries with an exploding Facebook presence, the social network has gotten attention from the local press, and citations for helping users even in remote areas to connect.

Most of Thailand’s growth occurred at the beginning of this year, trailing neighbors like Malaysia. Other nearby countries like Cambodia and Vietnam, however, have yet to follow for social and political reasons — Vietnam, for instance, blocked Facebook and, more recently, launched a government-owned social network,

Having a more open government and society than some of its neighbors certainly helps drive Thai growth on Facebook, which is beginning to resemble more liberal, if also more distant, areas like Hong Kong and Taiwan, whose growth has stabilized over the past months. Facebook’s high growth rates in the Thai market indicate that the site is still near the beginning of its upswing in that country.

These countries tend to have high internet usage rates, which translates on to high market penetration rates for Facebook.

Thailand’s internet penetration is only 26.3 percent, which means that about 30 percent of its internet users are already online. The country has a total population of 66 million people.

But even if Thailand’s internet penetration only grows slowly, Facebook may have other ways of solidifying growth in the country. As listed in our most recent Facebook Quarterly Business Review, major Thai carriers AIS and Dtac both have partnerships with Facebook, while the latter has reached out to users through advertising and Facebook apps.

Full data on Facebook’s audience growth throughout Asia and in countries around the world is presented in the October 2010 edition of the Facebook Global Monitor report, available through Inside Facebook Gold. An Inside Facebook Gold membership also includes data on language growth, audience demographics by country, and user behavior stats for the Facebook business ecosystem. To learn more about membership, please visit Inside Facebook Gold.