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What Is The Most Popular Messaging App in Thailand? The Best App to Contact Thai Businesses.

The Best App to Communicate with Thai Businesses
What is The Most Popular Social Media in Thailand?

Have you ever reached out to businesses in Thailand only to hear crickets? After your thorough research on their website under the contact us section, you probably wonder what the heck happening. What is the most popular messaging app in Thailand? Why does no one respond to my message? How on earth am I able to do business with them with such a lack of communication?

Have you experienced that before? Even if you haven’t, you probably will soon once you reach out to a new supplier or business in Thailand. Without further ado, let’s jump right in. What is the best social media app or tool to communicate with businesses in Thailand?

Internet and Smartphone usage in Thailand

To give you a bit of background, I would like to first talk about internet penetration in Thailand. Smartphone usage, and internet or 3G/4G for that matter, has jumped significantly over the past few years. I have seen people of different social-economic statuses use smartphones. Either those use the non-aircon public bus which ticket costs USD 0.25, or a security guard of a construction site.

A smartphone has become more accessible for Thai people because a wide variety of cheap smartphone options from China. For example, a Chinese RealMe or Vivo brand that costs less than USD 32. Cellular data in Thailand is mostly 3G and 4G. Though 5G recently became available, not all mobile service providers can offer 5G (currently, only Truemove H and AIS) and not all mobiles supported the 5G system.

Internet Penetration in Thailand is Relatively High

According to Hootsuite, the total internet penetration in Thailand is at 69.5% – a little higher than the world average of 59.5%. The majority, 82%, of internet users are using the internet via mobile rather than home wifi network. The data from the Office of National Higher Education Science Research and Innovation Policy Council shows that in 2018, 69.6% of the Thai population are using smartphones. Interestingly, Social Media Penetration is at 75% (compared to a global average of 49%).

Note that some mobile data services provide a free option for social media usage. This means that Social Media Penetration can actually be higher than Internet Penetration.

My point here is that your business partners or suppliers are probably checking their phones all the time, but which messaging apps do they use frequently? That you can ensure they get instant notification when you reaching out to them?

What Are The Available Messaging Apps Thai People Use?

Here are the most common communication platforms that I know that people from all walks of life are using.

1 Line: It is a free app for instant communications that can be used on both mobile, tablet, and computer. Prior to the Line era, we used to use Whatsapp. However, when Line was first introduced to Thailand, people are moving away from Whatsapp. Thailand is one of not many countries that heavily use Line as their main communication platform. It becomes the most popular messaging app in Thailand now. The main reasons are the user-friendly interface and the cute and fun functions like Line stickers and themes. I hardly see anyone using Whatsapp now. I only downloaded it back to my mobile simply to connect with my client in India or the Middle East.

2 Facebook Messenger: 60% of the Thai population are having a Facebook account. And depends from person to person, some are using Messenger as their main way of communication. I used to conduct a focus group research among 27-40 years-old males with low-to-middle income. We found out that they prefer Facebook Messenger over other platforms because they can identify whether other users are online or not. They would like to be able to get instant communication back from the person they are reaching out to.

3 Email: People may have an email address that has never been checked! Here’s why. Email is necessary for creating Facebook and Line accounts. We can assume that most smartphone users are having an email account. But, and it’s a big but here, you can never know if they will check their email on a daily (let alone monthly) basis. Because their occupation or work may not require them to do so. For example, when I communicated with a woodenware supplier in the North of Thailand, I always did so via Line chat.

Emails are for;

  • invoices because it is safer to keep the legal document in a formal place,
  • larger graphic design file because Line will reduce the file size when sending it over
  • quotation PDF, again, because it is quite impossible to send a big file through Line

“This means that your suppliers or business partners won’t check their email inbox without any form of notification from the sender!”

4 SMS: SMS is hardly being used to communicate between business counterparts and friends. It is mostly used by promotional tools for big companies like a mobile service provider or a bank. But I would say most people will have their SMS notifications on. But there’s a chance that they‘ll dismiss it because they thought it was just another advertising.

The only person I am using SMS to communicate with is my doctor. Because I assume it is too personal to ask for your doctor’s Line ID since it means he’ll be reachable by you 24/7. He does not want to call me every time he would like to simply drop a small message like ‘Please call the hospital to book an appointment for next Friday’.

They will definitely get your SMS, but there’s a chance that they dismiss it because they thought it was a scam message. Especially if it’s not in the local language!

5 Phone calls: A simple phone call still works. However, to be polite, most people will drop a Line message to ask whether another person is available for a call or not. However, if you cannot speak Thai, please read the last point on this post – Maybe It’s Just a Language Barrier Problem.

6  Instagram Direct Message: For those of you who are reaching out to suppliers or shops on Instagram, you might get confused that you never hear back from them. This is because Instagram usage is about 3 times lower than Facebook. Most businesses might not even have their presence on Instagram. And those that are available on Instagram, might not be active. Especially in terms of DM, I have seen many sellers put “please do not DM because the notification is not working” on their Instagram bio. So, you’d better look out for another way of communicating on their bio – mostly they’ll put a link or a Line ID on their bio.

Line is the largest communication platform in Thailand.
Line is the largest communication platform in Thailand.

What is the Best And Most Popular Messaging App to Communicate with People in Thailand Then?

Generally, the number one app I would recommend is Line. It is the most popular messaging app in Thailand. 65% of Thais are using Line. They are most active on Line because they have to use it as a way (probably the only way) to communicate with their friends, clients, and colleagues. However, this might depends on where you first find them.

  • If you found their business on their Website, look for their contact us section. If they have multiple ways of communication, choose Line first still. When I tried to find the best shipping agent for my e-commerce business, I tried both Email and Line. Some responded to my query from both channels, but Line was where I got the fastest reply.
  • However, if you found them via a Facebook page, either lookout for a link to their Line ID or simply send them a message via Facebook Messenger. If they are recently active on Facebook, they are most likely to respond to my message pretty quickly.
  • If you found them on other platforms like Lazada or Shoppee, always lookout for a link to their Line account or phone number. They could be very slow in responding to your message through the e-commerce platform itself.
  • What about Instagram? As mentioned above, a Direct Message is not a good way to connect with them if you expect a reply! Try searching for another way of communication on their Instagram bio.

Oh well, MAYBE IT’S JUST A LANGUAGE BARRIER!

We cannot deny that most Thais are not fluent in English. Especially if you are working with small businesses, there’s a chance that they are not able to communicate in English.

Let me tell you a story from my direct experience. A client came to me because he was unsuccessfully connecting with a bag seller. The seller’s Instagram feed was very active as in new post was regularly posted every day. My client tried contacting the seller via both Instagram Direct Message and Line.

Yet, the seller only responded to his message twice and never again. I then tried to reach out on his behalf. The seller was very friendly and answered any questions I had. I asked her why she didn’t reply to my partner’s message (aka my client). She said that her English was not good. She had been using Google Translate for the first couple of answers and got tired of it. My client even tried using Google Translate to communicate with the seller in Thai as well. But it did not look like a natural Thai sentence. It looked quite spammy.

You Might Need an Extra Pair of Hands

In the end, it’s a possibility that you still struggle to move further with the project even if you have contacted them via this most popular messaging app in Thailand. And if that’s the case, here’s an article that I write which you might find helpful. Or as always, feel free to reach out to me if you need any further support with your business.

Last Thought, Try Line & Phone Calls first

Line is the most popular messaging channel in Thailand. Try reaching out to your Thai business counterparts by either Line and phone first. And if they put email on thems website, it is also worth trying to send them an email too. However, if you’re hearing crickets after then, try reaching out to them in the Thai language (with the help of your bestie – Google Translate). If they respond, then you know you probably need to hire a translator for the task. Or a business consultant like myself will be able to help and support you from start to finish!

I hope you find this post helpful. I’m curious to hear what others’ experiences have been like. And if you have any more questions, please drop the comment below or feel free to contact us!

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