Sunday 12 April 2009

Why all Thai expats should be on Twitter

As an expat in Thailand it can be difficult keeping up with the latest news. There are few English language TV stations available and the English daily newspapers are, feankly, low on quality and high on bias.

Yesterday Thailand witnessed the ASEAN conference in Pattaya, a state of emergency in Bangkok, the continuation of Red Shirt protests in Bangkok, tanks mobilising in Bangkok, two Red Shirts shot dead for attempting to enter the Prime Minister's car, the closure of a major shopping mall, the arrest (without a warrant) of Arisaman, a leading member of UDD (Red Shirts) and, as-yet-unsubstanciated, reports of Thaksin Shinawatra arriving in Thailand via helicopter. 

Today the situation has got progressively worse with allegations of Red Shirt firing at the army and TV pictures of Thai soliders opening fire at protestors and continuous TV footage of the Thai soldiers on the streets of Bangkok.

As events continue to evolve Twitter stands on its as the web's most effective real-time news gathering resource.  I've long resisting writing about Twitter but I genuinely believe it will be useful to all expats, and even those in the UK and the rest of the world.

Updates are often personal and not official but websites like Twitter Search and Breaking Tweets analyse popular topics and trends on the service to give a bigger picture of what is hot. For newsgathering purposes, these two websites offer invaluable insights into breaking developments.

So it was using Twitter,  images on TV and select updates from The Missus, which allowed me to build a detailed picture of events unfolding in Bangkok.

Twitter is not just a news service, it is a dexterous messaging service which I would recommend all expats - particularly those who blog - to sign up to.

On its homepage Twitter asks 'what are you doing' and this is the basic premise of the service - to let people know what you are doing within 140 characters - also the length of an SMS. In reality, Twitter usage is more sophisticated than just ME-ME-ME-ME-ME.

If you're still not convinced, here are 10 benefits I get from Twitter:
  1. Communicate with friends accross the world
  2. Stay in touch with breaking events - such as the developments in Bangkok
  3. 'Meet' new people in Thailand 
  4. Find news - most news outlets circulate article links
  5. Share interesting information
  6. (Sometimes) circulate JF blog posts 
  7. Network - much of my freelance work can be traced to Twitter in one way or another
  8. Talk about what I'm doing- only when it is interesting, of course
  9. Stay in touch with the media/PR industry in the UK
  10. Ask questions or seek opinion
As I have mentioned, Twitter is extraordinarily useful for expats but the key to getting value from the service is your network, which in Twitter terms is the people whose updates you follow and those who follow your updates. 

Here is a selection of Thailand-based Twitter users I recommend following. Without a network of followers/following the service is useless but a lot of connections makes Twitter an incredible useful resource.

@jonrussell (yours truly - my feed is visible on the right-hand side of the blog)

I also recommend listing yourself at WeFollow,  a Twitter directory to help like-minded individuals connect, there is an entry for Thailand which can be used to find more Thai-based Twitter users.

The Lost Boy recently urged expats to join Twitter - so take his advice and mine and sign up to the service at


Charles Edward Frith said...

It makes a lot of sense to join a backup micro-blogging service such as Plurk, Brightkite,Jaiku, Rejaw, HelloTxt,, or others.

Twitter is a multidimensional tool that has many uses, most powerful as you identity is fostering a sense of community. It is however a system.

A computer system and if things go wrong. And they will go wrong. An over dependency on the utility is very sobering when it's withdrawn.

I blogged about my unpleasant experience over here:

I'd recommend Jaiku if Thailand lovers seek an alternative a there is a Thailand channel which is dead at the moment but worth thinking about resurrecting. Well... that or Plurk which is an odd microblogging utility but also very good because of it's quirkiness.

Craig said...

Thanks for mentioning Breaking Tweets! We work hard, Jonny, to create the type of service you describe - of use to analyze popular topics and trends dealing with the news. Hope you continue to find it useful and share links to the site you find interesting on Twitter (we've added retweet buttons to all stories recently).

Jon said...

Very good point Charles, your example is a case in point. Is there any update with your progress?

I've dabbled with Jaiku, and Plurk but, to be honest, there are so many hours in the day. My new favourite is goalpostr - a football Twitter - but I do agree a back-up system is needed. Will get back on Jaiku and look you up. Maybe we can energise the Thailand network?

Craig, thanks for stopping by. I'm relatively new to the BT service but am suitably impressed. It has been bookmarket and I'm following you, and one of your spokespeople, too. Keep up the good work!

Martyn said...

Jon I've never understood what Twitter is about but I am a little bit clearer on the matter now thanks to your post and link. There are a couple of questions I would like to ask.

Is Twitter like a mini blog, because I cannot find enough time for BTMJ let alone think of adding to it.

I have noticed Twitter appearing in more and more blog sidebars as of late. Do you think that in the near future that Twitter will be a must have accessory for a successful blog site.

Jon said...

Hi Martyn,

Good questions and, to be honest, most people using the service struggle to know exactly what it can do. And, it isn't to everyone's liking either.

It is a little like blogging but reduced to 140 characters - think mini soundbites or musings, but it can be used for anything

Simplicity is key - I can keep in touch with hundreds of mates back in the UK easily. It also allows me to keep an eye on breaking news and trends which might be of interest.

If you blog, Twitter is a must have. Publishing your posts to Twitter can bring in new readers and links - although I don't recommend pushing each and every post to Twitter.

I've certainly had examples where my posts have been passed around by word-of-mouth on Twitter, creating a noticeable traffic spike, new readers and fresh incoming links.

I know Pete Garwood, Talen, Mike Rose, Catherine from Women Learning Thai and others are on the system - so, at the minimum, you can chew the fat with them, without needing to contact each separately. I guess you could say it is an extension of the comments section, in some ways.

Hope this helps.