Social media has indeed become the main channel of communication during this national disaster. Very quickly, the government set up an official website (http://www.floodthailand.net) and the Information and Communications Technology Ministry has set up @FloodThailand as an official Twitter account to deliver up-to-the-minute information for citizens.
Jake Wengroff, Global Director, Social Media Strategy & Research, Frost & Sullivan observes, “Some private organizations have also created websites, Facebook pages, and Twitter handles to disseminate information, but it is admirable that the federal government of Thailand has quickly taken the lead to ensure that official news is given properly. Indeed, in times of crisis, too many unedited voices — especially those on social media channels — can create and distribute conflicting, confusing, and possibly inaccurate information — which can do much damage. The Thai government wanted to ensure that this would not happen.”
However, the social media channels and strategies set up for the Thai flood are almost all in the Thai language. This of course prevents the majority in the rest of the world who are interested in official reports from learning about the disaster — and who perhaps, can offer assistance. Other natural disasters have also relied heavily on social media to communicate the crisis — but the official news reports are translated or are in English — bringing international attention and delivering aid and assistance. Because of this language barrier, aid may not arrive as quickly because non-Thai speaking people are not being informed minute-by-minute and English-language news via the social networks is not plentiful.
Indeed, ‘Thai flood’ is not listed in Top Stories on Google News and #thaiflood, #floodthailand or any combination thereof is not a trending topic on the homepage of Twitter.