TikTok’s Wide-Spanning Reach Sweeps Wave of Change over Thailand’s Election Campaigns

In a notable shift from traditional campaigning strategies, political figures in Thailand have turned to TikTok, using the fast, efficient and cost-effective platform to connect with a wider audience. With a large percentage of Thai nationals active on social media, TikTok has emerged as a powerful tool for politicians to sway public opinion and secure votes.

The Nation explores the platform’s growing influence in Thai politics, takes a look at the Move Forward Party’s resulting success and sheds light on the broader impact of this social media phenomenon.

Recent data from datareportal.com shows that an impressive 85.4% of Thais are connected to the internet, and 52.25 million actively engage on social media platforms. Though Facebook remains the most popular platform in Thailand, TikTok is fast gaining traction with the younger generation and building a growing influence on political discourse. Of its more than a billion users worldwide, TikTok boasts 40.3 million users in Thailand alone.

Among the political parties utilizing TikTok for their campaigns, Move Forward stands out as the most successful. With an account that has some 3 million followers and 41.8 million likes, the party has effectively harnessed the platform’s potential to engage users through captivating short videos.

Of more than 200 TikTok videos shared during the vote campaigning period, Move Forward’s offerings won millions of views, with some clips garnering close to 10 million views. In just three months, their videos have collectively received over 300 million views, with content from party candidates, staff members, and supporters winning close to an astounding 4 billion views.

TikTok Beyond Thailand

The use of TikTok in political campaigns extends far and wide. Figures such as North Carolina Democrat Senator Jeff Jackson and former U.S. presidential candidate Andrew Yang have effectively utilised the platform to communicate their political messages. However, the success of TikTok campaigns varies across countries, as demonstrated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s limited following and lack of captivating content.

Platform for Political Activism

TikTok’s ban on paid campaign ads may initially seem challenging for political parties. Yet, the platform’s focus on community and collaboration makes it an ideal channel for expressing political opinions. Political activists consider TikTok a powerful tool for spreading their ideas to a vast audience, particularly among the young demographic, which constitutes a significant portion of future voters.

TikTok’s political impact extends beyond election campaigns. In the 2020 police killing of George Floyd, TikTok served as a platform for raising awareness through short videos, sparking the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

The platform’s massive user base, predominantly comprising young people, reflects a generation that is eager for change and determined to leverage TikTok’s influence to create resonating content.

As Thailand’s May 14 election demonstrated, TikTok has emerged as a game-changing platform politically, providing parties a unique opportunity to engage with a broader audience. With its capacity to deliver short, visually appealing videos, TikTok has become a key channel for political activism, both in Thailand and across the world.

However, while social media platforms like TikTok offer tremendous potential, users should still cultivate critical thinking skills to pick accurate information from a sea of content to prevent the manipulation of public opinion.