As explained previously in this report, Netnography is a method in which online communities like Facebook, blogs, forums etc. are used to analyse the social interactions and opinions of users on a defined area (Karr, 2015).
When searching for the communities, we have used the following keywords:
We have decided to choose for a covert role as researcher and choose archive as our data collection. We thus observed the community without emerging in the conversation. We have chosen this after we observed the community, and concluded that people already described what we needed to know so there was no need to engage in the conversation.
YouTube community – ‘Top 10 Things To See In Thailand’
The first online community we have selected is the YouTube community around the video on the channel High On Life called ‘Top 10 Things to See in Thailand”. This is a seven minute video that shows, as suggested by the title, ten places or things to visit in Thailand.
The channel High On Life has over 354k subscribers. The video has over 1.8 million views, 12k likes and 940 comments. This shows that this channel, and thus the video, has a big reach. There are more travel videos and playlist that are similar to this video available on the YouTube channel. This content is about destinations from all over the world.
Data analysis and coding process
From the 940 comments, we have read approximately 600 comments. We filtered the comments by selecting the option ‘most popular comments first’. We then used around 30 different codes 184 times to analyze the content. We decided to only analyse the codes that occurred 5 or more times, with a few exceptions (those are explained in the following text). This is done in order to filter out activities that may be personal and not shared my multiple people in the community. We then narrowed it down to the following elven codes, of which the last code had four sub-codes.
Based on this outcome, we have decided to divide the comments into three categories; inspiration, activities and questions.
As one of our sub-research questions is to identify influencers and the sources of inspiration in the conversation of traveling to Thailand, we wanted to determine whether the makers of this video inspired people in the community, in either a negative or positive way.
The majority (59%) of the people who said that they were influenced by this source were positively inspired by this source. The remaining 41% was influenced in a negative way. A positive comment is for example the comment ‘Thank you for making this video. Now I have a guide for all the fun places to visit in Thailand!”.
On the other hand, there were also comments of people saying that because of this video, they would avoid these places.
This category presents the activities that are popular when traveling to Thailand, as this concerns the sub-research question ‘What themes emerge among posts on traveling to Thailand?’. The places and activities that are shown in the video are the following, in order from first to tenth place: Koh Tao, Chiang Mai, Koh Phangan, Bangkok, Koh Samui, Phuket, Railay, Koh Nang Yuan, Koh Phi Phi and Krabi.
At one of the places, the makes of the video show footage of riding Elephants. This is a famous touristic attraction in Thailand, but receives a lot of criticism (Karsten, 2017). This netnography research proved the same. There is a large amount of comments of people who argue that elephant riding is cruel, as the elephants are treated terribly and it is unnatural for them to carry such weight on their backs. They request people not to ride the elephants. Only two out of 27 people that mentioned something about elephant riding, was positive about it.
Apart from the negative comments concerning elephant riding, there were also a lot of negative comments about this top being very touristy and mainstream. People claimed that this top 10 did not show the ‘real’ Thailand.
However, positive comments about the suggested activities and the channel dominate. Many people are positive about the activities that are suggested in the video, and say that it is a source of inspiration for when they will visit Thailand. They both comment this in general, and repeated certain activities or destinations that are mentioned in the video.
We have decided to use sub-codes for activity suggestion, as this concerns our sub-question ‘What themes emerge among posts on traveling to Thailand?’. The activity suggestions are, as mentioned earlier, suggested activities people in the comments came up with. Only the suggestions that were mentioned two or more times were processed in the graph below. Furthermore, activities like the Escape Hunt in Bankok, temples, Kanchanaburi and Kao Yai were suggested.
Fifteen people asked questions to the owners of the channel or people in the community. Those questions mainly concerned financial questions like ‘How much money do I need for a whole month?’ or ‘How much did you spend on the trip?’. Other questions were about the duration of a stay and which months the best time are to visit Thailand.
Facebook community, UNILAD Adventure ‘Someone take me to Thailand’
The second online community selected is the Facebook community around the video posted by UNILAD Adventure called ‘Someone take me to Thailand right now’. It is similar to the first video, and is short clip of one minute that shows different activities and views that you can do and visit in Thailand.
UNILAD Adventure has a wide reach with more than 1.6 million followers. It is a very active community; the Facebook page spreads around 10 posts a day and many comments, likes and shares follow. The level of activity per post varies a lot. Posts can be liked 2k times but there are also a lot of spikes that are liked 60k times. The second is the case for the selected video, which is liked 60k times, shared 75k times, has 51k comments and is watched over 7.1 million times.
The Facebook page is from the British magazine and news site UNILAD. The UNILAD Adventure page focuses on items about traveling and adventure.
Data analysis and coding process
In order to analyze this community we have read 300 comments and used 23 codes, which included 10 sub codes. We narrowed these codes down to the 10 codes with 4 sub-codes, which are described below in the table with a description of the individual codes. Based on this outcome we divided the comments into 3 different categories. These are activities in Thailand, Thai culture and travel locations and destinations in Thailand.
In this community, we also used codes with a lower frequency then the minimum we set in the first community. This is because in general, less activities and destinations were suggested than in the YouTube community.
In order to find out what themes emerge among posts on traveling to Thailand we analyzed what activities were suggested by people in the comments. As mentioned before in the literature review, one of the reasons why Thailand is such a popular travel destination for people from all around the world, is the many different activities that are offered. The most popular activity suggested, was visiting the White temple with 10 comments mentioning this temple. It is followed by visiting the city of Chiang Mai, which was suggested by 4 different people. In the chart below we visualized how often each activity was mentioned.
Another activity which has been discussed, just like in the first community we analyzed, was elephant riding as in for instance this comment stating: “Don’t ride elephants! The training process is horrible and their spines are not designed for the weight on their backs, despite their size. Go to the Elephant Nature Park if you really want to get close and help elephants who have been abused.” As we can see in the chart, there are slightly more negative comments about Elephant riding, with 4 comments, than positive ones that are only 3. This means that 57% of the comments about elephant riding were negative and 43% were positive.
Travelling to a country mostly implies to be confronted with the country’s culture. It can be a significant part of travelling which is why we found it important to analyze comments on the cultural aspect of travelling to Thailand. Essential to a culture are food and the people in the country. Thailand is known as “the land of smiles” . We also found temples to be important to Thai culture in particular, as we could see in the category activities that visiting the white temple was the activity that was mentioned the most in the comments. This is why we compared those three elements in the chart below. The graph illustrates how many times people wrote about the Thai food, people or a temple.
Travel locations/ destinations in Thailand
In the comments people were mentioning different locations and destinations in Thailand. Those included the province Krabi, Khao National park in Surantthani, the Elephant jungle in Chiang Mai and the Ti Lor SU waterfall in Um Phang Tak. Below we can see an indication on how popular each destination was in the comments. Taking all this data collection into account we can say that Chiang Mai is generally a very popular topic. This is also reflected in the chart, which shows that the elephant jungle sanctuary which is located in Chiang Mai is the most popular travel destination, based on the comments we analyzed.
Through our netnography research, we have found answers or part of answers to the following sub-research questions:
- What themes emerge among posts on traveling to Thailand?
- Who are the influencers within the conversation of traveling to Thailand?
The activity that is discussed in both communities is elephant riding. The opinions about these activities are very opposite. The majority of the people involved perceive elephant writing in a negative way. They consider it to be cruel and actively try to convince people in the community not to ride elephants during their stay in Thailand. Only a small amount of the people that spoke about elephant riding were positive about the activity. A different activity suggestion that involves contact with elephants and is animal friendly, is the Elephant Jungle in Chiang Mai. This is a place where people can take care of the elephants as volunteers and does not include riding on them.
Furthermore, many other activities were suggested by the source and by the people in the community. A basic but popular activity is relaxing on the beaches. Locations for good beaches that are suggested are for example Krabi, Koh Tao, Koh Samui and Ko Pha Ngan. Also the Full Moon Party is suggested, which is an all night party on the night, before or after full moon on the beach of Ko Pha Ngan.
A different place to visit that was very popular is Wat Rong Khun, or better known as the white temple. Also Wat Trimitr, better known as the golden temple, and other temples appear to be a popular destination to visit. Reasons are the beautiful appearance of the temples and because they are a part of the Thai culture.
Moreover, activities like visiting the markets and motorcycling are suggested in the communities. People in the community also suggest and value destinations like Chiang Mai, Khao National park in Surantthani, the Ti Lor Su waterfall in Um Phang Tak and just the nature as well.
People in both communities mention to be positively inspired by the Facebook page UNILAD Adventure and the YouTube channel High on Life. Both these sources can therefor be identified as influencers in the conversation of traveling to Thailand. High on Life however also received negative comments, mainly caused because of supporting elephant riding and being, as stated in the comments, too touristy.
The limitations of this research are that it takes a lot of time, and therefor it is impossible to gather data from a large amount of people. This is a characteristic of qualitative research. Content wise, there were no limitations to the research, as we gathered enough data to answer the research questions we wanted to have answered.