The number of internet users in Thailand could reach 52 million this year thanks to the proliferation of smartphones and increasing availability of broadband.
Gp Capt Anudith Nakornthap, the information and communication technology (ICT) minister, credited lower priced smartphones and tablets for the rise, and said it would represent a doubling in users since the end of last year, when Thailand had 26 million internet users, or about 37% of population.
Surangkana Wayuparb, director of the ICT Ministry's Electronic Transaction Development Agency (ETDA), said viral marketing is a powerful tool for companies involved in e-commerce.
Viral marketing involves the use of existing social networks to boost brand awareness.
Among 23,907 respondents surveyed by the ETDA in April and May, an overwhelming 93.8% reported using social media, with half of these saying that they shopped via social networks.
Convenience, attractive promotions and online payment security were the top three reasons people cited for deciding to make purchases via social media, with the three best-selling products listed as fashion clothing and shoes, mobiles and other IT gadgets, and cosmetics.
The average product price was found to be 2,500 baht.
Facebook, Google+, LINE, Instagram and Twitter are the five most popular social media sites among internet surfers.
The survey showed that Thais spend an average of 32 hours a week on the internet, up from 18 hours in 2011.
Notebooks, smartphones and tablets are the primary devices for accessing the internet, together surpassing desktop computers.
The top three online activities were found to be sending emails, conducting searches and using social media, cited by 54%, 52% and 33% of respondents respectively.
The survey showed the main obstacles to internet use are low speeds, high service charges and poor network coverage.
It also found 35% of respondents used free WiFi sponsored by the ICT Ministry. Half of these users expressed satisfaction with the service, particularly in rural areas.
Gp Capt Anudith said the number of people using free public WiFi at 250,000 hotspot locations nationwide will reach 8 million this year.