Cultural institutions and social media have a complicate relationship in the digital age. Based on the research, it shows that social media can create a new audience of active cultural participant. For the social campaign, cultural institutions encouraging social network to strength the relationships, such as museums and libraries, use of social media could attract new audiences immediately. In this critique, I will discuss how social media influenced cultural institutions and why more cultural institutions need a social media presence in the digital age.
Why cultural institutions need to care about social media
According to the acknowledgement, cultural institutions and the audience have been connected by different ways. Through the development of media technology and information transmission technology, every innovation of communication technology will cause changes in communication pattern and mode. The appearance of social media could be seen as one milestone in the digital age, and it changed cultural communication ways and values in the society. Also, social media challenged the traditional ideals of cultural institutions. In one sense, cultural communication patterns and ways are generally decided by social communication means.
After Web2.0, it has been necessary for audience to engage in various of social activities. There are a large number of museums and libraries have been through a cultural shift from object oriented towards audience-oriented strategic approaches in the age. Under the pressure of cultural production and social media, cultural institutions have been challenged in a period. Engagement of audience would be much important today. Changing the cultural communication frameworks could achieve individuals’ active role in the contemporary life via social media. If we focus on the media strategies which made Australian museums, the latter encourages interactivity among users and puts aside the object-oriented ideology of museums promoting a visitor-centred approach (Gu, 2012, p. 11). In fact, many museums started to use a lot of social media platforms to prove the images of their institutions, such as Facebooks, Twitter, and YouTube. It is helpful to communicate their activities and exhibitions to their public engagement any time. However, it could be difficult to explore the real goal and core idea of the media strategies of cultural institutions. Through the study, several reports represent some specific problems between cultural institutions and social media in common.
Before the rise of social media, cultural institutions were generally kept the rigorous and highly academic in daily. During the early 21st century, the internet has been common in daily life, Museums are now, by nature, public institutions with quite distinct structure, functions and social role when compared to commercial organizations. There were no effective tools for easily two – way communication or information exchange. Actually, most cultural institutions did not pay attention on audience participant during this period, it was not necessary to be engaged in the communication. Cultural institutions only needed to focus on the own jobs, there was a space for elitist high culture customers until that time, the environment and technology constrained the cultural transmission ways, so cultural institutions could keep their characteristics of quality position and technicality in most time.
Also, based on the research, we can find the relation between social media and cultural interactive experiences in cultural institutions during the rise of social media, just like Russo’s reading suggested that by building a more informal relationship and demonstrating that knowledge and culture can indeed be combined with new technologies, museums could not only gain wider appeal and extend their authority but at the same time still act as trusted cultural online networks (Russo, et al., 2007, p. 21). Cultural institutions started to pay more attention on the two – way communication by media technology to achieve new audience participant.
Now, cultural institutions put their attention on audience engagement rather than before. The latter encourages interactivity among users and puts aside the object-oriented ideology of museums promoting a visitor-centred approach (Gu, 2012, p. 11). A cultural heritage institution as Australian Museum use Facebook or YouTube to attract new audience, and they also used more social activities to make more audience be a part in their exhibitions. This media strategy let the elite of ‘high culture’ lost the space in the life, and there is a public space for everyone who can access the internet today. Each user could join in the cultural communication, and also present the individual opinions in the community. It is one strong shift changing by the social media technology after Web2.0.
The case study on Australian Museum and social media
Based on the research, we can find that social network services improved sort of transmission ways to users and cultural institutions. For the dominance of social media, it changed the ways of cultural communication means. It is obvious influenced the values of high culture and low culture in the society. Museums and libraries used different SNSs to make a strong relation to encourage the public engagement. Social media build a two – way communication between audience and cultural institutions today. It could be seen as the development of cultural communication means online, it brought the changing of the space for high culture in recent time. For example, Australian Museum also has started to use Facebook and YouTube to propaganda the collections and activities since 2007. Now, the Facebook page of Australian Museum got 3,3000 likes in total. In this case, Australian Museum shows their profits and works on Facebook, like their open time or new objects. The museum also posts their new activities almost every day. And Facebook users also can research futher information on the public page, exchange experiences, and book an arrangement any time. Furthermore, users can post their opinions on the page, it would remind the official account to receive all those messages and information. Like other cultural institutions now, Australian Museum established an official website to represent the new experiences via the internet. Online media resolved kinds of problems, there were a number of people to appreciate the collections of cultural institutions because of physical location on leisure time. To build a comprehensive way online for two – way communication between audience and museum, it would be better to give free access to each user, Australian Museum has put contact details and official website address on Facebook page, so everyone could see the information via public page directly.
Through the media platform, people could enjoy more activities and communication, and it had never been so easier to access the pictures and videos online for audience. The point of build the campaign is engaged new audience. Social media could get more people involved in the communities and find a echo with others. For Australian Museum, it has also been much easier to approach their audiences and build close and daily relationships with them via Facebook. The research shows that the use of social media not only maintains the relevance of the museum, but also strength the authority. In this part, we can understand why cultural institutions focus on the cultural interactive experiences by social media.
Moreover, for Australian Museum as a cultural institution, people needs to consider further questions about how could the museum reach a wider audience and expand its impacts by using social media now. Firstly, it would be helpful if the museum prove more online activities every month, and make some interesting animated films to propaganda. We can also open an official account to collect audience’s opinions and reviews on other media platforms.
Cultural institutions do care about social media today, a lot of media platforms could provide more chances to expand the influences. In this case study, Facebook improved the interactive experiences between audience and Australian Museum, it broke the traditional cultural communication means. People from anywhere in the world can have virtual access to a museum collection, discuss and learn in an informal and entertaining way. It shows that the online cultural participation brings positive impacts on cultural institutions such as museums.
Downes, C., (2011). Analysing characteristics of social media in cultural communication: An investigation of social media use at Museum Victoria. Melbourne: School of Media and Communication, RMIT University
Facebook, 2015. Australian Museum Facebook Page. [Online] Available at:
Restricted 28 May, 2015
Gu, M., (2012). Engaging Museum Visitors through Social Media: Multiple Case Studies of Social Media Implementation in Museums. Columbus: The Ohio State University
Kaplan, A. M., & Haenlein, M. (2010). Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media. Business horizons, 53(1), 59-68.
Russo, A. & Watkins, J., (2008). New Literacy New Audiences: Social Media and Cultural Institutions. EVA Conference, pp. 225-239
Russo, A., Watkins, J., Kelly, L. & Chan, S., (2007). Social media ad cultural interactive experiences in museums. Nordisk Museologi, 2007(1), pp. 19-29.
Whitney, K.. (2011). Going Virtual to Engage a Global Museum Community. Journal of Museum Education, 36(3), pp. 289-296.