Cultural Institutions and Social Media


The emergence of web 2.0 and social media platforms have created a shift in how art, cultural and entertainment industries communicate with their fans, audience and viewers. The changing dynamic of the internet opened up a world of possibilities in relation to how fans and artist communicate. Long gone are the days where the celebrity and the fan are separated by the middle man. Through these new platforms, audiences are able to directly engage with their heroes and idols.

Not only have these entities created spaces of networked communities and allow interaction with artists on a personal level, it has also paved the way for public involvement. Public access to archives and collections of art galleries and museum creates community engagement with the organisations themselves. However, new platforms have emerged to allow the public to become not only viewers but also artists in their own right and curators. Websites such as deviantArt and Flickr offer free access for the public to share artworks, view and be their own curator of the art gallery of the internet. This, in turn, allows for artworks that “would rarely be considered by the art establishment” (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013, p. 99) to be showcased without judgement of ‘elite’ curators and institutions.

Therefore, cultural institutions using social media are not only engaging with audiences on a personal level, they are creating, building and strengthening relationships with them. It has gone past advertising and drawing in crowds, and instead has become a virtual entity where communities are constantly churning out new material to their fellow peers. It has broken down the barriers between pristine artists and the ‘low status’ individuals.

Author’s Approach: Hinton & Hjorth, Virtual Galleries

One of the main platforms that cultural institutions are engaging in are virtual galleries, which is essentially creating a space where users can be digitally projected into the art gallery or museum. It is a library, catalogue, and/or archive of the organisations collections which is immediately accessible to the public in an online environment.

Virtual galleries are, as Hinton and Hjorth state, “not just a valuable concept, it is required.” (2013, p. 84) One of the biggest virtual galleries is Art Project, which is, Hinton and Hjorth say, “a collaboration between a number of galleries and Google” (2013, p. 84) whereby, users can access galleries through the Google street view technology. Users can essentially explore the space son their own accord and have the ability to find out all the information on pieces in one click. From here they can save their favourite pieces and share them, thus “integrating the online experience into the social network.” (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013, p. 85) This creates a stronger relationship between the art institution and user as it acts, not only as an easily accessible function, but also as a tool that encourages engagement from the public. Similarly, museums have created access to all their collection databases to the public via online methods, such as folksonomies. This is a crowd-sourced taxonomy service which allows the public to become curators. The public can access these images and curate their own exhibitions using the SNS Flickr. This is essentially an image sharing platform which allows users to tag, mark and share what they like.

These changes in practices can be attributed to the audience and their changing demands. Our society thrives off quick, free, easy, immediate access to all our information and businesses need to meet these needs. In doing so, art institutions in particular, have given up their authority as the main curators and decision makers and instead have allowed the public to have an active say in what is deemed as art.

You can view the Art Project here: https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/project/art-project

Art Project

Author’s Approach: Baym, on Musicians

This idea of online communities is “at least thirty years old” (Baym, 2012, p. 286) for the music community who “took to the internet, creating fan communities and building relationships” (Baym, 2012, p. 286) with each other and their musicians thirty years ago. Other the past thirty years, as the number of forums, communities and social media platforms increased, so did the public’s desire to have immediate free access to the newest information on their favourite musicians. Therefore, due to popular demand, it is rare to find a celebrity, musician or otherwise, without a distinct social media presence. Baym says, “musicians now find themselves in a career where continuous online impression management and relationship building seem to be requirements.” (Baym, 2012, p. 288) This is true for not only musicians but all celebrities in the public eye. Similarly, this idea relates to Hinton and Hjorth’s notion of virtual galleries and the need for immediate, free, easy access to archives and collections. As a united front, the public demands for these celebrities and institutions to be easily found through a google search and if they aren’t, this angers the public and repels them from accessing information in the future.

Relation to Lead Me Astray Campaign

The film industry is a part of the art and cultural institutions which Hinton, Hjorth and Baym speak about. It is just as much intertwined with social media and uses it to create these fan communities, connect with and engage with fans and strengthen these relationships. Therefore, my campaign aimed to keep the current fan base loyal and excited, while attempting to attract new fans to create relationships with.


Social media has become one of the most important tools in today’s society. It allows for easy, quick, immediate, free access to cultural institutions and prominent persons. We can see that these cultural institutions and prominent people are deeply rooted in the social media spectacle and will continue to be until the next big phenomenon is created. The strengths of the communities and relationships built by these platforms is essentially the driving force for social media and new platforms are being created as we speak. This phenomenon is not going to go away any time soon, and until something bigger and better comes along, cultural institutions and its prominent people will remain deeply intertwined with it.


The intensive nature of this course was definitely an eye opener. Attempting to learn new theories, platforms and tools for analysis and then applying these new-found skills to our real-world social media campaigns in the short time frame was difficult. The campaign itself ran for such a short time that it was hard to know what was working and what didn’t – there wasn’t enough time to build up reputation and gain the followers needed. It did not allow for disorganisation or lack of communication between the campaign manager and the client. Unfortunately, these issues did arise during the Lead Me Astray campaign. Due to these setbacks, and a slow momentum of attracting fans on new platforms, the campaign could not engage with its (lack of) audience until the final week. Therefore, there was not enough time to assess what worked and what didn’t. That being said, the course offered the opportunity to have real-world experience and allowed for practical learning. There are few courses in an arts degree that actually allow time for students to apply the theory in a practical manner and this was very useful.

Social media is an untameable beast. What works for one campaign, does not always work for another. This is what I will be taking away with me from this course. The ever-changing nature of social media, and the ever-expanding possibilities given by new platforms means that these concepts could shift radically within the coming six months or so. What works now may not work in six months’ time and we will have to rethink our ideas around these concepts.


Baym, N. (2012). Fans or Friends? Seeing Social Media Audiences as

Musicians Do. Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies, 9(2),

286 – 316.

Hinton, S., & Hjorth, L. (2013). Art and Cultural Production Understanding

Social Media (pp. 77 – 99). London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Simon, N. (2015). Museum 2.0. [Web log post]. Retrieved from, http://museumtwo.blogspot.com.au/

The Shorty Awards. (2015). Retrieved on May 26th, 2015 from, http://shortyawards.com/category/6th/museum

MWF2014: Museums and the Web Florence 2014. (2014). Retrieved on May 26th, 2015, from, http://mwf2014.museumsandtheweb.com/paper/museums-in-social-media/

Further Viewing

The Shorty Awards: http://shortyawards.com/category/6th/museum

The Shorty Awards are designed to honour the best practitioners of social media. The categories range from individual professionals to brands and organisations. It essentially acknowledges the hard work behind designing, deploying and creating successful social media campaigns.

The museum which won the award last year is Museum Nerd. You can view their profile here: http://shortyawards.com/museumnerd


Museum 2.0 Blog: http://museumtwo.blogspot.com.au/

Nina Simon is the Executive Director of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History. Her blog discusses all issues related to museums and social media.

Case Study on Museums and Social Media: http://mwf2014.museumsandtheweb.com/paper/museums-in-social-media/

This case study explores three museums in Copenhagen and how their interactions with social media have impacted upon their institutions.


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