The Roles and The Objectives of Audiences in The Age of Social Media

With the social developing and the economic growing,the technology of network has innovated constantly. The ways of Mass Media have changed consequently. In other words, ‘technology changes media’. Social media has become necessary in modern communication media. Social media are virtual communities and cyber platforms which allow users to generate contents (Kaplan, Haenlein, 2010). From the perspective of audiences, with the change of media form and communication form in the age of social media, the roles and status which the users are acting during communication have changed. In this process, the objectives of audiences have been diverse. It seems to confirm that ‘everyone has a microphone’ – audience applying social media is either receiver or disseminator of information. The article would discuss the roles and objectives of audiences in the age of social media.

Role of Audience

The role and status of audience have had a revolutionary change in the age of social media. There is no obvious boundary between disseminator and receiver. Depending on the technology of network, social media make audience to become a combination of producer, disseminator, receiver and user of information.

McLuhan (1994) mentions that it is possible for human to engage in communication and social activities relying on media. Therefore, in terms of the long-term developing process of human society, the really meaningful and valuable information is not the communication content of the age, but the property of communication tool, the possibilities that it creates and the social reform that it brings. The communication mode of social media not only changes the society, but also partly impacts the role and status of audience.

From the perspective of communication process, audience is active in the age of social media. In the old age, media applied the mode of ‘one to one’ to disseminate information to audience in a single direction. Though traditional media could consider the demands of audiences with the development of mass media, the feedback from audience is limited and unbalanced, which means that the real thoughts of audiences are demanding to deliver to spreader. On the contrary, in the age of social media, the mode of ‘peer to peer’ could spread information in a wider range, even form a reticular communication. Audiences could directly accept the feedback, and acquire information according to their demands. Consequently, individual values and sense of participation have been improved gradually. In terms of communication effects, in the age of traditional media, audience passively waited for and receive the ideas, emotions, knowledge and intention indoctrinated by media. However, social media prove the limited-effect theory which means that communication activity is an interaction between disseminator and receiver. Audiences are individuals who have diverse characteristics. Additionally, mass media might be influenced dramatically by their properties and statuses in the society. Media are not the only and decisive factors impacting audiences (Klapper, 1960). The process of social media communication is interactive, which furthest achieves the equality of spreader and recipient.

Although some argues that the features of the audiences in the old age have remained in the age of social media, there are increasing opportunities for audiences to express their ideas and gain the information they want to know.

Objectives of Audience

Due to the change of communication mode and audience’s role, the communication objectives of audiences in the age of social media have been affected. In my opinion, there are three main aspects.

Acquiring Information and Perceiving the World

To obtain large amount of information and perceive the world are the primary objectives. Compared with traditional media, the information covered by social media is more comprehensive, which could also break through the limitations of space and time. Therefore, social media could provide the demanded information to audiences timely. Applying platforms of social media and techniques of network, audiences could enjoy the information that they required regardless of domestic or international news, and entertainment information. For instance, recently, Vivid Sydney has been held, and many landmark buildings are lighted. An official account named ‘Vivid Sydney’ have been established on Twitter, and it posts a large number of pictures and videos that could reveal beautiful sceneries of vivid show. Audiences who are interested in this activity could search and acquire the related information on Twitter. They would appreciate the splendid and colorful show without going out.  Furthermore, audiences could also post tweets that they produce, which would share information of Vivid Sydney on Twitter. Particularly, the official account retweets the audio-visual files shot by audiences.


Enriching Life and Relaxing

The advent of social media platforms could address the demands of relaxing. With fast development of the economy and technology, people have lived in fast-paced life, which increase the loneliness and stress. To relieve this issue, audiences use social media to comment and repost fresh news, share interesting information with their friends, which could release stress and enrich daily life.

In China, Weibo, a social media platform which is similar as Twitter, has been popular in the public since 2010. Meanwhile, Sina, the corporation of Weibo, has been improving the system of this platform constantly, and many novel functions are innovated. For example, there are two basic functions that are ‘Hot Weibo’ and ‘New Friend’ on Weibo. The former one would hourly recommend the contents having higher page views. Additionally, hot Weibo could also be classified into diverse fields such as variety show, arts, society, fashion, which is convenient for users to get the latest contents. Similarly, the latter one is to find the users or organisations that audience wants to follow. This function also classifies the users according to the occupation. Particularly, audiences could use contacts information to search Weibo friends, and the ‘Radar’, a searching tool on Weibo, could find many nearby users. Except the fundamental applications, audiences could use Weibo to play games, listen to music, shopping, recruit, etc. Under the perfect system of Weibo, the audiences of social media release the pressure of work and study, and recover the energetic condition.


Expressing thoughts and Revealing the Fact

Audiences incline to express their thoughts and safeguard the rights via social media. In the age of traditional media, audiences passively receive information. However, social media provide opportunities for every user to express the opinions and attitudes on important events. For example, due to the popularity of Weibo, the public and the government apply this social media platform to make an interaction. The police from different provinces in China have established official accounts of Weibo, which not only could know and address the demands of citizens, but also interact with the public. ‘Safe Beijing’ is the official account of Beijing police. It has been followed by 9 million followers. The official account provides tips of keeping safety, news of Beijing police to users, and the users could also give suggestions on the public construction via Weibo. Moreover, in the period of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese Political Consultative Conference (NPC & CPPCC), there would be a feature column to motivate netizens to propose and discuss. Particularly, the national premier would communicate with audiences online. It is an efficient and effective way for the public to participate in the social public affairs.


In conclusion, with the advent and development of social media, communication mode has changed, which dramatically impacts the role of audiences and the objective of communication activity. On the one hand, audiences acquire information, enrich lives and express thoughts via social media. On the other hand, to develop the media, demands of audience should be considered.


Kaplan, A. M., & Haenlein, M. (2010). Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media. Business horizons, 53(1), 59-68.

Klapper, J. T. (1960). The effects of mass communication.

McLuhan, M. (1994). Understanding media: The extensions of man. MIT press.

Lan Yao



2 thoughts on “The Roles and The Objectives of Audiences in The Age of Social Media

  1. This is a really interesting article. I hadn’t considered that the media sharing culture of web 2.0 means that everyone has become an audience member. If company is relying on user participation for a social media campaign to function they in turn become a kind of audience to their audience, waiting to see how they response and the crafting their next move in reference to the response.

    I wonder what this does to the power relationship between marketer and audience member. With direct marketing the line is clear but with these new developments is what we are really buying and selling ideas? Can the audience completely take over a marketing campaign to the point where they are helping to create the brand or the product? To me this seems to go beyond user generated and user created content and could perhaps progress into co-creation. Especially, as audience become used to an increasingly fast passed world driven by identity based consumerism and the need to be individual while still conforming.

    How will the audiences thirst for something new and more personalised to their individuality evolve? We can already order personalised and customised Nike Trainers. Does everyone being an audience member mean everyone will become a creator?

    Taliesyn Gottlieb.


  2. Hi Lan:
    Your topic interests me very much. I agree with you that in the information age, there is no obvious boundary between disseminator and receiver. Moreover, the mode of communication became reticular communication. As an audience of social media, I totally agree the objectives you stated, especially “expressing thoughts and revealing the fact”. It remind me that some blogs or social media accounts encourage and enable people to listen and respond to “cultural strangers” which called “ bridgeblogging”. It is a kind of “Intercultural dialogue” through social media. Some people utilized blog to delivery the culture in their country which could establish interconnected communities and promote intercultural dialogue. Recent years, these bridgeblogs became less popular, I think the reason is the rise of social media. More and more social media platforms enable interpersonal to communicate across gaps of language, culture and nationality. Therefore, bridgeblogs became less significant because audience could understand other culture through social media. In China, even Facebook and twitter are blocked, it could not ban the sensitive issue to spread in China, it attribute to social media.

    Hu Siyuan


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