With 1.86 billion monthly users as of 2016, Facebook is the most used social media platform on the internet. It is a versatile site that allows users to share text, images, videos and to interact through ‘pages’ and ‘events’. It has established itself as the go-to social media platform and is many people’s main source for news and information. Facebook allows users to interact closely with their friends’ personal profiles while also keeping up with institutions’ content by ‘liking’ their page. Facebook encapsulates other platforms’ functions and often acts as the hub that connects them. It seems that today, operating a Facebook page is a necessary part of an institution’s marketing strategy. However, because of the platform’s versatility, it is used in many ways and for different purposes.


Facebook Users 2009-2016 © Statista


The Art Gallery of Ontario is a major Canadian art institution, and therefore, is very active on Facebook. The content posted on their page, however, is very different from the content posted through their other social media profiles such as Instagram. Very little content is directly drawn from their art collection. Most of their posts concentrate on promoting events happening at the gallery. This is often done through links to event pages or to external articles and reviews.


Example of an AGO event-related post

If photos are uploaded they will usually be installation shots rather than reproductions of work. The AGO’s Facebook page is used to provide useful information to potential gallery goers. It is a promotional tool to attract visitors. Gallery hours, location, even statistics about which hours are busiest, are seen on opening their page.

AGO’s hours & location

It is constructed under the assumption that many Facebook users will search their page to acquire information rather than like it to get daily updates. This explains why the institutions’ Twitter account has 291,000 followers, while their Facebook profile has 111,000 likes.

Library and Archives Canada

LAC’s Facebook presence seems to have a different purpose than the AGO’s. This is evident when observing the differences in content posted by both institutions. The LAC does not seem interested in acquiring visitors in the same right as the AGO. Their posts concentrate on the collection’s holdings. Most of them consist of the reproduction of a photograph accompanied by a caption. These captions often connect the photograph to the current date through the mention of a historical event.


Example of a historical event post by LAC

The information given by LAC in these captions usually refers solely to the content of the photographs rather than the collection objects themselves. This is because many of these works are from anonymous makers and were archived for their representational content. The purpose of these posts is to promote Canadian heritage through the historical archive of the institution. They are bringing their collection to the users, rather than bringing the users to their collection. LAC have also created projects that encourage the public to interact with the content. One of these is Project Naming, introduced 15 years ago and now operating through Facebook, which asks for users to identify, if they can, the subjects in photographs of First Nations peoples.

Project Naming, more info: http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/aboriginal-heritage/project-naming/Pages/introduction.aspx

LAC’s Facebook presence operates under two separate pages, one French and one English, both of which have more likes than any of the institution’s other social media profiles.


While Facebook is the most popular platform, its copyright terms are not very protective of user content. Their policy seems to be the reason for the difference between the AGO and LAC’s posts. It can be found in full at: https://www.facebook.com/terms .

While users do not relinquish copyright, Facebook holds the right to use their content, even if protected by intellectual property rights, without permission or compensation. This right is also transferable and sub-licensable, which means that Facebook may profit from a user’s content. This is problematic for art institutions, as they are often not the intellectual rights holders of the content they might want to post (ie: artists’ work), and therefore cannot relinquish the afore-mentioned rights freely. This is not as much of an issue for LAC as they are mostly sharing anonymous content which they hold the copyright for. Both institutions, however, have copyright disclaimers made available that state the restrictions for the use of their images by Facebook users. While Facebook might be entitled to use the content freely, it does not mean that anybody is. The two institutions’ terms can be found at:

https://www.facebook.com/pg/AGOToronto/about/?ref=page_internal (under ‘Story’)


Creative Commons created a Facebook application that allowed users to place their posts under a specific license. Unfortunately the project was short-lived and as of now, CC licenses cannot be applied to Facebook content.


Facebook Stats & Terms:

“Number of monthly active Facebook users worldwide as of 4th quarter 2016 (in millions).” Statista. 2017. Accessed March 04, 2017. https://www.statista.com/statistics/264810/number-of-monthly-active-facebook-users-worldwide/




“About the AGO.” AGO. Accessed March 04, 2017. http://www.ago.net/about-the-ago

“Our Mandate.” AGO. Accessed March 04, 2017. http://www.ago.net/mandate



https://www.facebook.com/BiblioArchives/ (French)

“Social Media Terms of Use.” Library and Archives Canada. Accessed March 04, 2017. http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/stay-connected/Pages/social-media-terms-of-use.aspx

“Project Naming.” Library and Archives Canada. Accessed March 04, 2017. http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/aboriginal-heritage/project-naming/Pages/introduction.aspx

Creative Commons:

“Creative Commons on Facebook.” Plagiarism Today. May 19, 2009. Accessed March 04, 2017. https://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2009/05/19/creative-commons-on-facebook/


1 comment for “Facebook

  1. JoJo
    March 12, 2017 at 12:51 am

    The strategy of using its facebook account by AGO just fits the long-term thought of us about the difference between facebook and instagram, or we say how facebook remain its competence facing the quickly-boosting challenges brought by instagram. Without doubt that instagram has became most popular social media platform, with its advantages of interactions, engagements, and high quality images, so how companies use their facebook account remains challenging. What AGO did is fairly clever that it sees the advantage over instagram: facebook is not about pictures, its more like a profile. Its the place to store your images, information, resume, events, and locations. Its like a profile that you keep storage of your context, and it is your identity. AGO fully aware that and mainly use it to attract potential users, in other words, to keep deepening its brand awareness.

    This indicates that facebook, though being challenged by other platforms, still remain its competence by the overall narrative of its context. What the LAC did is the same, posting content that images could not show on their facebook page.

    However the intellectual property right still remains a problem for institutions for what they post on facebook. What LAC did as posting anonymous pieces dose not solve the problem, as many institutions take those famous artists and their art pieces as their main attractiveness. We think there should be some negotiation happening between institutions, creators, and facebook to pass that right to facebook users or give them special licences of repost, for its an action which will benefit all the parties. However before that, they should clarify several questions that why the Creative Commons is a failure, including”Commercialization is prohibited‘,”determination of commercial vs. non-commercial purpose is based on the use, not the user. ’”,”incidental charges to recover reasonable reproduction costs may be permitted.‘’
    Still, solving these questions could be tough, cause unfortunately(not fortunately), the ultimate purpose of most creators and institutions and facebook behavior, is about commercial.

    By JoJo(Ningjiao) Han and Joy (Shunzhi) Xu

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