University of Helsinki social media guidelines

Visualised version of the University of Helsinki social media guidelines

Representing the University on social media as an employee
#WeAreHelsinkiUni

New knowledge and learning belong to all! The University of Helsinki encourages researchers, teachers and employees to be active on social media, a suitable channel for all members of the University community for communicating, influencing, participating and networking. It is the quickest means of keeping up to date with current discussions, influencers and phenomena. By communicating and influencing on social media, we can all promote a worldview based on science.

As employees of the University of Helsinki, we observe the University’s values on social media: truth, Bildung, freedom and community. On social media, we act in a smart, ethical and respectful manner.

The University’s guidelines for social media help establish its digital footprint in a safe and responsible manner. They include instructions, recommendations and information on

  • Opportunities for experts provided by social media
  • Responsibilities and identity
  • Legislation
  • Challenging situations
  • University practices, account credentials and services
  • Tips for novice and experienced users of social media, supervisors and teacher-researchers

In which topics do you have expertise that you would like to communicate and discuss on social media?

We, the employees of the University of Helsinki, serve as experts in a number of roles: as teachers, researchers, influencers and also as specialists in our own field. In all these roles, social media is a useful channel for influencing and networking.

On social media, you can promote the accessibility of research and teaching, share and comment on research findings as well as themes related to teaching and learning, or expand the audiences of science and teaching. On social media, you can, among other activities, act as an expert influencer, develop yourself professionally, network with communities in your field and carry out recruitment. You can become a media outlet yourself, as your group of followers grows.

Identifying the topics important to you, your audience and network as well as your goals in general helps you find the social media channels and groups most relevant to you. To get started, answer the following questions: what, why, to whom and how? Twitter is a channel suited to many experts, while others prefer YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn or, say, the more traditional custom of blogging.

In addition to experts in your field, network with those you hope will become interested in the content you are sharing. A social media presence has a significant effect on, for example, how well media outlets and decision-makers acknowledge University researchers and experts.

Social media is based on interaction, so be prepared to listen and participate in discussions. Most discussions on social media are appropriate and positive interaction, but you may also encounter sharp comments and critical views of your work or research topics. Try to contribute to the discussion from a respectful expert perspective and, as a researcher, on the basis of research. Keep opinions separate from research-based knowledge. Not all discussions have to be won or kept going. Clearly provocative or factually hollow comments can be ignored.

Goal-oriented social media communication requires monitoring, planning your contributions in advance and time for taking part in the discussion. On the other hand, you need not be constantly online.

The University of Helsinki is an institution that is a popular topic of discussion on social media, in addition to which comments are regularly made on behalf of the University. It is in the interest of us all that as members of the University community we promote a worldview that values science, education and skills, using our voice for the benefit of the University of Helsinki.

Your actions on social media have an effect on how you are perceived as an expert and what kind of notion people have of the University of Helsinki as a work community. Even though you are personally responsible for your actions, be prepared to have your activities linked with your professional role. This is why it is extremely difficult to keep professional and personal roles completely separate from each other when using social media.

Consider how you are expressing your opinions. Talk about the University and its community on social media in accordance with good manners – online discussions are always public. Respect your colleagues and the entire community, including students. When offering a critique, do it in a constructive manner. Above all, adhering to good manners is in your own interest.

Remember that you are responsible for what you say on social media, too – and that things said and done outside it may also end up there. If you realise you have made a mistake, try to remedy it immediately. Apologise or publish a correction.

Please do not post any non-public information on social media, including confidential agreements, commercialisation projects in the preparatory stage, personal data related to employment affairs or matters that are still pending.

Not all public information need be posted on social media either. Pay particular attention to information concerning individuals. Although applications for jobs and study places are public once received by the University, no application documents or related information can be published on social media without the consent of the person in question. If, in the process of carrying out your professional duties, you learn about the characteristics, personal circumstances or financial position of another person, remember that disclosing such information to third parties without legal grounds is a punishable offence.

If your colleagues or partners do not wish you to post their photos or information on them on social media, please respect their wishes. Also consider carefully what personal details related to yourself you make public. It is not appropriate to comment on work-related matters pertaining to individual employees or students on social media even in the case of a person sharing confidential information about themselves. If commenting is deemed necessary, it must be on a general level, for example, by explaining University practices.

Only publish material for which you own the copyright or that is not protected by copyright. Do not share or link to material that appears to be illegally published (e.g., websites that illegally publish scientific articles free of charge).

Familiarise yourself with copyright legislation and the principles of data protection:

Follow these guidelines in matters related to data protection and privacy

  • Only post public material that you are allowed to publish, for which you have the copyright or that is not protected by copyright.
  • Do not share confidential information.
  • Observe jointly agreed practices on when a decision, media release or another document is to be made public.
  • Use different login credentials for work-related matters and private matters. Always use different passwords.
  • Do not click and, above all, do not share, unfamiliar or suspicious links on social media or elsewhere. They may pose an information security risk or contain intentional misrepresentations.
  • Take care of your personal data protection. Check the privacy settings of your profile. Keep in mind that social media is always public in nature, and regardless of privacy settings, messages can spread outside the intended audience.
  • Read the terms of use of the social media services you are using. Usually, you give social media service providers the right to collect data on your behaviour and relinquish your rights to the texts, images, files and other content you publish through the services.

Examples of harassment on social media:

  • Threats targeted at an individual or their close circle
  • Spreading misinformation on an individual or their work
  • Groundless criticism or disparagement of work
  • Harassment focused on gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity
  • Publishing private or non-public information for others to see

Critical discussion is part of everyday life on social media, but if you become a target of personal harassment or threats, or harassment or threats targeted at your work community, do not isolate yourself. Help is available for difficult situations or in cases where you receive inappropriate criticism or you suspect you have been deceived or attacked.

If the case takes place at the workplace, is targeted at your work or endangers or impairs occupational safety, you have the right to get help from your employer. Do not hesitate to ask for help – contact details for University Services are located in the next section of these guidelines.

Remember to never yourself harass anyone on social media. Social media harassment can have consequences from the direction of both the employer and authorities. If you become a target of social media harassment, ask for help in one of the ways described below (contact details in the "This is how the University helps you on social media" part of this page) and do not respond to attacks with attacks.

If you are harassed on social media, do the following

  • Block trolling followers and take a moment to consider whose friend and contact requests to accept.
  • Let the harasser know that their actions are unacceptable. After doing so, you can stop responding to their messages or block them.
  • If you are attacked or harassed, or suspect being the target of such activity, do not hesitate to ask for help.
  • Depending on the situation, contact the University’s harassment contact person, occupational safety representatives and/or communications team. Contact details can be found at the bottom of these guidelines.
  • Record the discussion or message by taking a screenshot or another piece of evidence. If the messages are distressing, ask someone to store them on your behalf. Do not delete any messages.
  • When the harassment is ongoing, you should usually avoid googling your own name for the sake of self-preservation.
  • If your teaching or research material has been disseminated on social media without permission, contact the University’s legal counsel.
  • If the criteria for an offence are met, report it to the police. Defamation, copyright offences and infringement, and menace are complainant offences. In other words, the University cannot report the offence on your behalf. In such cases, support is provided by University Services.
  • Keep your supervisor aware of the matter and its progress, as they are also responsible for occupational safety.

Communication services

  • If you have communication ideas pertaining to social media, please contact your campus on-site communications team. Among other things, they can help you in community management related to events, implement social media campaigns or carry out background communications on a current topic.
  • The University’s communications team is also happy to contribute to more creative social media communications and related brainstorming.
  • The communications team organises social media training, communication clinics and other training, such as Digital Impact (link to Flamma intranet) training targeted at researchers. Keep up to date with training offerings by following Flamma.
  • University and faculty-specific accounts on social media are always created by the communications team. At this point, the goal and maintenance are agreed on, as well as its operating principles.
  • In the case of social media harassment, communications helps assess the situation and what communication measures need to be taken. When necessary, communications will help hide social media accounts, in addition to which it can, as a form of first aid, help in going through and storing messages.
  • The University's hashtags are available on the University’s ThinkWall and on Flamma.
  • Further information on the services is available on Flamma, through campus communications teams and, on the University level, the digital communications team. Contact details:

HR Services (occupational safety and cases of harassment)

Legal services

Library services

The visibility and altmetrics services provided by Helsinki University Library illustrate the distribution, reception and use of publications online – also on social media.

Choose the topics you wish to communicate on. Consider how and with whom you wish to communicate to find a suitable channel and approach.

1. Follow and explore

Explore social media channels and their cultures of interaction. By choosing a handful of accounts or individuals to follow, you gain ideas about the different ways people use to communicate through these channels. Already at this point, you should think about how personal you would like your style to be.

2. Choose your channel

Experts will most likely find most of their target audiences on Twitter or LinkedIn. On Facebook, groups may be the best way to communicate with experts. If you prefer visual communication, Instagram may suit you best. If presentations are your forte, pick YouTube. Writing-oriented experts could write a blog. You can create new Wikipedia pages on people or topics, or contribute to updating existing content.

3. Decide whether to represent yourself or a community

If you communicate through your personal account, add an ‘elevator pitch’, or a personal description of yourself, to your profile. In addition to introducing yourself and your work, also describe what makes your work or ideas special and provides additional value to your followers.

Alongside a personal social medial account, you can be active as a community member, a setting familiar to many researchers who are also or solely active on social media on behalf of a research group or project.

4. Write down your goals

Your goals may involve being an expert in a certain topic, or finding and sharing new ideas. The analytics data included in your social media channel helps monitor and set targets for your audience and the impact of your messages.

5. Prepare your topics

Link your social media activity to your other personal communications and those topical discussions to which you wish to contribute your expertise. Identify and choose topics in which you have expertise and which you wish to communicate about and discuss on social media. Communication and public engagement take time, so make social media communication part of your communication and work plan.

6. Expand your network

Social media helps you maintain and strengthen your networks. By conducting a network analysis, you can identify your personal network and target your communication at the key operators or individuals in it.

7. Follow the University and your faculty or unit on social media services

The University of Helsinki is an active communicator on social media services. Start following the social media accounts of the University or your faculty. Keep up with the University’s hashtags and use them so that the University can react to your messages. Your visibility as an expert will grow and you will gain new followers.

Social media is part of communication, and communication is an important element of supervisory duties. The University encourages supervisors to also network on social media. Your stakeholders are most likely using social media. Think about what you might be missing out on if you are not part of the social media networks in your field, or unaware of the discussions taking place there.

Those working as supervisors at the University are easily seen as always representing the University and also acting in their professional role on social media – often even if you yourself don’t think you are posting something in your professional role. This is why your social media activities strongly impact the views your stakeholders have about the University.

Work communities should discuss the use of social media as a professional tool. Consider together what benefits social media can offer for achieving the goals of your team, as well as what your target audiences and topics of communication are.

With the exception of communications staff, supervisors cannot oblige their employees to use social media. Its use is voluntary. Goal-oriented communication on social media takes time, which is why it must not become an extra task on top of all other work duties. Supervisors must see to it that time is allocated for this in the employee’s job description.

Due to reasons of accessibility, equality and data protection, among other things, internal communication cannot be concentrated on social media. Instead, many people on social media are interested in discussions on topics related to work communities. The internal communication of the work community is carried out through the University’s dedicated services, such as Flamma, Teams, Yammer and email.

Instructions for supervisors

  • Agree with your team on how to use social media as a professional tool.
  • Make sure that social media does not cause stress to your employees.
  • You are obliged to support your employees in difficult situations. You yourself are supported by the occupational safety representatives.
  • If you observe inappropriate behaviour on social media, not to mention illegal activities, you have both an obligation and a right to take measures required by the situation. You yourself are supported by the University’s occupational safety representatives, harassment contact persons and legal counsel.

At the University of Helsinki, there are no separate employment contracts for researchers and teachers. Whichever role you are acting in, please keep in mind the obligations relevant to the other role. Even if you consider yourself solely a researcher on social media, students perceive you as a teacher as well. Displaying your human side on social media is received positively. Remember that being human does not necessarily mean speaking about your private affairs.

Tips for the researcher role

  • In addition to research findings, communicate on social media about the impact of science and the conduct of research. That increases the transparency and reliability of research, and interests many people.
  • Many funders require interaction throughout research projects, for which social media is an excellent outlet.
  • Chart the hashtags relevant to the field and use them. Funders and partner networks may also have their preferred hashtags.
  • In the case of projects, you should always consider whether to open a separate account, especially in the case of shorter projects, as communication with hashtags is easy. Blogs are another tool that can serve as the communication base of research groups.
  • Researchers’ freedom of speech is broad, also online. As with all users of social media, researchers are allowed to express their personal opinions, but those must be kept separate from research-based knowledge. Similarly, researchers are also obliged to observe good scientific practice online.
  • Good tips for science communication are available on the Responsible Research website of the Finnish National Board on Research Integrity and in the science communication guide (in Finnish only).

Tips for the teacher role

  • Students are key operators in the University community. Giving visibility to not only the work of researchers, but also to learning and learning environments on social media is a way of valuing students.
  • Many teachers find it important to highlight on social media the importance of their discipline to the teaching programmes, as public discourse can increase their popularity among students.
  • Teachers’ activities are always guided by a pedagogical approach – the support of human growth and learning. Teachers’ ethics does not allow public criticism of students – also remember this in groups on social media!
  • Respect the privacy of students. Avoid publishing their names or photos on social media without permission, and think carefully before accepting them as your friends.
  • Descriptions of research-based teaching and pedagogical experimentation also constitute interesting social media content on the international stage, as Finnish education is a topic of interest globally.
  • Open courses and teaching material can easily become hot topics on social media as well. When sharing or using teaching material, respect copyright.
  • When uploading materials on social media for which you own the copyright, clearly state for what kind of use you are giving permission. The Creative Commons licences serve as a helpful starting point.
  • Information on open teaching and copyright for teachers