Social media guidelines

Principles: Content lines & acting persons

  • The University of Duisburg-Essen stands (among other things) for a regional embedding, the perception of a social responsibility, for educational justice and the development of potentials that arise through diversity. In classical communication, in direct conversation, in publications and information for print media as well as on the "traditional" web, the UDE communicates education and research as fundamental values of society and works to position the university as a positive protagonist of these objectives. Naturally, these principles are also subordinated to the functions and modes of communication available via social media tools.
  • Priority of the "classic" website: All relevant information about the University, from study opportunities and access to research and contact information to public and internal messages, should be up-to-date and available first on the University's website.
  • When using additional external channels, the University attaches great importance to the principle of guaranteeing binding information in terms of content, despite the casual manner customary in social media communication.
  • The official external communication of the UDE is carried out by the university management or the staff unit of the rectorate or by persons and institutions commissioned by the rectorate to do so.
  • Only engage in official and binding communication for your institution in consultation with and after being commissioned by your superiors.

Social media means personal responsibility

  • In principle, every employee is responsible for his or her own statements in Web 2.0 - whether professional or private.
  • Therefore, carefully consider every statement you make in a social network.
  • Keep in mind that on the Internet all content usually remains available for a very long time. Also keep in mind that once a message has been posted to a publicly viewable social media channel, you can no longer control its dissemination via posts, shared content, links or other technical means.
  • For your own protection - and in the interest of the university: avoid making statements that are harmful to the company. If in doubt, cover yourself.

Social media during working hours

  • Social media activities are often necessary to keep informed during working hours, to distribute information, to participate in discussions and to maintain dialogue with the outside world. Talk about it in your institution to avoid misunderstandable situations if necessary.
  • Please operate a purely private social media use outside working hours.

Professional or private access

  • If there are official accounts for individual social media offerings, you should only use these for official communication.
  • In the case of networks that are accessed via personal accounts, it is particularly important to make a clear distinction between official statements and private opinions. Since in many social media offerings it is not obvious at first glance whether you are active there as a private person or in your function, you should ensure that private statements are clearly recognisable as such.
  • Always remember to protect your own privacy - and the privacy of others. Do not communicate private telephone numbers, e-mail addresses or personal details in an official capacity.


  • If you communicate on behalf of the university in Web 2.0 as an employee, you should do so continuously. Maintaining and keeping the relevant social media channels up to date is just as important as regularly checking feedback.
  • The social media channels of your institution should be permanently offered under the same internet address. Do not arbitrarily change the name of your presence.
  • In the case of personnel changes within your institution - or in the case of a transfer of responsibility to other actors of the university - it should be ensured that the corresponding administrative rights are passed on.
  • Staff members who have left should not retain any administrative or intervention rights. This applies to social media activities as well as to "classic" websites. Change passwords if necessary.
  • Not every social media offer is suitable in the long run to pursue the set goals. There is also nothing to be said against testing certain (new) offers in everyday operations. However, remember to delete channels that are not used on a permanent basis or at least make them non-public.
  • Limit - with all continuity - the number of your posts, tweets or messages in general. Avoid the impression of spam.

Laws & copyrights

  • Respect data protection: Data protection in Web 2.0 is first and foremost the protection of an individual's right to informational self-determination.
  • Data protection should ensure that necessary information about individuals is only collected, used or transmitted to third parties in a task-related manner. UDE employees are obliged to use personal data confidentially and only for the purpose of performing their duties. Confidential or non-public factual information of the administration must be protected to the same extent.
  • Do not post or publish private contact details or information, matriculation numbers, dates of birth, places of residence or similar.
  • The internet is full of freely available text, images, videos or music. Assume that most of this media is copyrighted, which basically means that you need permission to use it. If you don't have it, you run the risk of a costly warning. Also note that for specific uses of content, you often need explicit permission for just that type of use.
  • Use the UDE wordmark or a logo of your institution only in official communication.
  • Liability issues: Make it clear that you do not provide legally binding information on social media channels of your institution. Please note that the university can also be held legally liable for the private activities of your employees if relevant regulations are not observed.
  • Do not use social media for official commitments, examination dates or orders.
  • Company and business secrets: As a matter of principle, University employees are required to maintain company and business secrets even when using social media. There is always a duty of confidentiality if it can be assumed that the employer has a justified operational interest in maintaining secrecy.
  • In Web 2.0 there are many statements about companies and their products or employees. What is not legally permissible are deliberately business- or reputation-damaging statements, threats and insults, false statements of fact and statements that seriously endanger industrial peace and make further cooperation with the employer and colleagues unacceptable. The boundary between such statements and critical statements that are still covered by freedom of expression is often blurred.
  • Filter out all inadmissible or legally questionable content on your site where external users can contribute their own contributions or comments. If in doubt, seek help from the relevant university institutions.
  • Duty to provide an imprint: Users of social media services must also provide an imprint if their profile is used for marketing purposes and is not of a purely private nature. The imprint notice must be easily recognisable, always visible and the full text accessible with two clicks. However, the imprint does not have to be under the same domain - it is permissible to link to the imprint of one's own website.

Respectful behaviour

  • Avoid any form of discredit, provocation or insult.
  • Respect the privacy of others.
  • Moderate discussions, feedback and external comments. Keep in mind, however, that the Web 2.0 is sometimes a rough place: not everything you consider borderline will be considered so by other users.
  • In particular, carefully consider deleting external posts or comments. The issue of "censorship" is one of the major points of contention in current discussions about the internet. Seek a second opinion if necessary.
  • Despite all the competition and disputes about the matter at hand: by all means avoid disparaging other universities, other research institutions or (university) political actors.

Transparency & Feedback

  • An open communication culture plays an essential role in the success of your social media activities: in many ways, these new offerings make existing competencies at the university transparent and make topic-related contact persons more visible. Use this opportunity constructively by communicating transparently on behalf of the university in Web 2.0.
  • Ensure transparency about who actually maintains the content in your offerings. This means that they should identify themselves as employees of your respective institution and use their real name. Leave no doubt about the function in which you are communicating.
  • Accordingly, as an institution of higher education, do not operate an anonymous social media presence. Do not use so-called "fake accounts".
  • Do not comment on posts anonymously or using a pseudonym.
  • Social media communication is usually fast and immediate. Mistakes happen. Own up to mistakes. Do not delete erroneous or critical publications without comment, but admit mistakes and correct false statements promptly. Otherwise you risk your credibility - and thus the highest asset in Web 2.0.
  • Take all questions and concerns seriously, even if many questions look as if they were asked without care or a greater desire for knowledge. Do the research work for the enquirer - this is exactly what is required of you on the social web.
  • Forward difficult questions to the departments responsible for them within the university.
  • Do not engage in social media communication if you cannot handle criticism. Remember that in Web 2.0 criticism is expressed very quickly, very directly and often not very politely. Take criticism seriously and try to respond appropriately. Put on a "thick skin" and bear in mind that accusations are often quickly put into perspective or dissolved by entries or comments from other users. Under no circumstances should you delete negative comments.

Before you start: advice & planning

  • As with any use of new technologies and any assumption of new tasks, the path into Web 2.0 should be preceded by comprehensive planning: Weigh carefully whether - and if so, which - social media channels will further your own concerns.
  • Take into account the resources currently available in your institution and keep an eye on possible future developments.
  • Who are you actually doing it for? Define (one/more) target group(s) of your offer.
  • Social media tools expand your dialogue possibilities on the net immensely. At the same time, they offer technical resources (often free of charge) that are not or only partially available to you at UDE. Use external possibilities, but do not replace your "traditional" online offers. Also, host all content of relevance yourself and on university computers.
  • UDE members will receive intensive support from a central location to develop skills and become active themselves in the broad field of Web 2.0. Seek support or advice at any stage of your project if you feel unsure.