Social Media Principles & Engagement Guidelines

These are official guidelines for participating and engaging in social media on behalf of or as a representative of California State University, East Bay, its programs, policies and operations. They apply to CSUEB employees or contractors creating or contributing to social networks, blogs, wikis, virtual worlds or any other externally facing (public internet) social media community on and off as part of their work for CSUEB. These guidelines and standards do not cover faculty use of social media for instructional purposes nor academic department use of social media within internally facing (intranet) systems, such as Blackboard or other NetID-based (controlled access) systems.

The university asks those who participate in social media on its behalf to (1) understand the technology they are using and (2) abide by the following principles and engagement guidelines. Failure to do so may damage the university's reputation and standing and may have consequences for the responsible employee or contractor. University social media participants also have an obligation to stay abreast of changes to official guidelines as new technologies and social networking tools emerge and as University standards evolve in response.

Summary of Basic Principles

Emerging platforms for online collaboration are fundamentally changing the way we work and communicate. Social media offers new ways to engage with constituents, colleagues and the world at large. This new model can help build stronger, more successful relationships and contribute immensely to advancing the university's reputation and interests if used properly. As such, CSUEB considers social media activity performed by its employees and contractors on behalf of, and as part of the conduct of, university business to have mission-critical implications and therefore to be subject to official principles and engagement guidelines.

If you participate in social media on behalf of CSUEB, the university expects you to follow these basic principles:

  • Don't engage without a clear plan, strategy, goals, and line of responsibility
  • Be responsible for continuous monitoring, maintenance, and timely response
  • Add value with unique, strategic information and commentary about CSUEB
  • Be transparent and avoid misrepresentation
  • Write about what you know, and stick to your area of expertise when commenting
  • Be a team player in reporting developments and sharing findings internally, across units
  • Post meaningful, respectful comments — no spam or off-topic or unprofessional remarks
  • Always pause and think before posting, and consult with a manager or expert if unsure
  • If you make a mistake, admit it — and be upfront and quick with your correction
  • Respect confidentiality of all participants and never disclose student information
  • Give credit to sources of written content, images and ideas you reference or use
  • Handle negative comments and developments quickly, professionally and strategically
  • Always use proper grammar and write accessibly following university style
  • Know and follow CSUEB policies on computing, information, conduct and technology

Social Media Engagement, Guidelines and Advice

I.  Plan to ensure strategic and sustainable engagement. Before starting a social media program, consult with the Office of University Communications on strategy to ensure that the proposed program not only supports university and departmental or unit strategic plans and objectives, but also is also sustainable. Inform the Office of University Communications of any new accounts so that they may be included in the university's online social media directory.

Determine your goals and outcomes prior to launching your social media program. Be sure that your program goals support the university's mission, vision and values, as well as those of your department or program. As a department or program, identify who will manage your social media program and respond to followers before you engage. Be clear how much time you have to devote to social media and realistic about the commitment required. Understand that in some cases, a social media presence is not ideal, and your needs may be better served by collaborating with other social media communities.

II.  Listen, monitor and assess continuously to assure constructive engagement. Methodical monitoring and assessment, together with active management, is a requirement for engaging in social media successfully and productively on behalf of CSUEB.

Use online monitoring tools to listen and understand your community. Have a plan to monitor what is being said and be responsible for doing so regularly. Check with your site several times each day to read comments and respond in a timely manner. Set up automated feeds using search tools such as Google Alerts to notify you of new activity. Keep an eye on followers, know your community and block inappropriate profiles or users who create an inhospitable environment. Also understand that negative comments, criticism or feedback about your program are inevitable aspects of social media. In dealing with such comments, remain detached, refer to the university's Social Media Recommended-Response Matrix for guidance and respond professionally when appropriate. Any issue of concern (e.g. suicide, threats, violence, etc…) should be reported immediately to the CSUEB Univeristy Police Department.

III.  Actively maintain social media programs and constituent engagement. The university expects employees and contractors engaging in social media on its behalf to ensure that content is kept current, posting are made consistently, and responses are timely. CSUEB social media program sites with no activity for 90 days or more should be inactivated.

Be timely, and treat social media as a real-time conversation in which participants expect information to be distributed quickly. Non-activity reflects upon the University just as poorly as negative behavior. But do not "spam" users or post for the sake of posting. Constituents appreciate the opportunity to give their opinion, so consider content that is open-ended and invites response. Broaden the conversation by citing others who are writing about the same topic. Allow your content to be shared or syndicated, as sharing builds credibility and community and also increases followers. The value of your social media program grows as members contribute.

IV.  Act judiciously to protect privacy, confidentiality and reputation. Ask permission to publish or report on conversations that are meant to be private or internal to CSUEB. All statements must be true and not misleading and all claims must be substantiated. Never comment on anything related to legal matters, litigation or any parties the university may be in litigation with without appropriate approval.

Protect your privacy and reputation — and that of the university — by carefully considering the content you publish. What you publish is widely accessible and can remain on the Web for a long time, even if you think you have deleted the content. Always be mindful of maintaining privacy for our students, faculty and staff.

V.  Do not disclose student information. Abide by Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). This is especially important in dealing with students who post questions online about their educational circumstances (e.g. "Did my credits transfer?"). Ask the student for a private conversation. 

Privacy should also be extended to not tagging or identifying students without permission in photos posted to social media channels, unless it is a re-post of a university news story. University accounts are also encouraged to follow and engage with recognized school groups and organizations rather than individual students.

VI.  Limit commentary to specific, assigned social media program scope and purview. Comment only on matters pertaining to your department or unit or area of responsibility or expertise at CSUEB. Do not comment or engage in a discussion regarding programs, policies, people or developments that are not clearly within the purview of your unit's social media program.

Add value by writing about what you know and limiting your comments to your areas of expertise, where you can offer unique perspectives. Share or syndicate relevant communications from other areas, but avoid adding commentary on subjects outside your area, including your views or those of your unit regarding other CSUEB departments, programs or the university. Remember, there are millions of social media postings; yours will be most effective, appropriate — and valuable — if it promotes engagement and builds community and support for your department's or program's goals, as well as the university's strategic objectives.

VII.  Act and manage collaboratively. While CSUEB asks employees and contractors to limit work-related social media commentary to discussions relating to corresponding areas of responsibility, it also expects collaboration and cooperation in supporting the objectives of other university social media programs by sharing information, strategies and findings.

Be a team player, thinking and acting "outside of the silo." Take the time to alert colleagues in other units about comments and discussions taking place in the social media — negative as well as positive — regarding CSUEB programs, services, developments, activities, etc., including those outside your area. Doing so enables those responsible for specific areas and operations of the university to respond to and resolve complaints and acknowledge compliments professionally and effectively.

VIII.  Respect proprietary information and content. Do not use copyrighted photos or written content without properly crediting the source or gaining permission from the source prior to use. For example, the Associated Press may require licensing fees for use of certain content on blogs and other online venues. Make sure that videos or electronic recordings comply with any university policies governing the use of electronic recording devices.

Always credit the sources, writers, artists and contributors you reference or cite. But remember, written work is not the only proprietary concern; people's images and comments also require permission to use. Ask before you take pictures, and tell subjects how you intend to use their image. Consult the Office of University Communications for releases for video or photography if necessary. Do not "tag" people in photos on public social networks; if they want their image found, allow them to tag themselves.

IX.  Follow CSUEB editorial and brand style. The university expects departments, programs and individuals using social media on its behalf to abide by official university standards for branding, graphics and written communications as set forth in the University Brand Style Guide. This includes using standardized account-naming conventions and preapproved graphic templates for Twitter. For other sites or accounts, consult with The Office of University Communications, which administers these guidelines and can provide account- and program-specific guidance.

Always use proper grammar and write accessibly. Talk to your readers as you would talk to real people in professional situations, without overly pedantic or "composed" language. Do not be afraid to bring in your own personality when appropriate. Avoid any images, graphics, slang or words that may not reflect well upon the university. Draft posts in a program that can detect spelling and grammar errors, and proofread before you post. What you write and publish — including the way in which you name and graphically brand or customize your social media site or account — can have a profound effect on external perceptions of CSUEB.

X.  Abide by all applicable CSUEB policies, and respect university time and property. University computers and individual work time are to be used only for university-related business, which may include social media management as related to individual or unit work goals. Comply with all applicable CSUEB policies including Acceptable Computing Usage and Information Security, and stay abreast of emerging new policies governing faculty and staff profiles and personal websites.

Limit Internet activity during work hours to those directly related to CSUEB business and operations. Be aware of governing CSUEB policies and standards before engaging. Participate in personal social networking, blogging, or personal website maintenance on your own time using non-CSUEB computers.

XI.  Adhere to standards of professional conduct at all times when engaging online on behalf of the university. Understand that perception is reality. In online social networks, the lines between public and private, personal and professional are blurred. By identifying yourself as a CSUEB employee, you are creating perceptions about your expertise and about CSUEB. Ensure that all content associated with you is consistent with your work and with CSUEB's values and standards. Understand that personal profiles can be linked to and associated with communities you manage professionally.

Be a leader and set a positive tone. There can be a fine line between healthy debate and incendiary reaction. You do not need to respond to every criticism or challenge. Frame your comments and posts to invite differing points of view without inflaming others. You are representing CSUEB; be careful and considerate when discussing sensitive issues, and be cognizant of the potential implications of your comments for the university's reputation. When disagreeing with others' opinions, keep it appropriate and polite. If a user is leaving inflammatory remarks, use your best judgment to defuse the situation. If you cannot help in a meaningful way, recognize that sometimes not responding is the best course of action.

If you make a mistake, admit it. Be upfront and quick with your correction. Remember, your mistake will be associated with the university. If you are posting to a blog, you may choose to modify an earlier post — just make it clear that you have done so. Discuss any social media engagement issues, questions, and concerns not covered by these guidelines with the Office of University Communications. Don't publish if you can't publish with confidence. If you are about to publish something that makes you even slightly uncomfortable, take the time to review these standards before sending, and think about how they apply to and govern your post. If you are still unsure, discuss the topic with your manager or University Communications. Ultimately, you are responsible and accountable for what you publish on behalf of the University and the consequences thereof.


Engage in social media to create excitement about CSUEB and to add value. CSUEB is making important contributions to the community and to the public dialogue on a broad range of issues. Our activities are increasingly focused on access to educational excellence and opportunity as a key component of our distinguishing commitment to regional stewardship. Social media is an essential channel for sharing with our constituents this exciting work and also provides the university with a valuable means of communicating with, learning from, and collaborating with the communities we serve. Employees and contractors who engage in the social media on behalf of the university in way that is thoughtful, methodical, strategic and collaborative add significant value to their work and make a valuable contribution to the university's progress toward achievement of its mission and realization of its vision.