Social Media Guidelines


These guidelines are designed to help Stanford employees in making appropriate decisions when managing and/or developing social media initiatives on behalf of the university. Additionally, the guidelines are intended to advise Stanford employees who indicate an institutional affiliation on their personal social media profiles on how to balance their affiliation with personal conversation.

These guidelines are intended to complement existing university policy. If there is a conflict between guidance in this document and a policy in the Administrative Guide, then the guide controls.

Moreover, this document is designed to map out general considerations and does not provide specific guidance on planning, content, measurement or other topics related to the successful execution of a social media initiative. Advice on those matters will be made available by the fall of 2016.

This document is divided into four components:

  • Guidelines relevant to all types of engagement on social media on behalf of Stanford
  • Guidelines for departmental use of social media on behalf of Stanford
  • Guidelines for an individual employee’s personal use of social media
  • Contact details for getting help

Guidelines for all types of engagement on social media on behalf of Stanford

These guidelines apply to all types of use of social media on behalf of Stanford, including departmental and individual professional use.

  • Adhere to Stanford University Code of Conduct , Information Security  and Privacy Policies . All relevant documents are available in the Administrative Guide.
  • Do not use Stanford’s identity, such as name, color, and emblems, except as permitted by Administrative Guide 1.5.4, Stanford’s Name Use Guidelines and the Ownership and Use of Stanford Name and Trademarks (1.5.4). Additionally, do not create or develop social media accounts, profiles or initiatives bearing Stanford University’s name (without that of a school, unit, department or the like) without prior approval from University Communications. Social media accounts, profiles and initiatives from schools, departments and institutes should be approved by the communications director for the appropriate organization.
  • Do not engage in activities on social networks that raise actual or perceived conflicts of interest between your university obligations and your outside financial, business, consulting or other interests. Additional guidance is available in the Staff Policy on Conflict of Commitment and Interest  guide memo.
  • Maintain the confidentiality of proprietary or protected information. Do not disclose, post or share proprietary Stanford information, data, or communications. This includes, but is not limited to, intellectual property, operating plans, vendor communications, financial data, internal presentations and correspondence. Additional guidance is available in section 6.3.1 Information Security of the Administrative Guide. If you are unsure whether information is confidential or not, please contact University Communications or the Office of the General Counsel.
  • Do not use or disclose personally identifiable information (PII) as outlined in Stanford’s Privacy Policy in the Admin Guide (1.6.1). Examples of such information include, but are not limited to, protected health information (PHI), student records, donor information, employee information, home addresses and social security numbers. Please see Stanford’s Privacy Policies  for further details.
  • Be respectful of intellectual property rights and laws. Whether you are engaging professionally on behalf of Stanford or personally, it is critical that you observe all relevant copyright, trademark and intellectual property laws. This can be particularly challenging given the operational characteristics of social networking services. In some cases, assets (for example, photographs or video) posted to a social networking service become the property of the service operator. If you are unfamiliar with these laws, Stanford’s Office of the General Counsel has provided Intellectual Property  guidelines to help make relevant laws and policies clear.
  • Express political opinions and engage in political activities only in your individual capacity and avoid the appearance that you are speaking or acting for the university in political matters. Additional guidelines are available in the Political, Campaign and Lobbying Activities  guide memo.
  • Use good judgment. Your actions and statements have the ability not only to affect yourself, but also others at Stanford and the university as a whole. Please bear in mind that posts on social media may be replicated quickly, be taken out of context, and will remain public for an indeterminate amount of time.
  • Minimize security risks to social media accounts and profiles that have the ability to affect Stanford’s reputation. Social networking services and accounts—and particularly those with a Stanford affiliation—are an attractive target. A compromised account can adversely affect Stanford’s reputation. To minimize risks to Stanford-branded social accounts and profiles, you should: (1) use strong passwords that are not easy to guess, ideally in concert with a password manager; (2) activate multi-factor authentication for all accounts where it is available; (3) register accounts using only email addresses; and (4) regularly monitor social media accounts—especially when they are not used frequently. Finally, you should also maintain a plan for recovering social media accounts in the event they are compromised. If you suspect your official account has been compromised, please notify University Communications.
  • Do not maintain dormant social media accounts bearing the Stanford name. If you have created a social media account that bears the university name or marks, but that account is not used in regular and direct support of your objectives, you should take steps to have the account removed from the relevant social network.


Guidelines for departmental use of social media on behalf of Stanford

All guidelines included in section one, above, plus:

  • Remember that you are representing Stanford. All of your posts, comments and actions on social networks have the ability to affect the reputation of the university as well as other individuals affiliated with Stanford.
  • Be thoughtful and discerning when engaging on social networking services. Write for your audiences, but know your posts can reach anyone and may be misinterpreted or may show up outside of their original context. Messages should be tailored for each channel; not all messages belong on all channels.
  • Staff your effort appropriately. While student interns can be tremendous collaborators on social media initiatives, they should not be the “owners” of official Stanford-branded social media accounts or profiles. Such profiles should be owned and maintained by staff and/or faculty as appropriate.
  • Moderate comments judiciously. Comments are an important part of social networking services. Do not delete comments simply because you disagree with the commenter’s point of view or because the commenter has reacted negatively. On the other hand, you should monitor social accounts or profiles for which you are responsible and delete comments that expose the private data of others, contain commercial solicitations, are factually erroneous/libelous, are off-topic, are threatening or abusive, or are obscene. If you encounter threatening comments on a post, please contact University Communications or the Department of Public Safety.

Guidelines for an individual employee’s personal use of social media

  • The guidelines for personal use of social media are not intended to and do not limit your right to engage in protected concerted activities related to terms and conditions of employment.
  • Even when you are personally engaging on social media, a Stanford affiliation on your profile has the ability to affect the university as a whole. If you identify your affiliation with Stanford in your profile or comments, other users will naturally associate you with the university. You should always think before you post, be civil to others and their opinions and not post personal information about others unless you have their permission. Your behavior should be consistent with the Information Security, Intellectual Property, and Privacy policies of the university. In addition, you should include, where possible, a statement on your profile that indicates your views do not constitute official statements on behalf of Stanford. Finally, except as permitted by law, no employee is permitted to use Stanford’s marks or emblem without the prior approval of the Assistant Vice President for Business Development,

Getting help

If you need assistance on a matter related to social media, you have three starting points:

  • For general questions related to social media at Stanford, please contact the University Communications digital media team. It is staffed with individuals with extensive experience in maintaining and executing social media initiatives. For contact information, please visit: Additionally, many Stanford schools, departments and centers maintain their own social media teams.
  • To connect with colleagues at Stanford working on social media, consider attending meetings of the social media subgroup of the Communications Working Group. You can subscribe to meeting notifications at
  • For matters related to this policy, please contact the Social Media Governance Committee. That team is also composed of colleagues across campus who work on social media on a daily basis. As of July 2016, the Social Media Governance Committee currently consists of:
    • Michelle Brandt, Director of Digital Media, School of Medicine
    • Sarah Bielecki, Digital Engagement Manager, School of Engineering
    • Dylan Conn, Digital Media Associate, University Communications
    • Biniam Debrezion, Senior IT Auditor, Office of Audit, Compliance and Privacy
    • John Holleman, Lead Designer, University Communications
    • Karen Lee, Associate Director, Digital and Social, Graduate School of Business
    • Adam Miller, Director, Digital & Data Services, Stanford Alumni Association
    • John Stafford, Senior Director for Digital Media Strategy, University Communications
    • Natalie White, Social Media Manager, Graduate School of Business

Last updated: July 22, 2016