Social Media Guidelines


These guidelines are designed to help Stanford employees, volunteers, affiliates, and consultants (e.g., creative agencies) 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 Administrative Guide controls. Further, these guidelines do not supersede or otherwise modify the social media communications policy adopted by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

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.

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 use and use by individual employees whose job duties entail such use. Employees whose job duties do not entail such use may engage on social media on behalf of Stanford only with consultation from the communications lead for their respective schools or university units.

  • 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 also designating a school, unit, department, or similar, hereinafter referred to collectively as “Unit”) without prior approval from University Communications. Social media accounts, profiles and initiatives from schools, departments and institutes must be approved by the communications director for the appropriate organization.
  • Effective April 10, 2020, do not create or develop social media accounts, profiles or campaigns that focus on novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and/or the disease COVID-19 on Stanford’s behalf without specific, written approval by University Communications. In evaluating any request of this type, University Communications will consult with the organization’s vice president, dean, vice provost, or their designate. This subject-matter-specific policy will remain in effect until further notice.
  • Avoid engaging in behavior that could raise actual or apparent conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment on social networks. Stanford’s Staff Policy on Conflict of Commitment and Interest sets forth seven types of prohibited activity that apply to university employees, including in their social media and communications duties. Those activities include, among others, using university resources or property for personal gain (e.g., using university social media profiles to enhance or endorse personal communications or personal social media profiles); using confidential or privileged information acquired in connection with the individual’s university-supported activities for personal gain (e.g., sharing nonpublic information through a university or personal social media profile); accepting gratuities or unsolicited gifts from private or public organizations with which the university does or may conduct business; and using university resources except in a purely incidental way for any purpose other than the performance of the individual’s university employment.
  • Do not endorse commercial partners. Use of Stanford’s name, marks, or research examples for corporate promotion, regardless of whether or not the information is in the public domain, can jeopardize the integrity of our research and our non-profit tax-exempt status. This includes a prohibition on ad placement for commercial partners, partner content marketing or “advertorials,” announcement of commercial partnerships by Stanford, and participation in published case studies about Stanford’s relationship with commercial partners. Commercial partners are permitted to place their own advertising, but must follow Stanford’s Name Use Guidelines.
  • 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. Use of third-party copyrighted or trademarked material or use of a person’s likeness without permission in digital content may be illegal and may expose Stanford to significant financial liability and reputational risk.Units are responsible for obtaining the necessary clearance for its use of intellectual property rights (e.g. music and photos) and a person’s likeness in connection with their communications activities. Units are also responsible for bearing all costs associated with such rights clearances, including any costs that may arise if it fails to obtain the necessary clearance (e.g. legal and settlement costs). An additional guidance memo is available on request from either University Communications or the Office of the General Counsel, depending on the specific use case. Please contact John Stafford, Assistant Vice President, Digital Strategy, for further information.
  • When engaging on social media on Stanford’s behalf, do not express political opinions or engage in political activities. Your political opinions can only be expressed in your individual capacity on your own social media accounts and, even then, 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. Similarly, do not disclose research findings or collaborations with colleagues that have not formally been made public.
  • 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, randomized passwords in concert with an enterprise password management tool that provides granular control over access to such passwords; (2) limit direct access to these social profiles through a social media content management system with full audit trail capability; (3) activate multi-factor authentication for all accounts where it is available; (4) register accounts using only email addresses; and (5) 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 the Office of University Communications immediately.
  • 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 institutional priorities, 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.
  • Avoid advertising on websites with inappropriate or offensive content. Avoid advertising on websites with inappropriate or offensive content. Units are strongly discouraged from advertising on websites that host offensive content or promote hatred, intolerance, discrimination, or violence. It is your Unit’s responsibility to manage and exclude websites and domains with inappropriate content. This responsibility also extends to vendors your Unit engages to support paid media campaigns. Units may be asked to take down or to block paid media placements that occur on websites carrying inappropriate or offensive content.Examples of inappropriate or offensive content include, but are not limited to: bullying or intimidation of an individual or group, racial or sexual discrimination or stereotyping, hate group paraphernalia, graphic crime scene or accident images, cruelty to animals, murder, self-harm, extortion or blackmail, and/or ads using profane language.

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.

  • You are responsible for what you post on your personal social media accounts. Unless your job duties entail the use of your personal media accounts on behalf of the University and such use is explicitly authorized in writing by a school dean or department head, an employee’s personal use of social media shall be deemed not in furtherance of their employment responsibilities on behalf of Stanford, and any postings from personal accounts shall not be considered a direct consequence of the discharge of his/her/their duties. Consequently, Stanford will not be liable for and will not indemnify an employee for any liability that results from postings from personal social media accounts.
  • 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 two starting points:

  • For general questions related to social media at Stanford, please contact the University Communications digital strategy 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 within the communications functions of those units.
  • 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

Last updated: October 2019