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Social Media Guidelines

Social media plays a powerful role in communications for both individuals and large entities like Northwestern University. Social media can be an important tool for disseminating information and stories as well as engaging thoughtfully with faculty, staff, students, alumni, friends and the general public.

Northwestern recognizes the ample opportunities as well as the risks of using social media. Members of the Northwestern community who run University-affiliated social media accounts are expected to follow these guidelines with the understanding that we are all ambassadors of the University online. The guidelines are also intended for students, faculty and staff to keep in mind when engaging in Northwestern-related conversations and/or posting as an individual associated with the University. In all communication forums, including social media, Northwestern is committed to the highest standards of freedom of speech and expression.

Overall Guidelines

  • Protect personal information and maintain confidentiality of proprietary information. For reasons of safety and security, do not post any personal contact information (phone numbers, addresses, personal email addresses, etc.) on social media. Do not disclose, post or share proprietary Northwestern information, including intellectual property, operating plans, vendor communications, internal presentations, et al. If you do not know or are not sure whether something is confidential, it is always best to err on the side of caution and not to post. It is also recommended to include University or business-affiliated contact information, such as your University email address, and/or allow for direct messages on the individual social platforms in order to engage in private (i.e. less-public) communications with community members as needed and allow for contact with others.
  • Comply with intellectual property laws. You must adhere to copyright and fair use of copyrighted material. Do not post material (content, graphics, photographs, images, music et al.) if you do not own them or have the rights to share them, including Northwestern’ s own trademarks and copyrighted material. University-affiliated accounts can use Northwestern logos and branding, (e.g. the “ academic N” ) so long as Brand Guidelines are followed. Personal social media accounts (whether faculty, staff or student) should not use Northwestern logos or other University trademarks without the prior approval of the University. Please submit a request for exceptions and/or approvals.
  • Avoid endorsements. You are welcome to use social media to share information or news related to Northwestern. However, any advertising, solicitation or endorsements of third-party products and services is not permitted from, or on, University-affiliated accounts. 

  • Minimize security risks to all University-affiliated social media accounts. A compromised social media account can negatively impact Northwestern's reputation. To ensure the security of Northwestern-affiliated social accounts:
    • Use strong, randomized passwords ideally with a password management tool, as recommended by NUIT.
    • Limit the number of people with direct management access to each profile.
    • Develop an organized process for who has ownership, who can access accounts and who can access all the associated passwords.
    • Use a social media content management system with audit trail capability.
    • Activate multi-factor authentication for all accounts where possible.
    • Create accounts using only email addresses. 

    • Monitor social media accounts on a regular basis.
    • Have a plan for recovering social media accounts in the event they are compromised. If you suspect your official account has been compromised, please notify NUIT and Global Marketing and Communications immediately. 

  • Do not abandon Northwestern social media accounts. If you have created a University-affiliated social media account that is not checked regularly or used on a regular basis, please archive or delete the account, and take appropriate steps to ensure it is no longer visible to the public. To work through this, feel free to reach out to the Global Marketing and Communications social media team for assistance. 

  • An affiliation with Northwestern on your personal profile can impact the University's reputation. If you affiliate yourself with Northwestern in any personal social media profile or in any comments online, you could be associated with the University and should take responsibility for this affiliation. Always consider the potential ramifications of what you post and be respectful online. Remember that everything you post on social media is public and can live on indefinitely, even if you delete the post(s). In addition, you should include a statement on your profile that indicates your views are not official statements on behalf of Northwestern. This can be a simple disclaimer, such as: “I work for Northwestern, but thoughts and views shared here are my own."

Community Management and User-Generated Content

  • Social media is about conversations and community. Fostering dialogue, connecting with your community and building relationships are critical components of social media management. This includes robust and timely listening and responding on University-affiliated accounts.
  • You are responsible for monitoring and moderating comments, messages and posts on your University-affiliated social media accounts. It is important to designate responsible administrators of the social media channel to regularly monitor, respond and regulate social media discussions.
  • Do not delete comments because you disagree with someone’s point of view or because of negativity. Comments are an important part of social media and users have a right to disagree and express their opinion. Deleting or hiding posts should be used sparingly, unless the comments contain:
    • Factually erroneous, libelous, off-topic, threatening, abusive or obscene language.
    • Content that violates the rights of another party, including intellectual property (e.g., copyright, trademark, trade secret) and privacy rights.
    • Spam posts and/or repeated posts that are duplicative in nature by an individual or group of users.
    • Solicitation, advertising, or endorsement of a third-party business or service.
  • If you are concerned about a post or comment or are unsure if it should be deleted or hidden, please contact Global Marketing and Communications. If you believe a post poses a threat, notify the Northwestern Police Department.
  • By submitting content to Northwestern social media sites (including copy, graphics and photographs), social media users acknowledge that this information is available to the public, and that Northwestern may use this information for internal and external purposes. Consider adding this disclaimer as a reminder when specifically engaging in a project or post that involves soliciting user-generated content (UGC).
    • A best practice, when possible, is to ask users for their permission before re-posting their UGC.

Additional Guidance on Conduct and Responsibility

Northwestern’s social media channels are an integral part of the University’s brand. When you represent the University on social media platforms, it is important to adhere to Northwestern’s standards for employee, faculty and/or student conduct. Administrators of University-affiliated social media sites must adhere to all University policies, including the following: