If you’re looking to raise your profile, gain followers and create a bank of images that you can use yourself on the platform, user generated content (UGC) is the way forward. But what is UGC and how can you implement it yourself?
User generated content refers to images and videos created by followers, fans and customers of a brand.
Basically, you want to get people (either those who already follow you or a potential new audience) to share photos of your products organically, because they are fans and supporters of your brand.
Ideally, UGC would be used alongside sponsored campaigns with influencers, as they both serve different purposes.
There are many benefits to user generated content that are also true of influencer marketing, such as spreading your brand message, raising brand awareness and growing your Instagram following.
But whereas influencer campaigns tend to be sporadic and dependent on budget, UGC (when implemented correctly) should generate organically created content all of the time. The resulting posts are more authentic than sponsored campaigns, as people are creating and sharing the content themselves with no brief, editorial control or monetary gain. The opinions of existing customers matter most to potential customers.
For brands who don’t have their own photography or struggle with this side of their business, UGC is perfect. You can use the resulting images to curate your Instagram feed, sharing content that inspires others, promotes your product and also is constantly encouraging more UGC.
It’s also a great way to encourage sales, particularly of a new product or perhaps an item that isn’t performing well. If you announce a competition asking your followers to share their photos of the product for a chance of winning an amazing prize, you will find that people will rush out to purchase this item (price point depending) in the hopes of winning something of more value if their photograph is chosen.
There’s a low cost but a high return: if you implement this successfully, you should see dozens if not hundreds of images of your product in return for offering one prize.
How to implement UGC
- Encourage your followers to share images of your products by sharing your favourite photos on your feed or in your Stories. This is a great way to encourage those who want to raise their own profiles into creating high quality content in the hope that you will share it. Obviously, if you have a high following yourself, this will boost the attractiveness of this campaign. P.F. Candle Co. are a great example; they don’t actively ask people to share images of their candles and don’t even have an obvious hashtag to use, yet they get hundreds of people tagging them in photographs with the hope of their images being shared on their page.
- Run a competition, asking your followers to share a photo including your product, as mentioned above. Ethical American clothing brand, Christy Dawn, run their ‘Dawn on the Road’ competition annually, asking their followers to share photos of themselves wearing their Christy Dawn dresses in the hope of winning an amazing prize. This encourages people to spread the word about their brand and also results in higher sales, as people buy dresses specifically to enter the competition.
- Set up a hashtag, using it to track the progress of your UGC and also as a place where your followers can view each other’s images for inspiration. Include the hashtag in your Instagram bio and promote it regularly in your own content, to make it immediately clear when and how to use it. You could also place the hashtag on your product packaging to encourage people to share photos of their new purchases.
Are there any rules with UGC?
- Get permission to use the content. Most people will be thrilled but others may not want you to share their pictures. The easiest way is to send a DM or to leave a comment on their photo asking for their permission.
- Be respectful. Don’t edit anyone’s images and don’t share anything they don’t want you to share. Never, ever use their images for anything other than reposting on Instagram or other social channels without their explicit permission.
Always credit the owner of the photograph in the caption and tag them in the image.
- You don’t have to share everything! Share the best images, the ones that fit in with your own aesthetic on your feed. If you want to share the other images that don’t fit, you could share them on your Stories – but once you build up momentum you’ll have too many to share everything!
- Mix in with traditional influencer marketing for best results. High profile Instagrammers with high influences will want to work with in this way, rather than creating content that you can share for free.
Words by Emma Lavelle
Banner image from @qmike