Searching for new social media content to share on Facebook and Instagram? Hoping for more engagement? You can accomplish both of those goals with an Instagram campaign of user-generated content, or UGC. UGC is content created by users which can come in a variety of mediums, such as text, images, videos, and audio.
On Instagram, UGC created by your target audience can help other potential customers see themselves in those creative assets and can then enter your sales funnel through a variety of means. In addition, it will help build trust in your brand, drive more engagement, and ultimately, help your bottom line. Regardless of your business size, encourage your customers to share content and if they already are, share it!
In this guide, we’re sharing everything you need to know to effectively use user-generated content on Instagram:
- How to source user-generated content
- How to use your UGC on Instagram to boost engagement
- How to provide a high-quality customer experience
Let’s get started!
How to source UGC for Instagram
Where do you begin? Well, the beauty of social media is that you can make it social, conversational, and creative. Some ways we recommend to clients and see success with is to start a hashtag trend, as a question, engage in influencer partnerships. Here’s how you can get started sourcing UGC for Instagram with these methods.
1. Start a hashtag trend
Encourage your fans/followers to contribute and show off what they have using a unique hashtag you created. If you have some in mind, check their usage by searching the Instagram hashtags in the respective channels. Your posts to encourage users to use your hashtag could be a way for them to show how they are styling a retail product you are selling, a tool you are providing and what they’ve built using it, or the ways your service makes their life better. An added perk of doing this is that you can then easily track submissions, especially on Instagram where you can search and follow a hashtag. This will also serve as your creative arsenal anytime you want to share some UGC content.
Check out the effective way that procreate encourages their customers and people who aren’t yet to do so below.
2. Ask a question
This one’s simple: Post a question and simply encourage your followers to share a post and tag you. After all, people enjoy being featured and feeling special.
American Eagle is even more direct about asking their fans if they want to be featured, right in their Instagram bio and all users have to do is use their hashtag.
3. Partner with influencers
On a larger scale, we often see celebrities endorsing products on social media. This requires a larger budget, so it may not be so easy to come about for small businesses or limited budgets. Worry not, as there are ways you can partner with microinfluencers. For example, if you are a clothing boutique, seek out a local fashion blogger in your area and discuss a small partnership opportunity with them. If you’re a law firm, seek out local businesses that you’ve worked with before and do the same, because you may have helped them incorporate when they opened and they can share a story about how you were involved. If you’re in real estate, there’s plenty of opportunity there with people you helped purchase or sell their homes. Influencers are great at creating unique content that is genuine to them and their followers, giving you fresh user-generated content to work with.
Another thing you can do with your influencers is have them run a contest from their accounts. If you can, give away one of your products or services. If the cost is too high, you don’t have to give away anything big and still find success with something like this. While product giveaways have been successful, we have seen great success with any type of prize, such as branded tees, bags, and even stickers. Again, making the user feel special.
How to use your UGC on Instagram
Now that you have all of this great content, let’s discuss the various ways you can use it to not only improve the appearance of your profile, but also boost your engagement and conversions. Using Facebook and Instagram, you can share the user-generated content, as long as the user account does not have their account set to private. Though, with Instagram, if a private user tags you, they have an option on their end to select if you can share it in your Instagram Stories. Often times, users will select this if they tag you.
Here are some excellent examples of what brands are doing with their UGC that perhaps you can find inspiration with and emulate with your own flavor as it relates to your brand.
Is someone raving about you? Repurpose and reshare it on your channels and showcase real people sharing genuine and glowing content about you. The best content does come from true fans posting unprompted content, such as this one that thanks and reviews one of my personal local favorite wineries, Serrano Wine in Paso Robles. Loryn Powell shares a review of her visit to their tasting room on Instagram Stories.
She raves about how the owners were so wonderful to speak with, and she talks about their wine and how everyone should try it. The kicker is she didn’t get paid to do it. As a comedian, this user has 50K fans on Facebook and 90.1K followers on Instagram. This was an excellent opportunity for Serrano Wine to expand its reach and potentially get more people into the tasting room as a result of the genuinely good service and products. Resharing posts like these, or even posts with your product featured, is a must.
2. Post with a cause
Find user-generated content that you can append to a relevant post. For instance, here’s a terrific example from Hydro Flask on Facebook, where the company shares an informative post about how you can join it in reducing single use plastics and complemented their post with a beautiful nature photo with their product placed from a customer.
Collecting reviews? Put those to use! Either share them in the copy of the post or more effectively, create an image or video using the review like Dove does below in this Instagram ad.
If someone loves your brand, don’t be shy and ask them for a photo or video review, too. People are often very willing to provide assets such as these.
4. Create an offshoot account
If you have a large volume of Instagram UGC that could serve your brand well in a standalone account, try it out, like Uber has with their Overheard Uber account.
To encourage submissions, Uber invites rideshare users to DM the account with submissions. Another thing to take note here is that the company saves its Instagram Stories and categories them so you viewers can view them even after the ephemeral content disappears 24 hours after the initial post.
5. Impact your audience
While the possibilities are endless, given the many variables out there that are business and audience specific, if all you have is a photo, simply sharing that, too, can be effective on days where you need to post something but may be short on content. If it can make someone smile, inspire an idea, open up a conversation, inform, educate, or help, use that content to do so.
6. Promote with Facebook and Instagram Ads
If you have a budget for Facebook and Instagram Ads, take your organic efforts to a new level. Expand your reach, visibility, engagement, and sales with new audiences and reconnect with ones that may already be familiar with you by promoting your user-generated content. Even if you have a budget of only $5/day, it’s amazing what you can accomplish. Of course, if you have more budget, that’s better, as you can cast your net wider to bring in new people to discover your brand, and move them further along your sales funnel. The faster you can learn what is and is not working well with particular audiences, messaging, and ads, the quicker you can make decisions on what to stop and where you can ramp up.
How to provide a high-quality customer experience
Remember, users aren’t necessarily generating content for your brand to share. Interactions with your customers or followers on Instagram are still reflections of your brand, and it’s important to treat them that way. Here are a few things you need to keep in mind using Instagram UGC.
1. Ask permission
Before sharing someone else’s content, even if they tagged you in it, it’s best to ask for permission to minimize any backlash. Comment on their post or DM them and ask if you can share it. Take a screenshot of the approval as back up and save it as a precaution. Other times, a legal disclaimer added to your posts that source UGC can be an alternative. To be safe, ask your business attorney for their recommendation.
2. Give credit where it’s due
If someone took the time to share a post and tag you in it, give them credit by tagging them in your reshare. Some brands use copy that says “image courtesy of @___,” others add a camera with flash emoji 📸 followed by the handle of the content creator, and others use #rg ____ which stands for “regram” on Instagram.
An example of the latter can be seen use on American Eagle’s Instagram account:
3. Give thanks
Comment on the user’s original post to let them know you appreciate it. It can go a long way by making them feel special and you may even get yourself a customer for life.
4. Keep track
Create a way of tracking your UGC. Typically, with our clients, we will create a spreadsheet with links, screenshots, and details about who shared it, when, and other helpful information about the types of campaigns we can use them for.
Go get started with UGC on Instagram!
Now we’ve covered all the basics and best practices for boosting engagement with UGC for Instagram: how to source the content, how to use it for organic and paid means on Facebook and Instagram, and how to make sure you offer a great customer experience. With user-generated content, the possibilities of the ways you can use them to benefit your business marketing efforts are plentiful. Have fun, get creative, and generate success!