UGC: What it is and How to Use it Correctly

If you are running a business, trying to keep up with social media and feeling the pressure to create fresh content, you will benefit from adding User Generated Content (UGC) into your marketing strategy.

Never heard of UGC? Fear not, as in this post we are going to tell you a) what it is b) how to use it and c) why it could be your new best friend.

Help! What is UGC?

UGC is online content, created and displayed publicly by others—it could be an Instagram picture, a Facebook post, an image on Flickr, a Wikipedia entry or a YouTube video. It is any kind of existing content that (if permission has been granted) businesses or social media managers can curate and repost, using it to fill their feed with beautiful pictures and to market their brand.

Have you ever noticed your favorite restaurant posting Instagram pictures from well-known foodies, giving them picture credit in the caption? Perhaps you remember Coca-Cola sharing images of their followers with personalized bottles during their "Share a Coke" campaign? Or how about Starbucks reposting consumers’ pictures during their 2016 Red Cup Art promo? These are all examples of UGC.

But How Do I Use It?

Just because Instagram pictures, Snaps, Facebook videos and suchlike are posted on social media, they aren’t free of copyright issues. While some consumers may be happy to have their pictures reposted, it’s worth remembering that not everyone feels this way and others could take offense and even pursue legal action if material is reposted without their consent.

Social media analyst Susan Etlinger addressed the ethics behind permission requests in her recent paper, The Impact of Digital Content: Opportunities and Risks of Creating and Sharing Information Online:

“Social media platforms can appear to provide an unending source of free content. However, just because this information appears on the internet does not make it accessible for unbridled use. When looking to incorporate user-derived content, people should be aware of applicable copyright licenses and of the various terms of agreement that users have signed with social media sites.”

There are infinite examples of people and/or businesses using UGC without asking for permission, simply adding in photo credit as a hat tip to the content creator. Yet, by the letter of the law, you should always, ALWAYS ask for explicit approval.

In most cases, it’s very easy to do – just ask! Request approval and tell the content creator how and where the image/video will be used. In the example below, we asked to use an image from Oahu photographer, Misha Kreker (@ikreker) on our own social media channels:

There are other ways—some brands ask for approval in the way of a branded hashtag, as seen in the UGC here, reposted by Air BnB with #airbnbphoto.

Make sure when you post your own curated UGC that you both tag the content creator and mention them with picture credit in the caption.

Another option for generating UGC is creating an online picture competition for your business. Here, online followers are encouraged to submit their own pictures with a unique, branded hashtag and in your competition rules, explicitly state where and how their entries will be reposted.

UGC: My New Best Friend?

If you are a social media marketer or a business owner who needs material, trust us, you will grow to love UGC.

Not only do you get fresh, beautiful content to curate and add to your social content calendar but you will seriously improve your promotion efforts: Studies have shown that UGC is 35 per cent more memorable than other media and that it is a whopping 50 per cent more trusted than other media!

UGC also encourages engagement and drives follower counts, it makes your fans feel seen and heard, it humanizes your brand and it gives an accurate and unbiased representation of your business. As long as you use it correctly, UGC is a must for any social media marketing efforts.

Confused? Have questions? Want to make Cake Media (and not UGC…) your new best friend? Contact us today!