User-generated content: a quick guide

If you run a business, then you may have been tagged in social media posts by people who have either visited your premises or purchased your products. Wonderful! This is a great way to have your brand reach people who are similar to your current customers, especially if the content is positive and appealing — money literally cannot buy this genuine praise online.

So, how can you get more people to share their positive experiences with your brand online, and what can you then do with that content?

Firstly, what is user-generated content?

User-generated content (or UGC) is a term that describes photos, videos, or written reviews — created by individuals, rather than by brands. If you’re interested in reading a more in-depth description, head on over to the Hootsuite blog to read their article ‘A Marketer’s Guide to Using User-Generated Content on Social Media’. Basically, if someone has snapped a photo of your product and shared it online, then this is what we’d call user-generated content; and it can be used effectively to promote your business.

Why is user-generated content so important?

Sharing genuine positive user-generated content on your brand’s social media channels can really help boost consumer confidence. But even if you choose not to include or share user-generated content in your marketing strategy, it’s vital to keep tabs on what your customers are saying about your product or service online. It’s also important to interact with them, pass on thanks for good feedback, and promise to follow-up on constructive criticism.

Don’t be afraid to ask!

You can prompt your customers at any stage during the journey of their interaction with your brand, and it depends on what you’re comfortable with and what works for you. Always make sure to follow up with your customers once they’ve made a purchase, or after they’ve experienced your service. A simple email is often enough — thank them for choosing you, mention that you appreciate their visit/purchase, and make it clear that you’d be interested to hear their feedback. Drop a few links to your social media pages, and offer an incentive for them to leave their positive review or referral — maybe a small discount on their next visit? We’ve implemented this strategy for a current client, and the feedback in return has been really constructive for the business owner, as well as a way to collect testimonials and images to use on social media to attract new customers.

Can I use this content?

First, find out where the content has been posted. It’s likely that if you’re seeing the content – as a business – then the photo has been posted to a public account, accessible by anyone. This is an important first step in determining if you can use it. If it is? Then the next step is to reach out to the owner of the image and ask if they’d mind if you share it. Steer clear of any content you find shared in groups or forums (e.g. small private groups on Facebook), stick to the content people have willingly shared publicly.

Do I need permission to share a publicly posted image?

Short answer: not really, and it’s complex. But is it good etiquette to ask? YES. In our experience, 99% of people are happy to allow their image to be shared. There will always be someone who perhaps would rather you didn’t share their image. That’s ok! Even though you’re technically legally allowed to share something when it’s posted publicly, it’s much better to respect the wishes of your customer and leave it. Just send the owner of the content a direct message and say that you’d love to feature their photo on your social media channels (make sure to be specific about which ones!) and wait for their written response.

Do I need to credit the photographer?

Absolutely. According to the Copyright Act in Australia, when a work of art (such as a photo) is created, the copyright is automatically owned by the creator, or, in this case, the photographer, unless the photograph was expressly commissioned for a client in a commercial contract. Don’t know who took the photo? Best thing to do is not use it.

Can I modify the image?

This is a bit of a grey area… It’s not the done thing to photoshop or drastically change someone’s content, but if you need to add a frame or very slightly tweak the angle or brightness, then this is widely agreed as acceptable. Don’t offend the owner of the image by making drastic ‘improvements’. Use it in its purest form or don’t use it at all.

How do I encourage more user-generated content?

There’s lots of ways to prompt someone to post online about your brand — but the best kind of content is unprompted content, and this is usually the result of a business exceeding expectations and creating a ‘wow’ moment. So keep on top of your game, delight people, and the UGC should emerge naturally.

Got a question about how you can implement this strategy for your own business? Give us a shout!