Avoid These 3 Mistakes When Sharing UGC

Please note, I’m not providing you legal advice. This is an opinion piece based on years of experience and best practices at the time of writing this post. You can refer to Instagram’s most recent Terms of Use here.

User-Generated Content (UGC) is content posted by a user that you then reshare on your own account. UGC is a great way to curate your Instagram feed with images related to your business. In fact, research suggests that customers view UGC as a more trustworthy source and in return are more likely to purchase your products or services.

It can also get you into trouble if you go about it the wrong way. When a user posts original content to Instagram, that user is considered the owner of that content. It’s crucial you understand the correct way before you find yourself in a PR nightmare or even worse, a lawsuit.

Here are 3 common mistakes brands make when sharing UGC...

1. Not asking permission.

This is non-negotiable. Yes, a lot of people are more than happy to give you permission. However, some users charge for the use of their content and others avoid it altogether. See this post from a photographer’s point-of-view.

Even if the user tags you or uses your branded hashtag, the best practice is to follow-up and ask permission anyway.

To ask permission, you can leave a comment under the post or use the share button to message it to them and ask directly. Caution when using the message option, if they aren’t following you, sometimes those messages go unnoticed. You may get a quicker response if you post your request as a comment.

I think one of the reasons users fail to ask for permission is because they are in a rush to post to their own accounts and don’t want to wait for a response giving them the go-ahead. To avoid this, save posts as you see them and organize them in a folder in your saved posts area.

Planning your content in advance is another great way to avoid this mistake. If you’re looking for a way to streamline that, send me a note!

2. Not crediting the original source.

This is when you share someone’s post without taking the time to read through the caption to see that it’s already a shared post. You then re-share it on your account and give credit to the account you saw it on… not the user that posted it originally.

I see all of the time and I try my best to tag the original source in the comment section if I recognize the work. When you share a post, you have you to give credit to the user that posted it first so be sure to look through the caption for the original source.

And if you find a picture on Pinterest you want to post, but can’t find the original source, do not post it! Giving credit to “pinterest” is not acceptable and will make your brand look untrustworthy.

3. Hiding the source.

Tagging the source in the photo is not enough. You must credit the source in the caption of your image. And don’t hide it at the bottom of your caption amongst your 30 hashtags. That’s just rude. If you’re going to repost someone’s work, you need to give them credit without trying to hide it. If you can’t do this, avoid posting UGC and stick to your own original content.

If you’re feeling guilty, just know you’re not alone. It’s not like these things are posted as concrete rules somewhere and you can probably get away with doing it incorrectly…until you get called out. But now that you know better, you must do better. You don’t want to put your brand at risk.

Because of how quickly it changes and evolves, digital marketing can be a lot like the Wild West. As Instagram introduces new features, we have to adapt and figure out the new best practices. You’ve probably noticed they now allow users to share posts in their story. It’s really easy to do this, just take a look at the video below.

What if you share someone's post to your Stories?

When you use the share feature Instagram gives you, the post becomes a sticker providing viewers a clickable link directly back to the source. You can only share posts from accounts that are public and public accounts have the ability to opt-out of this. Because of that, the rules are more relaxed when sharing to your Stories if you’re utilizing the share button.

Create a Terms of Use Agreement for UGC

You can have an Agreement created by a legal professional that you can host on a page of your website. Then, when you ask for permission to share a piece of content, you can link to the agreement. You’ll see large brands do this by leaving a comment similar to, “Hey, we love this photo and would love to share it! Please review our terms (link here or we DM’d you the terms) and if you agree, reply with #yesbrandname.”

Instagram is all about community and User Generated Content is a great method for increasing engagement and expanding your reach. With a little extra planning, you can ensure you’re doing it right.

Erika Conleay Digital Marketing Consultant

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