How to Source UGC Photography Like a Pro: A Guide for Brands

Jade Cottee
Jade Cottee
Content Marketing Manager

Product photography is evolving.

Instead of traditional branded photos, brands are now allowing users to express their love for their products through personal pictures and videos. 

But how can you encourage users to create high-quality, authentic content for your brand?

Read on to find out. 

Our step-by-step guide will show you how to:

  • Source user-generated content (UGC) photography 
  • Obtain permissions from users
  • Create a UGC photography library

By the end, you’ll be able to source UGC photography like a pro! 

Let’s begin!

Step #1: Create & Promote Branded Hashtags

Everybody who’s on social media is familiar with the term ‘hashtags.’

However, only a few people understand its importance as part of a marketing strategy.

Hashtags are a tool to create buzz and popularize your brand. They help you keep your UGC pictures in one place. They also inspire customer engagement.

A branded hashtag is different from regular hashtags. It is a custom hashtag that is specific to your brand. 

This means that the hashtag aligns with your brand identity and serves as a huge part of your digital brand image.

Here’s an example of a branded hashtag on Instagram:

Image Source: Instagram

Not sure how to come up with one for your brand? 

We’ve got you. Below are the steps to create your branded hashtag.

Step #1: Choose an objective

To find the best fit, you need to define what you hope to achieve by using a hashtag.

Are you creating a branded hashtag for a campaign?

Is it specific to your online community?

Or do you want an all-in-one hashtag that can be used for various purposes?

These questions can help you think of the right hashtag.

Step #2: Decide what your hashtag name will be based on 

You have to decide if you want your hashtag to be based on your brand name, your best-selling product, or your tagline.

The hashtag you choose should be short, appealing, and simple. It should align with your brand voice to enable your followers to easily identify with it.

Here are a few examples: #letsdolunch, #shareadiet, #imperfectskins. 

Step #3: Promote your hashtag

Organically promoting your hashtags can be done by consistent posting and use.

But, when promoting them, refrain from using or spamming audiences with your hashtags. Otherwise, they’ll become mere filler words and cease to hold any value.

Incorporate your hashtags on all social media channels, such as Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn.

Also include your hashtags on your website, email copies, and hard copy advertising tools.

  • Increase visibility with strategic use

This goes beyond posting your hashtags on social media. You should tailor your usage to specific social platforms and posts.

For instance, you can schedule to use 1–3 hashtags on each Twitter post. Whereas on Instagram, you can use up to 30 hashtags (a combination of your branded hashtags alongside trending hashtags).

  • Measure your hashtag performance

Analyze your hashtags to determine which of them work for you and what needs to be changed.

You can track performance by using metrics, such as the number of likes, comments, views, clicks, and shares.

After creating your branded hashtag, the next step is to launch contests that motivate users to generate content.

Step #2: Launch UGC Contests to Motivate Users to Create UGC Content

In 2011, Coca-Cola launched its first “Share a Coke” campaign in Australia. The campaign was targeted at personalizing the experiences of consumers.

Image Source: Instagram

People could customize their names or whatever they wanted on their Coke bottles. 

The campaign sought to inspire consumers to share moments of happiness with loved ones whose names appeared on a bottle of Coke.

The campaign fostered personalization as well as becoming a source of UGC for Coca-Cola. 

Even though Coca-Cola didn’t promise any prizes, many users shared pictures of their personalized Coke bottles, and some even got featured by Coca-Cola.

Launching a UGC campaign or contest inspires users to be creative. 

Glossier, a beauty brand, occasionally organizes giveaway content to source UGC and increase sales and customer base.

Image Source: Glossier

Winners are promised a variety of brand products. The attachment of prizes helps attract and keep more people invested in the contest.

You can encourage your users to post high-quality pictures or videos of themselves using a concept, a hashtag, or a tagline.

In exchange for this, they get to win a certain prize. The reward could be a discount, money, or a free gift.

To keep track of the contest, you can require participants to tag your brand on their posts or submit their entries, all of which you repost to your page.

To kick-start the process, you can find influencers and digital creators on platforms like Insense. These creators inspire others to join the contest.

Step #3: Engage with Content Creators & Build Relationships

Six years ago, Aerie, the e-commerce apparel retailer, collaborated with an influencer for a UGC contest.

Image Source: Aerie

They encouraged users to create content for the chance to win a $500 shopping spree and to hangout with the influencer they collaborated with.

The love for that influencer inspired people to create UGC and participate in the contest.

You can leverage this collaborative strategy.

Begin by building a positive relationship with UGC creators who understand and align with your brand values.

You can encourage them to either collaborate with your brand for contests or to create their own UGC. 

UGC platforms like Insense make your collaboration easier.

Here are some features you can use on Insense:

  • Creator marketplace: helps you match with the best digital creators for your brand.
  • Direct chat: fosters healthy communication between you and the creator.
  • Campaign management: manage all creator agreements and curate all delivered UGC images and videos in one place.

The collaborative relationships you build with the right creators will act as a boost to your UGC campaigns.

While building these relationships, you have to deal with lots of creators and manage many digital assets. 

That’s why the next step is crucial. 

Step #4: Create a UGC Photography Library

A UGC photography library would save you a lot of hassle. You don’t have to scroll through endless junk looking for a photo a user shared some time ago. 

With your library, you can access, manage and organize the images posted by users. 

It’s like a swipe file where you can even draw inspiration to create branded content and curate your portfolio. 

Image Source: ClickZ

Having a UGC photo library will save you lots of resources.

Instead of hiring professional photographers or purchasing stock images, you can easily use the creativity and skills of your community to achieve even better results.

The benefits of UGC photos also include having authentic visuals for your e-commerce marketing campaigns.

 These photos can be repurposed later for social media posts, email newsletters, advertisements, and product packaging.

Just like mood boards that often serve to keep aesthetic consistency, the UGC galleries on your website, ads, packages, emails, and posts, can increase the aesthetic appeal of your brand, thereby driving organic traffic.

Like everything else, there are best practices for putting together a UGC photo library. 

Ensure to use only high-quality images that align with your brand identity. 

When posting these images, also consider the copyright laws and usage rights of your users.

Typically, you do not need to get permission if your library links back to the original post of the user.

Nevertheless, it is necessary that you understand how to obtain the right permissions to display and distribute the images in your UGC library.

Step #5: Obtain Proper Permissions & Post

You certainly want to avoid being caught up in copyright issues with your users.

To avoid this, you can implement the following practices:

  • Use consent forms

Ensure that content creators grant permission for your brand to use their content in marketing materials.

To do this, you might want to consider using consent forms or agreements.

  • Communicate

Clearly communicate the terms and conditions of use.

Outline details, such as requirements, duration of the permission, platforms the content will be displayed on, restrictions, compensations if applicable, and any other relevant information.

  • Adhere

Obey the specific platform's guidelines and policies when using UGC photography on Instagram, TikTok, or any other channel.

  • Comply

Ensure compliance with copyright and intellectual property laws to avoid legal issues.

Over to You

Your ability to effectively source UGC photographs can yield significant results for your content marketing efforts.

Adequately implementing the steps outlined in this guide will take your UGC sourcing skills from zero to a hundred. 

Want to learn more about user-generated content? 

Explore more UGC-related topics!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Below are answers to some of your most important UGC-related questions on e-commerce.

Q1. Why is UGC photography important for brands?

It boosts authenticity, builds trust, and helps e-commerce brands connect with their audiences. The diversity it brings allows brands to display their products and product photos in real life situations with the average customer.

Q2. How can brands encourage followers to create UGC photography?

Actively engage your followers through contests, giveaways, and challenges. In exchange for their experiences and content, offer shoppable rewards, incentives, recognition, and features.

Q3. Are there any risks to using UGC photography?

Copyright infringement is the most common risk faced by e-commerce bands. However, you can overcome this by using consent forms and adhering to the specific usage right of the channels you use.

Q4. Should brands use UGC in paid advertising?

Yes. It is a cost-effective way.

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Jade Cottee

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