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In the seventh addition to the “Instagram Marketing” series we will show you how to create and run user-generated content.

Instagram is the perfect platform for storytelling and community building, we know that by now. But sometimes, generating enough high-quality content to support your mission can prove to be difficult. So how you can you take your account to the next level without driving yourself mad? User-Generated Content (UGC). User-Generated Content has been proven to be a great tool in boosting engagement, following and brand awareness. For example, Buffer recently released a stat stating that their Instagram account grew by 60% in only 3 short months just by initiating their UGC campaign.

Instagram Marketing: So what is a User Generated Content campaign and why is it so important?

A UGC campaign is essentially a brand collecting high-quality content from other users on the platform and publishing it to their own profile. Still a little confused? Let’s look at an example. One of the best accounts following this UGC method is Barkbox. Check out their page, almost all of their photos come from other people! Adorable, isn’t it?

So why is this user content so important for your business? Well, other than the fact that it is proven to grow and cultivate your following, it allows you to begin building a loyal and engaging tribe around your brand. By building out a UGC campaign, you are essentially allowing your fans right into your own home. UGC campaigns allow your fans to see real people having real, honest input into your brand. You’re getting personal, if you will.

Want to know what else? Research has proven that UGC makes an impact on consumers. Check out this stat: 51% of Americans trust UGC more than other information on a company website or news articles about the company when looking for information about a brand, product, or service. Over half! You don’t want to be ignoring that 51% by missing out on UGC.

Now that I’ve convinced you how incredible UGC is, are you ready to jump into it? Let’s do it.

Instagram Marketing: Follow these steps to create a rockstar UGC campaign
Research what your fans are already posting about
Ah. Research. Here we are again sitting pretty at number 1. Everything you do should always start with research. The best way to kickstart your UGC campaign is to first get an idea of what’s already out there. You know what your brand stands for, what it represents and what lifestyle it supports, but do your fans agree? This is an important question that you need to answer before jumping into anything else. Find out what your fans are already posting about. What do they love? What lifestyle do they live? How do your products support that lifestyle? You don’t want to ask users to generate content that is out of their comfort zone. You want your request to be easy, simple and align with their current social media presence.Let me give you an example. Let’s say I follow two accounts, both running UGC campaigns. One account asks users to “post a photo of your favorite sports car using the hashtag #mycaristhefanciest” while the other account asks users to “post a photo of your favorite furry friends with the hashtag #myfriendsarenthuman”. Now, let’s take a quick peek at my own Instagram feed….
Which UGC do you think I am most likely to participate in? (Insert awkward silence here) If you guessed the #myfriendsarenthuman campaign, congratulations, you aced my quiz!

What I have just proven here is that research is important. If you know your fan-base is wild about outdoor adventures, don’t ask them to post a mirror selfie. If you know your fan-base loves to cook and post about their delicious creations, don’t ask them to post a picture of their car. While you can’t encompass all of your follower’s interests into one campaign, it’s absolutely essential to find out what MOST of your followers are already posting about.

Create your branded-campaign
Now that you know the content you want, take a note from Beyonce and put a ring on it. You’ve found what you like, what your fans like, and what’s going to work for your brand, so it’s time to brand it. The easiest way to do this is to run a branded-hashtag campaign.
Adding a specific hashtag to your request is a win-win for both you and your users. It gives them an easy way to submit their content as well as an easy way for you to find it!
Make sure the hashtag is catchy, attention-grabbing, and relevant to your brand philosophy. Make sure that this hashtag is on all of your campaign posts along with a simple and clear CTA such as “post a photo using the hashtag #yourbrandedhashtag” so your users don’t forget.
Announce the campaign
You’ve done your research and you’ve put a ring on it, now it’s time to tell the world. This is the easiest step of all. First, find a photo or video that represents the type of content you are asking for. Next, post it to your page announcing your search for the best user-content (and make sure to include any incentives you are offering such as free product for the top posts). Lastly, let your fans now the terms and conditions of the campaign, how they submit, and finish it off with your lovely hashtag. Boom. Pop the Champagne and celebrate, your announcement is done.
Find some content
Your campaign is officially up and running, and that is great. But you can’t forget about it! From the minute you announce, your search is on. You want to look for user-content that is on point with your mission.A great way to kickstart your fans is to go ahead and start reposting photos that would fit perfectly into your campaign. At this point, you want to look for any and all high-quality images that would fit your brand theme, even if they haven’t actively engaged with your campaign. For example, if I was hosting a UGC campaign where I was asking for photos of people’s home offices, I would start by searching for users that have already uploaded awesome pictures, and repost those. Once users see that you are staying true to your word and reposting photos, they will be more likely to post their own AND use that amazing hashtag of yours.The best way to find content is to use Instagram’s own search tools. Search hashtags that are relevant to your campaign. Going back to our home office example, I would search #workfromhome or #workspace to find relevant photos. Remember, don’t forget to check your own hashtag consistently. Once users start posting photos using your hashtags, you want to repost as many as you see fit!
Ask for permission
Once you have found the content you are looking for, you need to ask for permission to repost! This shows your respect for the users’ content and starts a personal communication with a potential fan! Try something like this:

Hi @username! This photo is amazing, we love to see people sharing pictures of _____. Could we repost this to our page? We will make sure to tag you in it and give you full-credit!

Repost photos to your feed
Now that you’ve found the images you want to share and have asked permission to repost, it’s time to flip that content over to your own page! The best way to do this is to download the Instagram Repost app. To repost, you simply copy the post URL from Instagram, open the Repost app and it will walk you through the rest. Remember to tag the original owner of the photo, thanking them again for their input and using your branded hashtag!
Stay on top of submitted posts
You never want to let your campaign get away from you. If users are posting content, don’t ignore them. Like and comment on photos that are being uploaded, even if you do not intend on reposting them. Thank your fans for their entries to let them know that you appreciate them at every step.
Evolve your UGC campaigns
The best part about user-generated content is that it can become ever-changing and evolving for your brand. Now that you have launched your first campaign, your fans are ready to engage further. If you see that one campaign is running stagnant, evolve it! Change your hashtag, tweak your request, or reset it completely. UGC can quickly snowball into a beautiful influx of support and engagement, as long as you keep your fan-base hot and active!

And that’s a wrap! This post concludes the entire Instagram Marketing series. From why to how, we’ve covered your bases. You are ready to get out there and build your profile into a wildly successful account! If there is anything else you wanted me to cover, just reach out in the comments and let me know! Now… time to get ‘gramming.

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About the author

Kristen DeCosta

Kristen DeCosta is a growth marketer and content marketing specialist turning casual browsers into loyal customers.

When she isn’t busy working, you can find Kristen out hiking a mountain or snuggling with her three rescue dogs, Cooper, Tobi, and Finn.