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Jun 14

How To Legally Use User-Generated Content

With the internet at your fingertips, you are able to search for any photo you need in about two seconds. Need a picture of the beach for your scrapbook? Done. Have a website for your bicycle business and need a nice photo of a bike? Well, you’ll be able to find the photo, but the catch here is, you will most likely will run into copyright issues.





It might seem easy to find a nice photo to use from the internet, but in reality, each and every photo you find was created by someone, and in most cases you need their permission to use it.


This goes for social media as well. You cannot simply take someone else’s photo and post it on your account as your own original photo. That is a big no-no. It is essentially stealing, and no one likes to be stolen from.


So how can one use user-generated content and why can it sometimes be better than glossy stock photos? Well, let me ask you this: what do you trust more? A photo staged and shot by a professional, or a photo taken by a real consumer like yourself? I think most would pick the latter. Lots of people can see past the advertising scheme of luring consumers in with pretty photos which isn’t representative of the product. People trust other people that have unbiased opinions on products.




Now, to address the previous question of how you can get user-generated content to use for for your business: there are a few ways you can go about this.



1. Photo Contests & Sweepstakes

You have the power to create any kind of contest for your audience to participate in. Typically, businesses go for photo based contests. The benefit for you? You get support from real people showing off how they enjoy using your product or service and also get photos of your service/product being used by real people. In return, you give people a discount code or cool swag from your business that they will enjoy.


With contests and sweepstakes comes legal notices you must abide to. Here is a guide to help you run a clean contest.



2. Use branded hashtags

By creating a specific hashtag unique to your business, you can garner lots of user-generated content. If you ask your audience to use your specific brand hashtag, you will be able to track every photo that has been uploaded. Along with this, other people will be able to search your specific hashtag and see photos related to your business.


A tip for creating a hashtag is to keep it unique. Using a common hashtag like #coffee will give you millions of posts that have #coffee. With this, your photo will get lost in those millions of other posts that have the hashtag #coffee. Say you use something like #BlueCoffeeHouseSF. This is a more specific hashtag that can lead your audience directly to your brand.



3. Repost

Reposting user-generated content lets people know that you are aware and care about your followers and their loyalty to your brand. It is also a way to start conversations by bringing actual consumers’ opinions into the mix. By reposting users’ positive content about your business, it provides more authenticity to your brand.


These are just a few ways to use and receive user-generated content, but the basic rule of thumb with all of this is to always ask for permission from users before posting anything as your own, always give credit where it is due, and make sure to have clear guidelines if you are going to run a contest.