The Best Way to Earn User Generated Content for Instagram

Influencer 101

Brands are right to go bonkers for user-generated content, or UGC. Some have even built their entire Instagram presence off it (see: REI and Petco, but warning: highly distracting cute dog photos ahead).

UGC works because it comes directly from consumers — no photoshoot or editing required, and the brand also doesn't need to *try* to come across as authentic. The content speaks for itself.

Brands with seriously devoted followings rarely have trouble coming up with user-generated content. Creating good products, sharing enjoyable store experiences, and guaranteeing great customer service can encourage users to share of their own accord.

But what if the UGC isn't flowing naturally for your brand? Many brands attempt to boost user-generated content by creating their own hashtag and sharing it on their profile. Anthropologie is one example; They encourage shoppers to use the hashtag #myanthropologie to curate content.

UGC instagram Anthropologie
Anthropologie's bio includes the #myanthropologie hashtag, which helps them curate Instagram UGC.

By reposting UGC that uses their hashtag, Anthro encourages more customers to take note and jump in, too. (Few Instagrammers would be unhappy with the free publicity of a regram from a huge social media account.)

Other examples include clothing brand Madewell's #everydaymadewell and give-one-get-one shoe brand Tom's #standfortomorrow. (The problem with non-branded hashtags is that the hashtag can be hijacked for other purposes, and it can be difficult to isolate content relevant or unrelated to your brand in particular.) Hashtags can be a great step in encouraging and also curating UGC from loyal customers.

Another tactic brands use is to launch a challenge, like REI's simply named #REIchallenge, in which they encouraged Instagram followers to share photos of how they "sustainably sip" in an anti-plastic campaign. They then reposted some of the most interesting content on their feed, earning even more engagements and building community with like-minded followers.

Similarly, brands can get Instagram followers excited by sharing free product, offering discounts and promos, or inviting social users to an event. While all of these tactics are solid strategies for building authentic UGC, they're limited. You only reach people who are already following your brand Instagram account, and you rely on social users to seek out and find the relevant hashtags to use them, or see them in your advertising elsewhere. This doesn't open you up to expanding your reach and drawing new customers into the fold.

Give User-Generated Content for Instagram a Boost With Influencers

Influencer marketing has a host of benefits, but one that goes understated is the "bonus" of earning UGC. Influencer marketing is a paid or incentivized exchange, so in and of itself, influencer sponsored content or "spon-con" is not necessarily UGC. However, influencers definitely widen your brand's reach and inspire the creation of UGC by a bigger net of followers.

The most important consideration? Finding influencers who can create content that has niche appeal and feels authentic, in the vein of UGC.

Not any influencer marketing campaign will generate UGC. You'll need to evaluate influencers carefully and make sure you strike the right chord. Overly posed and gimmicky content won't inspire. And if the influencer doesn't have a high engagement rate with their followers, it's unlikely you'll really inspire much of a ripple effect.

A major airline wanted to advertise its decision to ban single-use plastic straws on all its flights. To do so, they used HYPR's influencer marketing platform to find influencers who cared about sustainability, travel, and the environment. It was important to find influencers who were already aligned with the mission so their content would be genuine. They launched the #StrawlessSkies campaign across 18 influencers.

View this post on Instagram

Repost from @noel_russ - As lovers of wild spaces, we believe it’s important to preserve the places we play for generations to-come. Recently, @alaskaair announced that they are going straw-less on all of their flights in order to minimize their impact on our planet. This inspired me to share the steps we’re taking daily to reduce our carbon footprint while out on the road. One of the simplest ways to help cut down on waste, is by using reusable water bottles. We travel with a handful of them – a couple for us, a couple for the dogs – and we carry them wherever we go: on the trail, on the river, at the crag. These bottles can easily be refilled wherever potable water is provided – usually gas stations and grocery stores, but sometimes campgrounds, restaurants and rest stops. If water quality is questionable – you can always carry purifying tablets, or try a water bottle with a built in filter! We also love bringing our own mug when we stop by our favorite coffee shops – they keep our drinks warm for longer than any disposable cup, and sometimes we even get a discount for doing so! How do you challenge yourself to reduce your carbon footprint? Share your thoughts using #StrawlessSkies for a chance to win two flight vouchers to whichever Alaska Airlines destination your adventurous heart desires! #IFlyAlaska #ad. . . #vanlifeexplorers #vanlifediaries #vanlifers #vanlife #campervan #vansandgirls #camperliving #vangirl #vancamper #adventuremobile #girl

A post shared by Vans & Girls (@vans.and.girls) on

The paid campaign earned 1.4 million unique followers and 2.3 million impressions. But a secondary benefit — one that cost the airline nothing — was the UGC. They overall earned an additional 72 pieces of content and a reach of 280,000, for an astonishingly high 12.85% engagement rate. This cost them nothing, and was just an exciting byproduct of the influencer campaign.

user generated content instagram

A few reasons their influencer campaign worked so well for generating UGC:

  • The campaign had emotional and moral appeal, which truly compelled people to engage
  • The influencers chosen were closely aligned with the mission
  • The airline made sure to choose influencers using HYPR who had topical interests in environment, sustainability, travel, and outdoor sports
  • The geographic location of the influencers and their followers was closely aligned with the airline's major hubs
  • The original content was authentic, with in-depth heartfelt captions

Brands who invest in influencer marketing can drive important conversations and set the first domino in place for a viral campaign that results in UGC — a golden currency of social media marketing — that can be used to engage new customers and build brand affinity.

Read the full influencer travel case study here.

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