It might surprise you to hear that statistics say you’re just about the last person your audience wants to hear from.

According to Crowdtap, millennials are 50 percent less likely to trust material from traditional sources (that’s us), than user-generated content.

But don’t take it personally.

It turns out that this unwillingness on the part of millennials to trust and engage with brand-centric content can actually be a huge opportunity for marketers.

The only problem? Time.

Nearly every content marketing professional worries about how to keep up with the unending number of demands on their time.

Fortunately, there’s a solution – Instagram.

Instagram might not seem like the most arduous platform for content creation, but there’s always more content to create and seemingly never enough time (or money) to do it.

Even worse, the content we do produce sometimes fails to elicit any sort of tangible result whatsoever. It’s a real problem.

Think about things this way, though …

What if millennials’ distrust for brand-based content is actually – in a sick, twisted sort of way – the answer?

I believe it is.

Why? Well, while web users are disregarding marketing messages all over the place, they’re actively generating, sharing and engaging with content produced by other users.

UGC infographic sample for leverage user-generated content

The same study from Crowdtap indicates that young people spend as many as five hours every day consuming user-generated content (UGC).

They engage with it more freely, trust it further and are more easily moved to action by it than any other type of content.

The best part is that user-generated content is easy for marketers to harness and benefit from. Instagram, perhaps more than any other platform, is the ideal place to do it.

Whether this is your first time leveraging Instagram UGC or your hundredth, the following eight tips will help improve your results and prevent potential snags:

1. Choose a powerful hashtag for submissions

One of the easiest and most effective ways to get users to supply you with content is to encourage them to tag photos with a special hashtag. With a user’s permission, you can then grab the best ones and post them on your own account.

Burberry, the famous English fashion brand, was concerned that its brand identity was growing old and irrelevant. They created a wildly successful user-generated marketing campaign built around the hashtag #ArtOfTheTrench.

#ArtOfTheTrench hashtag for leverage user- generated content

Users posted photos of themselves wearing the iconic Burberry trench coat to both a specific website and Instagram. Thousands participated and the brand’s image was reinvigorated.

Burberry barely produced a single piece of content.

A weaker hashtag probably wouldn’t have yielded such dramatic results.

2. Make your product ‘Instagrammable’

Remember the Share a Coke campaign?

By simply personalizing their bottles, Coke turned something that was ubiquitous in society into something unique, personal and eminently shareable.

We all know how it turned out.

Instagram – and every other social media platform, for that matter – was flooded with images of Coke bottles for months.

If your product lends itself to Instagram, you’ll have no problem finding user-generated content to post. If your product or service isn’t naturally sexy, find a way for users to add value to it.

I mean, whose idea was it to start drawing on Starbuck’s cups, anyway?

If you’re really stuck with all of this UGC goodness, Instagram marketing agencies like Kickstagram specialize in helping businesses make their products and services more social media-friendly.

Whatever the case, remember – UGC is all about adding new voices to the conversation.

3. Make sharing mutually beneficial

This is sort of a no-brainer, but it’s worth your time.

If Instagrammers don’t feel flattered or excited that you’re interested in their posts, they probably won’t submit them to you. You need to be able to offer them some kind of incentive.

Instagram post from Buffer’s Instagram account for leverage user-generated content

Though you certainly could, I’m not proposing that you offer any kind of financial or product-based incentives like the majority of user-generated content campaigns outside of Instagram.

I’m just saying that you need to offer something in exchange for a user’s efforts.

Give them a shoutout if you use their post. Follow their account. Give them a coupon. As soon as it’s in a user’s best interest to share high-quality, creative posts with you, you’ll never want for content again.

4. Set the bar high, but eliminate barriers to entry

You can’t share just anything.

In order for this to work, user-generated content has to be beautiful and relevant, just like every other content type. For this reason, be selective about the posts you choose to share on your official feed.

If you can’t see a post resonating with your audience and yielding high engagement rate, leave it alone.

That said, it’s important that anyone could potentially be featured.

Companies that are successfully leveraging UGC on Instagram actively encourage photo submissions from anyone and everyone. If you limit your interest to professional photographers or influencers, the magic of UGC will be largely lost.

5. Get your website involved

Instagram is a powerful marketing tool, but it works even better when paired with other media channels as part of an integrated campaign.

Are you struggling to get users excited about submitting content? Create a special page on your website for submissions and find a way to make a promotion out of it.

Starbucks’ official website for leverage user-generated content

Both Burberry and Starbucks used their popularity on Instagram to expand into successful UGC marketing online. Burberry created an online fashion archive composed of independent users wearing their trench coats.

Starbucks held a contest to design a new cup, which resulted in 1,800 entries – and some pretty cool cups, to be honest.

Both companies expanded their audience and reach by connecting Instagram with other marketing channels.

6. Own a lifestyle

Brands like REI and GoPro have been hugely successful on Instagram, using almost nothing but UGC. The secret to their success is owning a certain lifestyle.

REI is a strong outdoor brand that features a lot of photos from users. When Instagrammers have cool hiking or camping photos and want publicity, they submit them almost automatically.

a post from REI’s Instagram account for leverage user-generated content

GoPro does the same thing with the culture of extreme sports and adventure travel.

Take a minute to think critically about the lifestyle associated with your brand. Chances are you’ll find some culturally relevant point to emphasize and build your campaign around.

7. Don’t wait for content to come to you

Well-established accounts don’t usually have any trouble finding user-generated content to publish. However, if this is your first attempt at a UGC campaign, it might take longer to get things up and running.

If you’ve created a hashtag and asked for submissions, but haven’t received anything outstanding, don’t be afraid to go looking for it.

It’s perfectly acceptable to reach out to Instagrammers via comment or direct message, asking to use a post. Most users will be flattered and helpful.

Once you have a few UGC posts up on your feed, others will be more likely to submit their own too.

8. Don’t halt your own content production

UGC is affordable, simple and very effective.

Many of the most successful branded accounts on Instagram publish almost nothing but UGC. However, it’s good to occasionally post something from your own camera.

Goody Silverstein’s Instagram account for leverage user-generated content

By keeping a balance, you’ll be better able to control your brand narrative and keep your audience informed as to any newsworthy happenings and upcoming events.


The bottom line is that many Instagram marketers are working harder than they need to. By using the above suggestions, they can harness the power of their audience and dramatically improve their ROI.

Don’t be afraid to add new voices to your digital dialogue.