We’ve all heard the saying, “A photo is worth a thousand words.” But in today’s marketing landscape, a photo is also worth a thousand words of endorsement.

Brands were originally created because businesses needed to convey a specific product identity and distinguish themselves from similar products. It was important to build a trusted household name because consumers often bought based on brand and nothing else.

But in today’s hyper-connected world, a brand is no longer what it tells the consumer it is — but what consumers tell one other it is. Everyday, two billion photos are posted online. This user-generated content is essential for successful outbound marketing and is a valuable way for companies to validate and build global communities around their brands.

Getting customers to post on social media about your brand is a four-step process. It requires having a great product, being active on social media, making sure these photos are being shared and collected across channels and rewarding your brand advocates. Companies that successfully execute these steps will be able to drive sales through social media channels and offer shoppers a more engaging shopping experience.

1. Have a great product.

Legendary ad man David Ogilvy once said, “Great marketing only makes a bad product fail faster.” The only way to build a strong brand is to first create a great product. When you focus on customer experience and deliver a superior product at a great price, customers will project a brand upon you that is much stronger than any of your current marketing can create.

Still, a great brand name is earned, and it may take years to perfect your product. Once you have a great one, however, you’ll see high levels of customer recommendations, and your brand will further build itself.

2. Be active on social media.

The most important step for getting customers to post about your brand is to create a two-way conversation between your brand and your customers. This means setting up your brand’s social profiles across social networks. A conversation is the only way to create a real dialogue with customers and to join the dialogue around your brand on social media.

A conservation also humanizes your company and generates brand affinity and loyalty. When customers see brands celebrating their fellow customers, through posts, and engaging with real people, through comments, your social presence will be validated. And at that point, your brand will likely be reaching a larger audience.

To take things a step further, you can run contests and campaigns to increase social media engagement even more. Photo and video contests give fans and customers a reason to submit great content and share it with their own social communities.

3. Spread the word.

If you have a great product, it’s likely that customers are already taking photos of your product and sharing it online. So the next step is to find a way to search for and collect this content to create a cohesive hashtag community.

First, make sure that your “evergreen” hashtag is prevalent. An evergreen hashtag represents your brand as a whole. More often than not, if you lack one, your customers have already created one for you. Make that hashtag — wherever it’s from — a part of your content strategy on both social media and your own marketing and owned media.

Also put the hashtag on complimentary items and highlight it on your website. You want to make it easy for customers interacting with your brand to discover and join the conversation, with their own content.

4. Reward your brand advocates.

If you reward your customers for posting about your brand, you will increase the likelihood of their posting again. Consumers love being recognized for how they use your products post-purchase.

Highlight the innovative ways people are using your products by reposting their photos on your owned media. It’s a symbiotic relationship: You validate your consumers as trendsetters and they validate your brand’s social presence. When it comes to incorporating user-generated content onto your owned media, the post-purchase inspiration factor is invaluable.

A second way to reward your customers is by sending them swag. This is especially relevant for the social media contests you might run to collect content. Send gifts, discounts and other rewards to the winners of your contests. Rewarding your strongest brand advocates is a great way to keep them posting, and to strengthen loyalty to your brand.

Ultimately, the consumer’s voice is more powerful, memorable and trustworthy than that of the brand. If you are able to get customers posting about your brand, that boon can be leveraged in many ways.

Take advantage of user-generated content, whether that means creating shop-able galleries of customer photos on your owned media, placing customer photos in your paid ads or creating live displays of your visual content.

But the first step is to encourage customers to post visual endorsements and to collect these photos. If you follow the above steps, you’ll be well on your way to running a successful end-to-end campaign on social media.