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How to Create a UGC Strategy on Instagram

David Morneau

By David Morneau
14 min READ | Nov 9 2022

Imagine having something that irks you. It can be something you can point to – like lacking a proper pair of running shoes. Or, it can be something you can’t point to yet, but see the causes, like a complete mess in your pots and pans kitchen shelf.

A few decades back, seeing an ad about running trainers or rotating kitchen shelves would have produced that “a-ha!” spark in your brain.

Things look somewhat different today.

First, people started searching for ads on Google. After that, they started using social media as search engines. Then, their ad-related skepticism pushed influencers to the forefront.

Now, it’s UGC Instagram marketing taking the lead thanks to its highly authentic and pervasive nature.

Imagine coming home after a rough day, opening your Instagram to unwind, and suddenly seeing the solution to the problem that’s been bothering you lately.

And it would be right there, at the top of your feed.

That’s the power of UGC Instagram, and this guide teaches you how it works, the benefits, and how to build a strategy that works. There will also be plenty of examples, so keep reading below.

What Is Instagram UGC Marketing and How Does It Work?

First, what is user-generated content?

User-generated content is a self-explanatory concept: any form of content created by your brand’s users, aka your customers. These regular people post things about your company which you can then incorporate into your content strategies.

This authentic content includes:

  • Images
  • Videos
  • Text
  • Reviews
  • And so forth

Instagram UGC is any type of UGC shared on this social media channel.

Basically, you take your customers' – or even prospects and general audience – social media posts, repackage the very best, and then repost it on your Instagram account.

Sharing these original posts will increase your credibility because–and here’s a real shocker–people haven’t been trusting brand-created ads for a long time.

That brings us to the following point.

The Benefits of Using Instagram UGC in Your Marketing Campaigns

User-generated content has several benefits you probably already intuit:

  • It’s cost-friendly
  • It’s trustworthy
  • It’s authentic
  • It’s validating
  • It creates social proof
  • It increases product consideration
  • It dispels or at least attenuates purchasing fears
  • It amplifies brand recognition among several online communities

Here are some UGC statistics proving those points:

  • UGC ads cost half as much as traditional ones, but their click-through rate is 400% higher. And that’s just for ads; sharing UGC social posts is completely free.
  • 90% of people of all ages rely on UGC to make a purchase decision. In the 18-29 age group, this percentage climbs to 97%.
  • UGC is perceived as being 4 times more authentic than traditional branded content. Also, 51% of people believe brands are not producing trustworthy, genuine content.
  • Leveraging UGC can spike your brand engagement by 28%.
  • 83% of happy customers will share their purchase decisions with others.

Take these fantastic posts about REI.

Purchasing high-quality hiking products is a hassle. Many people are worried about size, fit, and functionality.

But seeing a slew of people vouching for REI products will dispel some of those worries; seeing a constant stream of these visual customer testimonials creates social proof, increasing product sales.

User-generated content from REI’s Instagram

Plus, REI knows which images to hand-pick for their Instagram account to associate their brand/products with a particular feeling of freedom that only hikers can understand.

Remember: That’s the basis of creating a tight-knit community. But, you'll need awesome products and customer service to keep your customers loyal.

What can you do with this information?

Leverage Instagram UGC in your UGC marketing campaigns to harness those benefits and more:

  • You can build your SEO with relevant keywords, images, and organic content.
  • You can target your potential customers with the information they trust on a channel they trust.
  • You associate your brand with a strong idea, emotion, or value, creating a tight-knit community.
  • You can spark conversations more easily.

Ultimately, that will bring you more recognition, awareness, and sales. According to StatusBrew, UGC on Instagram:

  • Creates 690% higher engagement than other types of content.
  • Is more convincing than other marketing tactics, with 60% of people saying they are more likely to purchase after seeing Instagram UGC.

Examples of Brands Crushing It with Instagram UGC

Now that you understand what Instagram UGC is and the benefits of incorporating it into your marketing campaign, let’s review some examples of companies doing it right:

1. Whole Foods

Whole Foods has this exceptional #WholeFoodsHaul campaign that encourages people to post photos of their shopping carts. The brand then uses this aggregate UGC to stay top of mind.

Branded hashtag campaigns are great for Instagram UGC and content marketing in general. Image source

This social media strategy is brilliant because:

  • People are curious by nature. They’ll want to know what others buy to quench this curiosity. Some people need more grocery ideas, while others have this inherent need to compare themselves to strangers.
  • Disclosure encourages self-disclosure, and that’s true regardless of people’s motivations to self-disclose. Whole Foods managed to target a vast market composed of very diverse audiences. Some people want to brag about their shopping, others want to make fun of their groceries, and others try to find support. As you can see, these people have different customer profiles. Regardless of that, Whole Foods targeted them all through this witty campaign.

2. Bluehouse Salmon

Bluehouse Salmon is an excellent example because it bases its content calendar mostly on UGC, much like the famous GoPro that everyone is citing.

And it’s one of the companies we worked with, so we’re biased.

But back to them.

Bluehouse Salmon retails organic salmon, and they’re a DTC brand. Besides, you can agree that organic salmon is not in the sexy products category like makeup or clothes.

Remember: The solution is always going back to the roots – meaning your customers’ needs.

In this case, the need isn’t just eating healthily; it’s finding an array of recipes for all tastes and needs.

That’s why Bluehouse Salmon reposts its customers’ content, thus:

  • Creating more awareness and social proof
  • Offering relevant, valuable information & cooking inspiration for its prospects
  • Reducing its advertising budget considerably

Look at those mouthwatering dishes. Image source

3. Sollybaby

This babywearing company leverages UGC on all fronts:

  • Giving credit to the people using their products in actually thoughtful posts instead of simple mentions:

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  • Using cute babies and parents while partnering with other baby-product companies:

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  • Highlighting how their products can be used for multiple purposes (again, showing real and cute babies and giving credit to the original content creators). Notice the specific insights into new moms’ problems, such as milk-stained nursing bras:

Source

  • Behind-the-scenes UGC with employees, like the video below with their Creative Director. This strategy enhances authenticity and loyalty, making prospects feel included in the creation process. Another advantage when using it right is that you can spark conversation and build an engaged community.

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  • UGC from the personal lives of people working at Sollybaby, thus showing they're real people too:

Source

How to Create a Successful Instagram UGC Campaign

Creating a successful Instagram UGC campaign isn’t as easy as copying what worked for other brands. You will have to strategize your content plans, starting from your goals.

Let’s begin:

1. Set Your Marketing Goals

  • Make sure these goals are aligned with your overall business goals.
  • Split a larger goal into more specific and measurable objectives.
  • Choose specific Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that show when these objectives have been reached.

2. Set Your Budget

Setting a budget is important because it keeps you in check. It also forces you to choose the most effective strategies that help you reach those goals.

3. Understand Your Audience

Who are you talking to? Options include, but are not limited to:

  • Your existing, loyal customers
  • Prospects
  • Customers who prefer other brands
  • An audience who has never heard of you

It’s important to figure out who you are addressing because that will help you craft your message. For example, you don’t have to build awareness with existing loyal customers through Instagram UGC; instead, you may use this tactic for upselling.

Pro tip: Use the right social listening tools to analyze different potential audiences.

What is your audience like?

Include all their characteristics, focusing on wants and needs. That way of thinking helps you figure out how to be persuasive and insightful when showcasing your products through Instagram UGC.

How do they engage with Instagram?

  • When do they use this channel, and what do they do on it?
  • What type of social media content do they usually prefer?
  • What do they share, comment on, or like?
  • Do they take part in contests?
  • Do they search by hashtags?
  • When are they most active on Instagram, and how much time do they spend on average there?

How do they engage with Instagram UGC?

  • Do they specifically search for this type of content?
  • Do they engage with it? How do they do that (e.g., comments, direct messages, etc.)?
  • Have they specifically engaged with your Instagram account before? What about your competitors’ accounts?
  • What type of Instagram UGC do they usually prefer?

4. Set Your Strategy

Let’s start with this: you need a UGC strategy.

You can’t simply rummage through your tags or search by your brand keywords to maybe find some relevant content you can repurpose.

You need to be intentional about your Instagram UGC strategy, just like you learned in school about any kind of marketing strategy out there.

So, you need to:

  • Ask people to create UGC. Remember this content has to fit with your company culture, values, and current business goals.
  • Tell them what type of content they need to create. And no, you won’t be considered spammy or pushy. 53% of your customers want clear guidelines to follow in this UGC campaign.
  • Be specific about the hashtag they must use. This hashtag will help you identify and sort through the UGC faster.
  • Set rules. You need a timeline for your campaign, a theme, or even specific props.
  • Give a reward. Studies show that incentives motivate 32% of people to post, though 60% are more motivated by recognition and status. 69% of shoppers also create and share UGC if they think it counts for something in the world.
  • Choose the right campaign type according to the content you need. Convincing Instagram UGC includes:
  • A contest with specific prizes
  • DIY ideas/ advice from your customers
  • Insider-type photos from your customers’ lives using your products
  • Pairing your product with other complementary ones in their routine

5. Aggregate and Adapt that UGC for Instagram

Once you get that user-generated content on Instagram, you must organize it carefully. Sure, UGC gives regular people a lot of freedom, but that doesn’t mean you can let your campaign unfold by itself.

That’s why you need a content calendar.

  • Decide what content is worth showing off, when, and where.
  • Crop images, add vector graphics and necessary icons, do your edits and make sure you’ve created a unique and cohesive campaign. Real users don't always have the best tools so you might polish the images to ensure they're persuasive.
  • Make sure you’ve created a unique and cohesive campaign.

Repurposing content is an excellent idea because it’s an affordable way of attracting your target audience.

Also, use every little tool that Instagram has to offer:

  • Instagram feed: Instagram posts are excellent to keep you top of mind, particularly if you’re using a memorable hashtag. UPS’s #TheUPSStoreCustomer is a perfect example because it allows customers–in this case, B2B companies–to associate themselves with your brand. They’re entering this brand’s family and claiming their position in its community.

Source

  • Instagram ads: Ad recall on Instagram ads is 2.8x higher than ad recall from all other social networks.
  • Instagram reels: Reels will drive engagement and mobilize conversions because videos strengthen trust. Also, videos allow people to see more about your products, which increases the feeling of authenticity. Alo Yoga offers an excellent example on its page:

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  • Instagram stories: The Horse always has the best stories that showcase its products from different angles. As such, this brand can create a feeling of immediacy and will increase desire.
  • Instagram shop: You can create an Instagram shop on the platform, then use UGC posts inside this shop to promote your products. That’s how you can validate your products and give people that sense of authenticity instead of a spammy ad feel. Here’s an excellent shot from El Cholos Kid’s Instagram page, showing photos of their customers sporting the artisan-made handbags:

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Pro tip: Add a quick button to allow people to buy your products immediately–you’ll see those conversions skyrocketing.

6. Monitor and Evaluate

Keep track of your campaign, ensuring you’re achieving the desired results. If not, ask yourself what you can adapt, remove, or include to make things work your way.

Remember that you don't have to push your products to people; you have to attract your audience to your brand.

7. Scale Your Instagram Campaign on Other Media

Once you have a UGC library on Instagram, you can scale up your content campaigns. Remember that this awesome content is free, and you can repurpose it any way you need to.

For example, you can leverage UGC in your email marketing campaign.

E-mail marketing has a lot of holes:

  • It’s tough to increase engagement rates.
  • Marketers are finding it hard to motivate readers to action.
  • Conversions are challenging.
  • Creating that personal bond with your subscribers is difficult.

Here’s how you can use Instagram UGC as a complimentary tool for your e-mail marketing:

  1. Use e-mails to promote your Instagram UGC campaign

“#Overtone and show us your creations” is an excellent e-mail marketing example because the brand encourages people to connect to the Instagram community after using Overtone products.

Basically, the brand doesn’t promise a good product; it promises a connection. Of course, people must purchase conditioners to become part of that community and show off.

Image source

Many other brands use e-mail marketing to promote specific Instagram contests that will bring loyal customers together.

Remember: You can also use this strategy because it allows you to connect authentically with your customers and makes content curation easy.

  1. Include Instagram UGC inside your e-mails to drive up sales.

MeUndies has the #meundiesfam, under which people can post their photos, reviews, and videos over many social media platforms. The company can repurpose some of these photos in their e-mails, giving credit to those who originally posted those pics.

Source

This strategy works for MeUndies because it’s a breath of fresh air:

People are self-conscious about buying lingerie, and they know most models in lingerie ads are heavily edited. That’s why an e-mail posting regular people having fun and looking beautifully natural in their underwear can increase conversions.

Remember:

You can scale your Instagram UGC campaign on other media, not just email campaigns. Consider adding the content you get from your happy customers to your:

  • Website (e.g., front page or galleries on product pages)
  • Blog posts
  • Ad campaign
  • Other social media

Instagram UGC Best Practices

  • Ask for explicit permission before sharing users' content.
  • Give credit where credit is due; mention the original poster every time.
  • Offer something valuable in exchange so that more people will take part in your campaign. It can be the chance to win a prize, recognition, or becoming part of a large community.
  • Make sure people understand what sort of IG posts you need.
  • Try to learn something from every piece of submitted content, even if it’s not something you like. People see your brand differently than you, so it’s important not to dismiss that perspective. Instead, use it as a learning opportunity to improve your content strategy or products.

Weighing Your Options

Leveraging Instagram UGC in your marketing campaign helps you gain more recognition and awareness, creates loyalty, and improves product consideration. All that leads to increased sales.

As you already figured out, the problem is knowing which strategy to use.

You will have to be very intentional in assessing your options.

Then, you’ll have to use your UGC using the right Instagram tools. For example, some people respond well to Instagram Stories, while others prefer Instagram Shopping & Feed.

You’ll have to understand very clearly what makes your audience tick.

Of course, you can and should scale up your Instagram campaign once you begin producing results.

If you’re new to this, inBeat can help. Our UGC platform saves you hundreds of hours you would otherwise spend with content discovery and curation.

Instead, we’ll give you access to our platform of 30,000+ creators plus a dedicated campaign strategist. You will get access to your content library with one click and unlimited copyrights to that content.

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