What Is UGC (User-Generated Content) and How Can It Help Your Business on Instagram?

By: Cori Widen, Product Marketing Lead at Boosted by Lightricks

Creating quality content for an Instagram business account can be a lot of fun for some people… and a real drag for others. If you have a creative flair, an eye for photography, and a knack for social media — that’s awesome! But what about mere mortals who get a huge headache just thinking about it? What about small business owners who scroll wistfully through their Instagram feeds, wishing they had the time, creativity, and skills to create content as eye-catching as the stuff they’re seeing on other people’s feeds?

Well, if that’s you, we have some good news for you.

While you obviously can’t steal from other people’s feeds, you can use their content and post it on your own feed — as long as you have permission and credit the creator. You can actually build a stunning feed by curating other people’s posts that align with your brand.

Content borrowed from other people’s feeds this way is also called UGC (User-Generated Content), and there are so many reasons why it’s a good idea… even for those of you who can hold your own in terms of content creation.

Why would another user let you use their content?

You may think that other users wouldn’t think too kindly of another account posting their content. Remember how in kindergarten we used to whine to the teacher when another kid copied our idea? Well, some users may feel protective of their content that way, and they have every right to say no. But for the most part, people are perfectly happy to let you share their creations with permission and credit.

If the kindergarten scenario sounds familiar, you probably got some version of this annoying response from the teacher: “That means they liked your idea. You should take it as a compliment.” And if you were like most other kids, you probably hated that answer!

But imagine if, instead of secretly copying your drawing and claiming the idea as their own, little Jimmy or Susie had walked up to you and said, “Wow, that dinosaur you’re drawing is so cool! Do you mind if I draw one just like it, and write your name next to it so people know it was your idea?”

Now that would feel like an actual compliment.

It’s the same with sharing UGC. If you contact a user and ask permission to use their content, and give them full credit, you’re showing them that you truly admire what they’re doing — and you give them the opportunity to increase their own exposure and reach a wider audience.

Advantages of sharing UGC

Here are 5 reasons to share content created by other users:

  • It saves you a ton of time and effort. No need to create your own content! All you have to do is find it, ask permission, and share.
  • The content you find might be higher-quality than anything you could have created yourself, especially if you’re working with a limited set of equipment and skills.
  • Sharing other users’ content is yet another way to engage with other Instagram users in a meaningful way.
  • Asking to share someone’s content is a much deeper level of engagement than just liking or commenting on it.
  • Sharing UGC from someone else creates a sense of mutuality: provided you give appropriate credit, you’re actually helping the other user gain exposure. It’s really a win/win situation!

For all these reasons and more, we recently began incorporating more UGC to @Boosted_Social‘s Instagram feed – here’s an example:


How to find relevant UGC

A good way to hunt for relevant content is to search through hashtags you generally use, as well as to browse your feed for posts that look like a good fit. You should already be following hashtags and accounts that match your interests and niche, and if you’re not, now’s a great time to start!

hashtag follow

We particularly recommend approaching users who have roughly the same number of followers (or fewer) than you do, because they’ll be more likely to appreciate the proportional exposure.

Of course, you should use the same criteria with UGC as you would for your own content: make sure it aligns with your brand and is likely to resonate with your own audience.

Contacting the user for permission

Found a gorgeous post you’d like to share?

Contact the user via DM and ask to share it. It’s probably easiest to tap the DM icon on the post itself, write your message, and share it with the user. That way they’ll know exactly which post you’re asking about.

Your message can read something like this: “Hi [name]! I just came across this fantastic post you shared, and I wanted to know whether you’d feel comfortable if I reposted it on my own feed (with full credit and tagging you, of course!).” Even better, mention something specific that you loved about the post. That can amplify the compliment factor, making them more likely to let you share.

If they don’t respond, you can try nudging gently, or commenting on the post itself and tagging them (maybe they don’t check their DMs regularly). If that doesn’t work, just move on to the next one. Never repost someone else’s content on Instagram without their permission!

Sharing the content

Got permission? Fantastic! Now… how do you share it?

Unlike with Twitter and Facebook, there’s no simple, integrated way to share other people’s content on Instagram. You have a few options:

  • Use a third-party app: Apps like Repost for Instagram ot Instarepost allow you to download other users’ content and then repost it on your own feed. Make sure to add full credit in the description and tag the creator when you post it.
  • Take a screenshot: You can take a screenshot of the content and crop it to size when reposting it. This is a bit of a crude solution, though, and your image will likely be lower-quality than the original. It will also only work for still images, not videos.
  • Ask the user to send you the content: This requires more steps and is more awkward, but will result in a higher-quality image than a screenshot will, and can work for videos. Note that they may have applied custom filters to the original when posting on Instagram, so be sure to ask for the version of the image that’s saved to the Instagram folder on their phone.

Building your Instagram account using user-generated content may feel like cheating, but it’s totally not! Using this strategy, not only can you curate a gorgeous, high-quality feed, you can help other users and forge meaningful connections, too.

Action Items:

1. Search your feed or your favorite hashtags for an image or video that looks like a good fit for your brand.
2. Contact the user who created it via DM to ask for permission to repost it.
3. Download a third-party reposting app and repost the content, being sure to give appropriate credit and tag the original user.

Cori Widen is the Product Marketing Lead at Boosted by Lightricks. She has been leading product marketing campaigns and doing qualitative market research in the tech industry for 10 years.


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