Word-of-mouth marketing is alive and well in the form of user-generated content (UGC). Happy customers tweeting, snapchatting, and instagramming your products is one of the most effective — and free — forms of advertising. In fact, a reported 37% of consumers look to their social networks to learn about brands and products before making a purchase. Using UGC also is a proven way to boost your social media engagement and increase followers by up to 400%. But before you start scrolling through your tagged photos and searching your branded hashtags, here are a few best practices for sharing UGC the right way.

Know where to share your UGC

So, you found the perfect image, video, or statistic to share — but where do you share it? Although the best marketing practice of sharing content far and wide to increase your audience still applies, there may be times when sharing content works best on specific social networks.

Facebook, for example, is an excellent platform for sharing customer videos that show users engaging with your brand. And it’s no secret that Instagram is the place for high-resolution, high-impact visuals, so share your user images there. But remember to regram and include an @ mention (more on this later). Twitter is the perfect place for smaller snippets of text, like a dynamic or thoughtful quote from a customer testimonial. Just remember to include some relevant hashtags to increase your audience reach and make your posts searchable. Lastly, LinkedIn is the place to share content that reflects your brand values, so thought-piece articles from business and industry giants as well as customer use cases are most effective when shared here.

Motivate your followers to share

How do you create an ever-refreshing tap of UGC? You incentivize people to share! Ask them questions and invite them to answer in comments on your social feeds. Create fun giveaways and ask people to share photos with your products or services and tag you in the post. Promise to feature their content on your feed or social walls when they post with your branded hashtag. Instagram is a great place to feature giveaways and contests since it allows you to showcase users’ high-resolution images and curated videos as marketing tools.

Keep a content library of all the UGC you amass, and post content over time to maximize impact — and it will.  In fact, 80% of customers said that UGC has a huge bearing on their buying decisions. And while you’re at it, remember to show your gratitude by thanking each user that contributes — these users are not only current and potential customers, they’re also an unpaid extension of your marketing team, so treat them well!

Get permission—and tag those photos!

Sharing content without the owner’s consent or attribution is just bad business. Although certain social media content is considered fair game when it comes to copyright, it will likely leave users with a bad taste in their mouths if you share without asking. A simple direct message or even comment on their post asking them if you can share their content will do. The message should be brief and friendly, and include where you plan on sharing, how you will handle attributions (@mentions, tags, etc.), and your contact information so they can reach out to you privately.

Remember to sincerely compliment them on their content, sharing why their content caught your eye in the first place! Is it a particularly well-edited photo, a creative take on using your products and services, or something else entirely? And be sure to also thank them if and when they let you share their content.

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