This article was originally published in the Later blog
How to Legally Repost User-Generated Content on Instagram
Wondering how to repost user-generated content on Instagram…legally?
Before you start curating a pretty Instagram feed using user-generated content (UGC), it’s important to understand the rules of how to repost on Instagram to protect your brand.
In this blog post, we get a legal opinion on what the actual rules for reposting to Instagam are, and show you a case study of how Airbnb is finding success (and asking for permission) with user-generated content on Instagram:
Reposting on Instagram: Why Following UGC Rules is Important
UGC is 76% more trustworthy than branded advertising, and it’s also a great strategy for filling your Instagram content with beautiful content — for free.
Every Instagram post with your product, handle, or branded hashtag created by one of your customers (or potential customers) is free marketing for you, and if you repost it on your brand account, it’s also free content.
But is it legal?
Recently, a photographer named Max Dubler wrote a blog post that went viral about his interaction with a brand that reposted his image without permission. In “No, You Can’t Use My Photos on Your Brand’s Instagram for Free,” Dubler explains that he usually charges $25 for brands to repost his photos.
“A few days ago an established, successful small longboard brand downloaded one of my pictures from an event in Canada and posted it on their Instagram account,” Dubler says. He ended up sending the brand a message over Instagram asking them to pay him $25 for using his photo. The brand replied that they “don’t pay for Instagram shares” but were willing to take the photo down.
Dubler and the brand messaged each other a few more times, however it ultimately ended with the brand refusing to make any payments. Dubler then wrote a blog post with screenshots of the conversation and shared it on Reddit where it quickly got 2,200 upvotes and 400+ comments.
To avoid a PR disaster of your own, and be fair to the photographers and customers posting about your brand, it’s important to understand how you can legally use UGC on your Instagram account.
UGC Rules #1: The Legality of Reposting on Instagram
When it comes to UGC and Instagram, there are best practices, the actual law, as well as a lot of grey areas.
If you want to cover your bases, it’s important to always ask for permission before reposting someone else’s photo to Instagram.
However, a lot of brands do not do this, and instead they just focus on giving proper photo credit. Which is great! When giving photo credit, you always want to reference the original photographer in the caption — simply tagging them in the photo is not enough.
UGC on Instagram shouldn’t be a scary thing, because the majority of Instagrammers are happy to have their photo reposted on a brand’s account. Having their content shared to a brand’s Instagram not only gives them exposure, but it will usually result in the original poster getting an increase in Instagram followers, especially if your brand has a lot of followers. Perhaps that’s why 65 percent of people will grant permission to use their photos within 24 hours!
But what does “asking for permission” really mean? If you have a brand hashtag, and encourage people to post with it to get featured, is that enough?
People who use your branded hashtag may be implying that they give permission for your brand to repurpose their content, but your bedrock principle should be that all UGC is, by default, copyrighted by the owner or creator of that content.
We reached out to the lawyers at Gowling WLG, an international law firm, to ask for more technical advice on these legal matters. They advise confirming that the original poster of the content exclusively owns that content, and then getting that poster’s permission to repurpose it. You may also need the permission of any person depicted in a photograph.
That means you’re technically required to ask for permission for use. But what exactlydoes that mean? Does getting someone to reply “Yes” when you ask, “Can I repost this photo?” count as permission? Do you need to send a link to an agreement and have the person sign it? Can you get an agreement from certain users to repost any of their content?
UGC Rules #2: How to Ask for Permission to Repost on Instagram
Let’s take a look at Airbnb’s best practices for UGC on Instagram. Airbnb has a beautiful Instagram feed full of breathtaking places to stay all over the world, and their content is mostly user-generated content from Instagram.
According to Simply Measured, 80% of Airbnb’s Instagram engagement comes from UGC, and they’re a great example of how to not only succeed with UGC on Instagram, but also how to do so legally.
Instagram users, who are also usually customers, tag @Airbnb or hashtag #airbnb in their Instagram posts when staying in one of Airbnb’s many properties around the world. If Airbnb loves a photo, they request permission to repost these photos in its own feed through Instagram comments.
Whether you decide to invest in a UGC permission strategy like Airbnb, or to simply ask for permission in comments or DM’s and then provide photo credit, it’s important that you treat UGC like the copyrighted content it is.
Your customers should have no doubts about how you intend to use their content, and playing fast and loose with permissions may jeopardize your brand’s reputation in the long run.
UGC Rules #3: How to Properly Repost to Instagram
One of the best ways to repost UGC to Instagram is by using Later’s Search & Repost tool, which lets you easily find, collect, and share valuable user-generated content right from your Instagram community!
All you have to do is type your branded hashtag into Search & Repost. When you see a photo or video you love, just click it, select “Add to Media Library,” and voilà, you’re ready to schedule it to your Instagram feed!
Of course, make sure to connect with the photographer and ask for permission before reposting the photo or video!
When searching for user-generated content on Instagram, it’s way better to use a tool like Search & Repost than to manually screenshot and repost a photo. Not only does Search & Repost maintain the quality of the photo, but it automatically pulls in the caption and username of the original post!
Leveraging UGC on Instagram is a great way to curate a beautiful Instagram feed, and an excellent strategy for marketing your business, too. But it’s incredibly important to follow the UGC rules of reposting to Instagram! Always remember to give credit to the original poser and when it doubt ask for permission!