Since Instagram was founded in 2010, the social network has been enjoying turbo-charged growth. In just five years, the network has gone from being just another student-founded tech minnow, to receiving a $35 billion valuation in December and overtaking Twitter to become the second largest social network to emanate from the U.S.
Of course the rise and rise of Instagram hasn’t been lost on the business world. Brand marketers are rushing headlong to take advantage of the 70 million pieces of user-generated content (UGC) uploaded every day -- particularly pictures featuring their products -- not to mention the billions more generated by Facebook, Twitter and others.
Recent consumer research reveals what’s behind this trend. Eighty-four percent of Millennials state UGC has influenced what they buy, while featuring use- generated photos at point of purchase has been proven to boost conversion for businesses by up to 7%.
But this growing fervor for UGC generated on social platforms begs an important question. What do brands need to know about UGC rights issues, and how can marketers make sure they operate within the law? It’s an issue U.S. retailer Duane Reade is only too aware of, having been caught up in a lawsuit not long ago for posting a photo (without permission) on Twitter of actress Katherine Heigl holding two of its bags. So what should brand marketers do to avoid similar costly mistakes?
Operating within the law
The bottom line is, brands need to ensure they obtain the appropriate permissions from the content creator. There are two straightforward ways to gain permission. The first is by obtaining “explicit” permission. To give an example, when marketers run campaigns that are intended to generate UGC, such as a photo contest on Facebook, the terms and conditions usually make it clear that, by entering, participants agree that their submitted content may be used for marketing purposes.
Alternatively, they could do this by obtaining “implicit” permission. This is the case where specific campaign hashtags are used as part of a campaign -- for example, a photo contest on Instagram, where the hashtag can be announced on the network with a link to the competition rules and associated terms and conditions.
But, the simple answer is to have clear terms and conditions stating you reserve the right to use UGC created for promotions you run.
The rights management process
Social marketers know that the volume of UGC featuring their brand can be overwhelming. So it makes sense to ensure the whole process of negotiating the minefield is as straightforward and legally buttoned down as possible. The obvious solution is for marketers to source a supplier who can do this.
Any supplier should enable marketers to request and track content rights in three different ways. The first is to manually grant rights if you’ve had offline discussions with a user, for example via email or the telephone.
The second is to manually contact users and provide a special “claim URL” where they can sign in and grant/deny rights to the chosen content.
Finally, have the supplier platform automatically contact users by tweeting or commenting on their content post with the claim URL displayed.
Once you have a rights management system in place, it’s possible to harness positive UGC with peace of mind for a myriad of tactics, including socializing brand sites, bringing mobile apps to life or showcasing products on in-store displays.
So unwary marketers beware: There’s no denying UGC is gold dust for businesses, but make sure you have clear procedures in place to avoid the pitfalls around rights and permission.
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