3 Simple Ways to Handle User-Generated Content Rights Management

Increasingly, major retailers and brands are incorporating user-generated content alongside more traditional e-commerce content.

Visual content is the backbone of any e-commerce site. In today’s programmatic world, not only does that content live on the e-commerce site–it frequently serves to pull people to the site from search advertising and retargeting ads. So it behooves brands to make e-commerce content compelling. And yet, for the vast majority of brands and retailers, e-commerce content isn’t created for inspiration, it’s built for accuracy.

User-generated content is changing this. Increasingly, major retailers and brands are incorporating UGC alongside more traditional e-commerce content to give consumers both accurate representations of products and inspirational ways to envision products in the lives of consumers. And the effect is significant:

It’s clear that brands are seeing the benefit, but what about fans? How do consumers feel about sharing their photos for public use? For many, it’s actually a source of validation to get a nod of approval from a renowned brand. Curalate research shows that four out of five Instagram users grant brands permission to use their photos when asked. And for the lone holdout, it’s rarely a “no”—and more frequently that the consumer doesn’t respond.

Just think of how many Instagram users refresh their feeds after posting a photo to see the number of likes increase. Now imagine a brand reaching out to an avid Instagram user requesting to feature his or her photo. It evokes an emotional response, to say the very least.

So how can you boost revenue and fan adoration, all while making sure you’re gaining proper permissions from customers? Here are three rights-management strategies that are sure to please everyone from the most permissive to the most conservative of lawyers.

Create a dedicated hashtag for fans to upload content

Forever 21 asks its fans to publish content with the hashtag #F21xMe. This hashtag is so unique that Instagram users who use it understand that they are sharing the content with the brand, and that their image can be repurposed for future use.


To date, more than 350,000 Instagram photos have been tagged with #F21xMe, signifying just how enthusiastic these fans are about sharing content with the brand.

Feature an upload widget on your site

In addition to using a dedicated hashtag (#SaksStyle), Saks Fifth Avenue invites fans to upload images directly via its shoppable UGC gallery. A banner on the top of the page prompts consumers to connect their Facebook accounts or to upload a photo from a device.


When fans directly share their content via this widget, they are consenting to potentially becoming a “Style Icon” with Saks–an exciting opportunity for most fashion-lovers.

Just ask!

If you’re constantly stumbling across great photos from Instagram fans and want to ensure that you’re doing your due diligence, just ask fans for permission. To make it easier on your team, implement an organized strategy.

American Girl is a great example of a brand doing it right. The social team asks for permission in the Instagram comments section. Because American Girl products are geared toward children, the brand includes a note to guardians in the request.


If parents agree with the statement and want their child to be featured, all they have to do is respond with the hashtag #loveag. This is great for the brand because it segments all approved photos into one hashtag. If the American Girl social team wants to repurpose a fan photo, they can simply search the #loveag hashtag and sort through the images.

Piecing it together

Your consumers can be more than folks who purchase products. They can be brand ambassadors, storytellers and influencers. And the content they create can be transformative to commerce–increasing onsite engagement, conversions and order values. While some brands stress over the inclusion of user generated content, with the right planning upfront, UGC can be painless and an awesome way to give your fans the social high five they love.

Apu Gupta is the co-founder and CEO of Curalate, an Instagram Partner and visual commerce platform.

User-generated content image courtesy of Shutterstock.