How to handle Social Media rights on User-Generated Content

User Generated Content (UGC) is becoming a crucial part of any digital marketing  strategy and one of most valuable content assets for brands. Real content from real people brings authenticity to the brand’s proposal and turns customers into companies’ storytelling partners. But it is a common mistake to assume that once a picture or video is shared on social media it is free to use by anyone and with any purpose. That’s not true. If you do it wrong, you risk not only annoying your Instagram or Twitter followers, but also getting sued by them. There are clear cases when your brand will need to ask for permission from the author to use it, specially if you plan to use that content with advertising or commercial purposes.

When do we need to get rights to UGC?

Before using UGC, marketers should ask themselves

  • Are we going to use it for advertisement purposes and profit with it?
  • Are we taking the content out of the protections of the network’s terms of service?

Every social network, from Facebook to Twitter, makes users sign an agreement that gives the social network and its partners a license to display and share public content. So it’s possible to display social media content on our digital properties without technically removing the content from the protection of the network’s TOS, if you do so through a partner of the social network, like Flowics or through the authorized APIs.

However, most networks don’t allow brands to advertise and profit from UGC, while still under protection of their terms of services. So, in order to avoid falling into a copyright infringement, you should ask proper permission to the owner of that content.

Ways to get UGC permission

Implicit Consent - Create a campaign with a clear CTA

This is the traditional case. You are running one-off campaigns encouraging users to share content with a very specific hashtag. As part of your message, you tell consumers that you might be featuring their best content on your website or your social channels. Like this, everyone will understand the implicit intention of the brand to use that content.  Anyone using that hashtag will know that he or she is taking part of a campaign promoted by the brand, thus giving the brand implicit consent to feature their content on other environments.

Let’s take a look at the following example. This is a "Photo Submission" experience template, included in Flowics Social Hubs solution. The brand is being clear in the Call-to-Action about the objectives of the campaign, using a specific hashtag and including a link to their Terms and Conditions. Moreover, some of the best UGC is already being featured on this same page.


So in this case, messaging is very clear, the brand is being transparent about the purpose of the campaign and the hashtag to use. So by posting a picture using that hashtag, participants understand that they are sharing content with the brand that might be used for marketing purposes.

This is what we call a case of "implicit consent" where the brand does not need to request rights to showcase consumers' photos on this website.

Explicit consent - Ask for permission

Let's see now another scenario, the one in which UGC actually becomes a gold mine for brands, if exploited effectively. Apart from campaign-driven content, you will find that consumers are creating organic content about your brand every day, all the year, no matter if there's an ongoing campaign or not. And in most cases, this content is a lot more abundant and authentic that campaign-driven one. It is under these circumstances when handling social media rights on UGC becomes really important. We are faced here with a case where UGC is not being created in response to any CTA, where users are not implicitly accepting any terms or conditions.

Here you need to get explicit content from content creators to use their content. Whether it is on Twitter or Instagram you can send a friendly message requesting them for permission and describing the purpose of your request (why and how you will use their content). This way you can be sure that the owner of the picture or video is completely aware of your intentions and grant (or decline) permission to use it.

Here are some helpful tips when connecting with users to request social media rights:

  • Clarify the reason: be clear on your purpose and how you are planning to use that piece of content you're requesting rights for.
  • Be friendly: the more authentic you sound, the more willing your users will be to kindly accept your request. Don't forget to thank them in advance and be ready to give precise answers if they have any questions.
  • Use a specific hashtag: you should look for a specific and unique hashtag that other people are not using for other purposes. You will get a lot of noise by choosing a hashtag just like #yes. 
  • Have multiple message types: don't repeat yourself using always the same message. You can have multiple message templates available for use, with slight variations each.
  • Use an official public account: use an account that represents your brand or organization. Remember to make it public since, for example, Twitter replies from private accounts aren't visible by all users (only followers of the account).


Handling Social Media Rights with Flowics

Now let's finish this short guide on working with UGC by taking a look at how Flowics can help you work with UGC safely. Flowics provides an scalable solution to help brands connect with consumers on Twitter and Instagram to request rights to integrate user-generated content on websites, landing pages, Ads, social networks, billboards and more.

You can customize multiple rights request message templates and automatically keep track of responses. Your messages will include a specific hashtag users need to use to grant acceptance. And we'll keep a record of each reply for audit purposes. 


Discover new UGC from our Moderation Console. This is your inbox for automatically curated content You can set up multiple filters looking for hashtags, specific keywords or user handles; add language or location filters and combine all these criteria to create a search query as complex and precise as you want. You can even listen for content on Instagram tagged at a certain Location. You can request permission on any piece of UGC by just clicking the "Request Rights" option.


Right from our moderation console, you'll be able to filter content by acceptance status (whether you have rights or not, or a response is still pending).


Hope you’ve found this useful, and If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us!