Consumers are 92% more likely to trust their peers over advertising when it comes to purchasing decisions.i

This powerful statistic has led to the rapid rise of the consumer and user generated content.

Using UGC is one of the most direct, dynamic and compelling ways of capturing content across the digital landscape, however it provides a number of challenges that businesses and brands need to be aware of.

Ten years ago, persuading an audience was a lot more straight forward and as marketers, we could rely on an effective campaign to drive sales. Ten years later, this is no longer the case. We’re now navigating the world of social media, where influencers reign and consumers have a strong voice. 

What you need to know

·       80% of all online content is user-generated 

·       Millennials spend 30% of their time with peer-created content

·       UGC is 35% more memorable and 50% more trusted than traditional brand content

·       Purchase decisions are influenced 25% more by UCG than other types of media

Thanks to social media, everyone gets to participate in the discussion; thanks to Instagram, everyone gets to be an influencer; and thanks to apps like VSCO, everyone gets to be a photographer. Users are able to engage with brands on a more personal level than ever and the quality of UGC that’s shared on socials has increased dramatically with the evolution of the smartphone. So why would brands invest thousands into producing content when they could just re-purpose content created by their fans? 

One more: copyright. 

Whilst more and more marketers are tapping into UGC because of its unique ability to story tell, one of the biggest concerns is the grey area surrounding copyright. 

If someone publicly posts a photo and tags a brand, are they giving that brand permission to use the photo? Do brands have the right to re-post a user’s image if the logo is shown? Do brands need to give the user credit when using the image? What if the brand uses that image in a paid campaign? 

We spoke to professional photographer and Instagrammer Luke Tscharke to get his thoughts on the subject.

What is your preferred approach by those seeking permission to feature your image on social media?

If I have tagged my image with the hash tag associated with an account, the one that is called out specifically in the bio of the page, then I wouldn’t necessarily expect to be asked permission for it to be featured. 

If the account was wanting to feature an image that hadn’t been tagged with any of their associated tags, then I would expect them to direct message me about it on the platform that they wish to share that image on. All the feature account would need to do was send me a link to the picture they wanted to feature and ask if it was okay to feature it. It would be very rare that a photographer would say no in this instance provided the image was credited properly.

How do your expectations differ for brands vs. people who want to share your images?

I personally allow any account to reshare my images provided that my account is clearly credited in the main caption of the image (eg. @tscharke). This is because on Instagram you are looking for exposure for your images in order to grow your account. The more times your image is re-shared by accounts, the more opportunity there is for you to gather followers. Being credited in the caption is critical as this allows people that like my image to tap on the credit in the caption and visit my account to see more of my work. If they like my account they will follow me, and my account will grow.

Watermarking an image to include the credit is not a helpful way to credit an image for photographers. Firstly it is changing the photographers image without permission. Secondly there is no way for the viewer to click on the watermark to visit the photographer’s account.

Without providing a credit that is linked to the photographer’s account there is no benefit to the photographer in having their image shared. This is likely to result in the photographer being very upset that their image was not shared correctly, and may result in action by the photographer over social media.

What are your expectations for the usage of images on organic vs. paid brand activity?

As soon as a shared post becomes sponsored, the situation changes drastically as the post has effectively turned into an advert.  A photographer does not share an image to Instagram expecting that image to be used in a paid advert by a brand. They are sharing their work for exposure.

The brand sharing the image clearly has a budget to be able to be able to pay for the advertising. The brand is using the work of the photographer to sell a product or promote brand awareness, building the brand. The brand must compensate the photographer for the use of the image in this way. The photographer is within their rights to invoice the brand for the use of their image in this case. 

It is not enough to say that because the photographer used the account hashtag the image can be used in advertising. The social currency on Instagram is about sharing, and being credited for re-sharing. Advertisements are not re-sharing, they are advertisements. They are an entirely different kettle of fish.

How do you prefer to be credited by people/brands who share your images?

On Instagram it must be via a clickable direct link to the photographers page on that platform. Where possible the credit should be provided within the first sentence of the caption. This is because Instagram truncates the full size of the caption in the main feed view, meaning that the photographer credit is not visible in the main feed view. Additionally the account can tag the photographer in the shared image to alert them to the fact that their image has been reshared.

On Facebook the photographer’s account should be credited by a clickable link to the photographers Facebook page. If the brand is unaware of the photographer’s Facebook page then the image should not be shared on Facebook.

What are your thoughts/recommendations on cross-platform sharing e.g. Instagram images shared on Facebook?

It shouldn’t be done without permission from the photographer. If a photographer shares an image on Instagram they expect it to stay on Instagram. Too many times an image is taken from Instagram and re-shared on Facebook where it is not properly credited.

1. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/who-do-you-trust-92-consumers-peer-recommendations-over-joey-little