Wondering how to legally repost user-generated content on Instagram?
If you want to start curating your Instagram feed with user-generated content (UGC), it’s important to understand the rules — so that you can protect your brand and treat your community of creators fairly.
In this blog post, we get a legal opinion on what the actual rules for reposting to Instagram are, and break down how to correctly reach out, repost, and give credit to creators.
Legally Repost User-Generated Content 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.
Every Instagram post with your product, handle, or branded hashtag created by one of your customers (or potential customers) is valuable free marketing your business — especially when you re-share it on your own Instagram profile.
But are there are legal requirements you should know about before reposting?
Recently, brands and businesses have been put under the spotlight for incorrectly reposting UGC to Instagram.
And while the legality around reposting UGC remains a gray area, there are enough laws and regulations in place to protect intellectual property and copyright infringement to warrant some caution.
With this in mind, correctly reposting UGC is about asking for permission, and giving credit where credit is due.
Simply put, you need to make sure you’re honoring the creator’s work and not “stealing” content for your own marketing purposes.
The Instagram world is now full of content creators that make a livelihood on Instagram, which means that if a brand reposts their content without permission, they could feel cheated out of their usual payment fee.
But UGC can be super valuable for a brand, especially when it comes to driving purchasing decisions, and growing a loyal following. And creators are often pleased to hear a brand wants to share their content on their platforms.
So it’s worth going the extra mile and following the right steps to getting permission, correctly crediting, and reposting content on Instagram.
To help you get started, we’ve outlined a 4-step plan for correctly reposting UGC on your Instagram profile:
Reposting UGC Rules #1: Get Clued up on How to Legally Repost User-Generated Content Instagram
While there’s no hard and fast protocol for reposting UGC — there are some best practices to follow.
First up, it’s time to get you and your team clued up about the legalities and responsibilities a brand has when it comes to reposting UGC.
The main concern around reposting UGC is to do with the ownership rights — the original poster of the image or video owns the copyright, which means they have the right to any revenue or benefits created by that piece of content.
If a brand or business was to reuse their content without permission, they could find themselves in hot water, especially if the business starts earning revenue or making sales off the content that isn’t rightfully theirs to use.
And while most creators are happy to hear a brand would like to repost their content, it’s important to understand how you can use UGC on your Instagram account, while still being fair to the people posting about your brand.
Hint: It’s all about asking for permission and openly crediting the original creator!
Whether you’re new to the world of user-generated content, or a seasoned re-poster, now’s the time to start familiarizing yourself and your wider team on how you can search for and legally repost user-generated content on your social channels.
It’s the first step to making sure you don’t break the (unwritten) rules.
Reposting UGC Rules #2: How to Ask for Permission to Legally Repost User-Generated Content on Instagram
When it comes to sourcing UGC, brands usually go about it in two ways: browsing for interesting UGC content in your feed, or by searching a branded hashtag.
Regardless of how you find it, as a brand you need to ask permission from the original creator — even if they tagged it with your specific UGC-focused hashtag.
So let’s take a look at how you can reach out and ask permission.
#1: Send the Creator a DM
And this type of UGC is usually found by checking your tags and mentions.
But some brands like to use more universal UGC — content that matches their overall theme and aesthetic but doesn’t necessarily have to have their product or service in the image.
For example, at Later, we like to share content created by our community — designers, illustrators, photographers, and animators — that are working hard to create cool content on Instagram.
And while we love to mix and match content types, the images and videos we share always tie in with our bright and bold aesthetic:
More often than not, our social media strategist Mel Brittner finds posts by scrolling through our home feed, searching relevant hashtags, and checking our tags and mentions.
Once she finds an image that works for the Later feed, she sends the creator a DM to ask permission.
It’s important to go the extra mile and send a DM to the creator, instead of just leaving a generic comment on their post. Remember that you’re asking permission to use a creator’s work — it’s worth sending them a personalized note!
Plus, 65% of people will grant permission to use their photos within 24 hours — so the chances are you won’t lose any time by sliding into their DMs!
Find Your Instagram Tags and Mentions with Later!
Did you know that you can check your tags and mentions with Later?
Next time you open Later on desktop, you’ll see a few options under “Collect Media” in the sidebar. Think of this as command central for finding on-brand content that you can incorporate into your social calendar.
If you click Tags or Mentions, you’ll find any content you’ve been tagged or mentioned in on Instagram. You can then select the posts you want to re-share and add them to your media library.
It’s a great way to keep tabs on what your fans are saying about your brand and find valuable UGC content for your feed! Just don’t forget to reach out and ask for permission before you post.
#2: Ask for Confirmation on a Branded Hashtag Submission
Do you have a branded hashtag for your brand? And do you encourage your audience to tag their posts with the hashtag if they want to be featured on your feed?
This section is for you, because it still remains as one of the darkest gray areas for legally reposting user-generated content!
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 advice on this area of the law.
They advise confirming that the original poster of the content exclusively owns that content, and then getting that poster’s permission to repurpose it. They also recommended seeking the permission of any person depicted in a photograph.
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.
With almost 4 million posts tagged with the #airbnb hashtag, there’s no shortage of content for Airbnb to choose from.
But when it comes to getting permission to repost, Airbnb goes a step further — 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 DMs, 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 could jeopardize your brand’s reputation.
Find Content Tagged With Your Branded Hashtag with Later:
It’s now super-simple to keep track of any content that’s been tagged with your branded hashtag with Later.
Head back into your “Collect Media” tool in the sidebar of Later on desktop, and click Search by Hashtag.
Here you can add your branded hashtag, and keep it saved as a search in Later to display the last 7 days of posts across Instagram that use your hashtag.
Then all you have to do is add those posts to your library for sharing once you have approval — easy!
UGC Rules #3: Correctly Credit the Creator
You’ve got permission, and now it’s time to post — but your responsibilities aren’t over yet!
Correctly crediting the creator is the final, and arguably the most important, step to reposting user-generated content.
Not only does this give a shout out to the original creator, but you can provide a physical link back to their page, helping your community discover even more creators on Instagram. Which is, after all, what Instagram is all about — building community and sharing inspiration!
Start by tagging your creator in the image — a simple tag means that the creator will be notified of your post.
Plus, it will appear on their “tagged” posts on their profile. Which is one more link back to your profile, building that connection even more.
Next up, you need to credit the creator in your caption.
This step is so important that Later has even created a tool to help you never forget it!
When you use Later’s Search by Hashtag feature to find UGC for your profile, the original creator’s Instagram handle will automatically be copied into your caption!
That means you’ll never forget who to credit, and your community will always get a shout out when you share their content!
If you’re not crafting your captions with Later, it’s important to think about the positioning of your creator credit.
While it doesn’t have to be in the first sentence, it should flow nicely from your caption, and not be buried amongst your hashtags.
Remember, the best practice is to honor the original creator in your post — so make sure the mention of their profile is easily visible in your caption.
Check out how Away celebrates their contributors in their captions:
UGC Rules #4: Don’t forget about Instagram Stories
So you’ve nailed Instagram posts, but how do you correctly repost Instagram Stories?
With Instagram Stories being so time-sensitive, it’s often hard to follow all the steps to legally repost user-generated content.
And while there are no set rules on how to repost, there are some guidelines on how to repost on Instagram Stories to keep your wider community happy, and still grow your audience with UGC.
Step #1: Always Repost the Original Post
Taking screenshots and re-uploading an image to your Instagram Stories can do the original creator a disservice, as it seriously reduces the quality of the image.
Instead, use the paper airplane icon below a post to share the image to your Instagram Stories:
This will transform the post into a clickable sticker in your Instagram Stories post, which links back to the original creator.
Similarly, if you want to repost an Instagram story that you’ve been tagged in, all you have to do is tap the “Add This to your Story” button in your DM notification:
This is a quick and easy way to share content from your community, while giving them the credit they deserve!
Step #2: Always Ask Permission to Save to a Highlight
It’s a step that’s often forgotten, but it’s important to ask for explicit permission if you plan to save a UGC Instagram story to your Highlights.
By saving it your Highlights, the content has an indefinite lifespan, so it can be rewatched multiple times, instead of just 24 hours.
Reach out to the creator by DM and explain where the content will be saved, and ask for permission for it to be housed there.
Leveraging UGC on Instagram is a great way to curate a beautiful Instagram feed, and an excellent strategy for marketing your business.
But it’s incredibly important to follow the UGC rules of reposting to Instagram. Always remember to give credit to the original poster and always ask for permission!