Skip to content

How (and Why) to Make More User-Generated Content on Instagram

Image shows two women smiling and taking a photo with a phone

With the introduction of Instagram Stories and the removal of counting likes, Instagram has evolved as a platform while remaining true to its roots. Just as it was 10 years ago, Instagram's main purpose is to share photos and videos with followers. But now, Instagram has become a staple in building one's brand and identity.

For brands and real people alike, we tend to judge someone or something by viewing their Instagram profile first. We show our friends our most recent Tinder date by pulling up their best angle on Instagram. We do the same thing when we are trying to make dinner reservations, comparing mouth-watering photos of food from two different restaurants.

While Instagram continues to increase in its branding power, a TikTok trend encouraged users to "make Instagram casual again."The goal was to make social media more genuine and minimize the stress of creating perfectly edited posts. But, this trend seemed to cause a backward effect; users were so obsessed with portraying themselves as "careless and casual", that the anxiety to capture and post these kinds of photos was just as bad as it was before.

With these things in mind, how should a business approach the landscape of Instagram to best portray their brand? A successful brand profile connects with its audience by being authentic and doing things with a purpose—not just because something is trendy.

One way to boost your brand's social authenticity is by utilizing user-generated content (UGC) on Instagram. But how? That's exactly what we're going to cover in this guide.

Table of Contents

What Is User-Generated Content on Instagram?

What is user-generated content, anyway? UGC is any online content that is created by a real person instead of a business. This can include a wide range of visual content, including photos, videos, and much more.

Taking advantage of UGC can be huge for a brand's sales, awareness, and overall success. Creating and utilizing the right content takes strategy, as does knowing which platform is best for your brand.

Can You Post UGC on Instagram?

Yes! Just like any other form of social media, Instagram is a great platform to take advantage of and encourage UGC. What can be a little tricky is that, unlike apps such as TikTok and Twitter, Instagram is a bit more "formal," meaning users tend to be pickier with what they post.

It's recommended that businesses post 1-4 times a day on TikTok, 3-30 times a day on Twitter, and once a day on Instagram (absolutely no more than three times). Because of this, you may find that driving Instagram UGC is more difficult than on other social media platforms, but it's still doable.

Why Build Brand UGC on Instagram?

User-generated content is so impactful because people trust real people much more than they trust businesses boasting about their own products. The numbers speak for themselves: a whopping 90% of consumers say that they find UGC useful and accurate.

The main takeaway here is that the thoughts and opinions of other customers sell better than your own advertisements.

Because Instagram is user-friendly and accessible to anyone with a phone and internet, Instagram should be a go-to when it comes to utilizing UGC. What's more, is that Instagram's visual-first nature drives a ton of engagement.

Furthermore, Instagram's built-in tools, such as tagging and utilizing hashtags, build community amongst users and play a big role in generating more Instagram UGC.

Developing an Instagram UGC Strategy

When building Instagram UGC, you can't make random choices or do something just because it feels right. It's crucial to be strategic and do your research to create engaging, impressionable, and effective UGC.

The following three steps are non-negotiable when it comes to building an Instagram UGC strategy:

  • Define your goals and audience. This will ensure that you're making the most out of your social media profiles and posts. Understanding what you want to achieve in the long and short term will help you pinpoint what you want to go after first. Furthermore, identifying your audience plays a part in helping them connect deeper with your brand. Getting to know your audience better and exploring their social media profiles can help you build a brand with a personality that your audience can relate to.
  • Build a content calendar. Putting together a content plan keeps your content organized and assists you in following through on your plans. This will help you keep track of your progress toward your goals.
  • Test and measure your posts. Creating content does not stop once it has been posted. By testing multiple options and measuring which approach performs best, you can figure out which types of content work best to consistently attract your target audience and drive sales.

Once you have a sound strategy in place, it is time to begin investing in high-quality UGC.

How to Create High-Quality User-Generated Content on Instagram

We've gone over the "why," so let's dive into the "how." Many aspects of Instagram make its user-generated content unique.

The things that make Instagram marketing tick are its in-app tools and natural engagement environment with other users. Check out our top recommendations for generating Instagram UGC below.

Community Tagging and Trending Hashtag Creation

A simple yet effective way to drive UGC on Instagram is tagging and hashtagging. Both of these approaches are strategies to categorize Instagram UGC, making it more likely that your content reaches the right people.

For instance, if you're an athletic wear brand and tag your posts accordingly, the chances are higher that the algorithm will show your content to individuals who engage with fitness-related posts.

Community tagging is one way to organize UGC into categories based on products, industries, topics, and more. Any Instagram UGC can be tagged under a category that relates to your brand and will interest your audience.

Another way to categorize your content is by using hashtags. These tools can be used to batch UGC content, or you can create a new hashtag and encourage your followers to use it.

Posts with hashtags get over 12% more engagement than posts that do not, so there's no good reason to avoid using them (no matter how cringy or cliche they may seem). Hashtags can also be used as the backbone of an Instagram contest, which we'll go into further detail about below.


Instagram contests are a great way to drive consumer engagement and increase brand awareness. Typically, there are five different ways that brands approach Instagram contests.

  1. Like, comment, and/or share: This is the most basic way to get your followers to participate in your Instagram contest. Simply ask them to like, comment, and/or share your contest post for entries. Then, choose a winner from the users who have done so.
  2. Tag a friend: What better way to increase brand awareness than having your followers do it for you? Tell your fans to tag a friend (or two or three), and each tag counts as an extra entry. Then, select a winner at random from your comments section. An idea this simple can drive hundreds of new eyes to your profile, introducing them to your brand.
  3. Photo caption contest: Ask your followers to caption a photo of your choice. Obviously, it should represent your brand or feature one of your products. Unlike the previous two approaches, this winner is selected based on creativity rather than randomness. You can choose the winner yourself or ask your followers to vote on your top three, driving even more engagement.
  4. Ask for UGC using a hashtag contest: Branded hashtags are becoming increasingly popular when it comes to contests across social media sites. Plus, they're an easy way to track entries, since they'll all be housed under the same hashtag. Ask your followers to post a photo or video with a hashtag that's unique and new to your brand for a chance to win a prize.
  5. Trivia: Test your followers' knowledge by asking them a tricky question about your brand or industry. The winner can be selected at random from all the participants who answered correctly.


Promoting positive consumer reviews and managing a company that motivates customers to write positive reviews has a monumental effect on sales. A whopping 93% of online shoppers say consumer reviews affect their final purchasing decisions. They rely on these reviews to reduce the risk of their buying choices.

Using Instagram to share your own customer reviews is a great way to impact sales. There isn't a single right approach or a certain tool for boosting customer reviews on Instagram, so it's important to know your options and do what makes the most sense for your business.

  • Post your reviews: Sharing consumer reviews as posts or on your story is an effective way to show off your positive reviews to your followers. You can then create a Story Highlight dedicated to customer reviews that you have previously boosted to keep them on your profile permanently.
  • Use reviews in captions: Find a way to incorporate consumer reviews in your post captions so that your followers are exposed, yet again, to authentic opinions about your products.
  • Link your website in your profile bio: By doing so, users who view your profile can easily click on your website URL to shop and read reviews that have been posted directly on your site.

Reposting Images

If someone really likes your brand or products, they might post about them without any incentive. Because of this, it's important to pay attention to posts that your brand's page is tagged in.

If you see one you like, ask the user in the comments for permission to repost their image, and if granted, share their image on your profile. Reposting consumer images is a smart way to take advantage of already existing Instagram UGC.

Ask Questions

UGC is not limited to brand-new posts; Instagram UGC can be as simple as finding a way to get users to comment on your content. Drive higher engagement on your profile by asking questions, which can be posed in both the caption of a Feed photo and on Stories.

Instagram Stories has many built-in features, like Question, Poll, and Slider tools, that have user-friendly answer options, making it more likely for followers to engage with a question. Need some inspiration as to what you should be asking? Try one of these approaches:

  • Conduct a Q&A about your brand or products.
  • Test your followers' knowledge about your brand or industry with a pop quiz.
  • Ask your followers what they think of a new product line.

Use Influencers

An industry that has now surpassed $2 billion, influencer marketing is an extremely effective marketing tactic because of the connections content creators can build with their fan bases.

Influencers can build connections so well because they share so many details of their lives online, and therefore, their followers feel as if they know them like a friend. Many people trust and respect the opinions and recommendations of their favorite online personalities.

Someone who has become a staple online influencer is Emma Chamberlain. Vogue says her "relatability has made her one of the internet's most beloved." Because Chamberlain has been able to paint herself as nearly anyone's best friend, brands want to partner with her to leverage her ability to connect with young audiences.

One brand that has done this well is Aritzia. The clothing brand made her an Aritzia Partner, in which Chamberlain posts photos highlighting their products. Every time Chamberlain publicizes her partnership with and admiration for Aritzia, her millions of followers are positively exposed to the brand.

While partnering with a big-time influencer like Chamberlain may seem out of reach for your brand, there are hundreds and thousands of content creators on Instagram.

Ranging from a micro (10,000-100,000 followers) to a macro (1 million+ followers) scale, there's bound to be the perfect influencer for you to partner with based on cost, audience, interest, and engagement. To make finding and collaborating with these ideal influencers easier, check out Cohley's Creator Management platform.

Use Your Feed, Stories, and Reels for Cross Media Impact

As we have mentioned a few times, Instagram has expanded to more than just a News Feed of images. Utilizing every feature that Instagram has to offer, including the Feed, Stories, and Reels, helps you reach your audience in a variety of ways.

This is also an opportunity to be consistent with your brand messaging across each form of media. Consistency in your content shows your audience that your brand is reliable and intentional, plus it drives higher brand recognition.

Furthermore, some people are more drawn to one area of Instagram over another. Let's say you only post on Reels. You are then missing out on all those potential customers who do not watch Reels.

Need Help With UGC? Reach Out to Cohley!

Instagram is a highly useful and effective platform for UGC. However, UGC can be complex to create and share. If you need a partner to support you in creating custom user-generated content for Instagram, look no further than Cohley. Learn more by scheduling a demo today!