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UGC Best Practice: Managing Usage Rights

Relevant and authentic content experiences for consumers are needed now more than ever. Getting brand affinity in the digital space grows more competitive each day – making it harder to reach new audiences – and fragmented purchase journeys for consumers across the web and social media make it hard to create a narrative that inspires purchase and encourages loyalty.

Leveraging user-generated content (UGC) for a more seamless and inspiring brand experience has proven to be a powerful tool for marketers.  By connecting authentic and trusted content created by passionate fans and customers, brands can increase engagement and conversions at any digital touchpoint.

UGC is perhaps one of the most important assets modern marketers are looking to harness across their marketing.  Not only is it highly effective in engaging customers, the cost of acquiring is far less that the usual costs involved in creating branded content from scratch.

However, you must treat it with caution. While it may seem UGC is ‘free’ content, it’s something you need to tread carefully with, to makes sure you gain usage rights directly from creators ensuring that you use UGC in a compliant way. This post outlines how StoryStream allows global brands including Porsche, Boden and L’Oreal to manage usage rights at scale in a compliant way.

Why is getting rights to UGC important?

While content uploaded to social networks like Instagram and Twitter is still owned by the author, the terms and conditions of these platforms allow the social networks and their partners a licence to use it as well. These social networks strictly only deliver content to StoryStream that can be displayed under similar display terms, but we recommend a more explicit content rights approach, and have native workflows to facilitate them.

Ensuring your brand has the rights to use content is important for a few reasons.

Build brand trust

Firstly, when creators receive requests for brands to use their content, they’re generally very happy for them to do so! Getting content rights acknowledges your advocates online, and StoryStream sees content rights approval rates upwards of 80% within the first 7 days of requesting, with creators enjoying seeing their content amplified to wider audiences. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to people when they see their own content being used to advertise products and services. Instead, build brand loyalty by asking for the rights to use content.

Ensure GDPR compliance (if applicable)

For those in the EU, a creator’s username is publicly identifiable information, which falls into GDPR compliance that brands have to be aware of. Ensuring content authors are aware that their media is also being used outside of social is helpful, should they ever wish to act upon the Right to be Forgotten, and can reach out to the brand to have their shared content removed.

Keep your legal team happy

Finally, and most importantly, brands can incorporate UGC into marketing, safe in the knowledge that brand-specific terms and conditions around content use are acknowledged and agreed to by the author, should the displaying of specific UGC ever become a dispute.

What do I need to consider when using UGC?

Do you have explicit permission to use the content?

For most use cases when displaying UGC across web, social and other platforms, it’s recommended to gain legal rights to do so, with explicit permission granted from the content creator. Gaining proper, legal consent gives brands greater flexibility over assets used in wider marketing activity, rather than simply resharing. It means that subject to the Terms and Conditions set out by the brand, you can commercialise the content across the wider business, edit the content if you need to, or display without direct attribution to the original author.

Do you refer to Terms and Conditions that clearly describe the ways you intend to use the content?

This part’s important.

Having a set of Terms and Conditions that creators agree to ensure that the brand is always within its rights to use the content in question. These are generally created by the brands’ legal teams and describe specific use cases, ranging from simply re-sharing an image on a brand’s own social channels, to a video that is used in perpetuity in advertising campaigns. For creators to easily understand where their content is going to be used, it’s best to have a set of Terms and Conditions for each of the potential scenarios.

Do you have a reliable and scalable way to document rights approvals?

UGC rights management can be controlled manually e.g. listing in a spreadsheet, but leaves a lot of room for human error. These mistakes can be costly to brands, where permission isn’t properly documented with a comprehensive audit trail of exchanges between brand and author.

Can you review the rights agreement if you’re asked to remove it?

Generally, if someone has asked for their content to be removed, the Terms and Conditions agreed to by the creator will state that it can be used for the specific use case, and while it’s at the brand’s discrepancy, it’s generally good faith to honour the request. For this reason, it’s vital that the specific agreement can be viewed quickly, easily, and on a per asset basis.

Are you alerted if the content needs to be removed?

Often Terms and Conditions for content usage will specify the period of time that the brand can use the media for. This could be years, or in perpetuity. As the agreements often end quite far in the future, ensuring content is no longer being used by a brand can quickly get unmanageable, so alerts, or even better an automated unpublish workflow from all touchpoints is essential to maintain compliance.

Ways to gain rights to UGC

Traditional, ‘manual’ method for rights management

For brands that don’t have a content plan that features UGC or a tool to manage it, a manual method of acquiring rights by reaching out via direct messages or comment section is effective for 1 or 2 creators, but a real challenge to scale.

The manual approach involves a lot of moving parts, choosing content, messaging creators, monitoring for responses and documenting approvals; often too much to organise without an intelligent tool that does all the hard work to deal with all of the above considerations.

Automated method for scaling rights management

The most efficient way to scale rights management for UGC is to use a platform like StoryStream.

StoryStream searches for mentions of your brand across platforms including Instagram and Twitter, automatically collecting rich, authentic posts from customers, experts, fans and influencers in real time. The content is enriched, made searchable, and organised using best-in-class AI powered tagging and product matching.

On-brand and high quality content is highlighted using dynamic folders, which can be chosen to gain rights using a series of predefined messages.

  • The platform monitors the post for the author’s approval response, at which point:
  • the content is marked as available for use
  • an audit trail is created with the date of approval
  • internal notes can be added to state specific campaign relevancy
  • an optional image or PDF can be added, if required
  • content can be scheduled to be deleted at a date in the future, corresponding with the agreed terms and conditions

Watch how NYX Cosmetics use StoryStream for UGC rights management

Semi-automated method for scaling rights management

For brands wanting to keep their request messages more private, there’s also the option to manually direct message creators on social networks, assigning content ‘rights pending’, ‘rights granted’ or ‘rights declined’ states, with all of the above workflows to keep track of content you wish to use.

How to get rights from creators directly

Some brands choose to have a direct ‘upload’ button for their content submissions, particularly useful for those who’d prefer not to post to social media.

A direct upload approach allows brands to be more descriptive of the themes for content they’d like to feature, with the option for discount codes or a value exchange on submission. This method also requires users to explicitly agree to terms and conditions, so you can be confident that the submission and usage rights are legally sound.

Why StoryStream?

With our technology, brands are able to achieve all of the above, sourcing content rights using a platform that scales. No matter the size of your team or how much content you’re using, StoryStream’s native workflows make it easy to source, manage and control distribution of valuable assets that convert customers across your key digital channels.

Rights Requesting

With UGC often being fast-moving, StoryStream does all of the heavy lifting when it comes to finding the best assets in real-time, highlighting the best quality content in folders.

Messaging is incredibly flexible, with the option to create a variety of messages depending on the use case, and even choose specific messages per creator, making the exchange feel natural to the recipient, as well as relevant for all languages. All that’s needed is a message, terms and conditions link, and an approval #hashtag.

Once you’ve chosen content to use, in just one click the message is delivered to the creator as a post comment. From there, it’s all over to StoryStream to manage for you, with the platform keeping track of when an approval response is received, and making the content available for use across any StoryStream integration, like product pages, email marketing platforms, social media tools, or digital screens and kiosks.

Audit trail

With our robust Activity Log, every request is documented, every approval captured, and content publishing is monitored, allowing you to know exactly where content is at any point and quickly access the agreed terms of use.


For content intended for specific campaigns, or to add context of an existing relationship with creators, use our native commenting functionality to add a bit more detail about the asset.


Even though StoryStream has a detailed audit trail of all request exchanges and content actions, you’re able to add a visual screenshot of any post comments/direct messages as an image, or even upload signed contracts as a PDF, to easily refer to terms and conditions.

License period

As with most terms and conditions, there’s usually a period of time that you can use the content for. With scheduled unpublishing, content can automatically be taken down on a given date, so you can feel confident that the asset isn’t being used past the intended agreement.

Contact Us

If you would like to find out how StoryStream can help you scale UGC and rights management, contact us here or follow us on LinkedIn here.