Luisana Cartay
Luisana Cartay 10 November 2017

Customer Photos: 14 Brands Winning Instagram With User-Generated Content

Could the key to social media success be a simple as showing off customer photos? Based on the content strategies of some of social’s biggest players, the answer appears to be a resounding “Yes.” It’s crystal clear that user-generated content absolutely dominates social platforms such as Instagram.

From real-life models to spectacular settings that make your followers drool, today’s most popular brands understand that putting their customers in the spotlight is an absolute must-do for building a loyal base.

Vans Customer Photos

Beyond catching the eyes of your current followers and attracting new ones, the importance of leveraging UGC can’t be stressed enough for modern brands.


For starters, UGC has become a staple of businesses and an expectation for today’s consumers. Over 86% of businesses have some sort of user-generated content strategy in place. Meanwhile, millennials trust user-generated advertising 50% morethan traditional marketing messages.

Beyond building buzz, there’s also the financial incentive to leverage UGC. Shopify notes that user-generated advertising receives four times higher of a click-through rate versus any other type of marketing.

Considering that user-generated photos are being shared by the millions, there’s certainly plenty of content out there for brands to leverage, too.

Customer Photos Done Right

So, customer photos and user-generated content represent the common thread between the most buzzworthy social brands.

But what does that mean for you?

What can budding brands with smaller follower-counts learn from these same juggernauts?

Dennys1 Customer Photos

We’ve outlined 14 awesome examples of customer photos in action which can inspire your own social content campaigns. Each of these examples represents a specific lesson in the world of leveraging UGC that any brand can apply to their own marketing strategy.

Now, let’s dive right in.

Tech And Travel

1. Adobe – Building A Community Through Customer Photos.

Adobe Customer Photos

Being the brand behind Photoshop, you’d expect Adobe’s feed to boast some eye-popping photos, wouldn’t you?

And sure, they absolutely do deliver in that department.

But perhaps what’s more noteworthy about Adobe’s Instagram strategy is how they use customer photos to build a sense of community.

Adobe treats its fans like more than just data points. Take note of the caption of this example which compliments followers, referring to them as Adobe’s “creative community.” Also notice the amount of love this particular photo and Adobe gets in the comment section.

Don’t be afraid to pat your followers on the back if they’ve created something worth sharing. After all, over 50% of consumers want to be told what sort of UGC to create, but a majority of brands fail to deliver.

2. GoPro – Killing It With Contest-Driven Content.

GoPro Customer Photos

Speaking of competition, GoPro uses hashtag contests and customer photos as means of entering their own unique contests. Representing a classic strategy for firing up your followers, leveraging contests often requires less legwork on behalf of the brands running them than you might think.

Granted that you have enough followers, a “Photo of the Day” campaign is likewise a solid way to encourage steady UGC creation. The viral nature of GoPro’s content goes to show that brands shouldn’t be afraid to simply ask for content from their followers.

3. Samsung – Customers Can Be Your Best Cheerleaders.

Samsung Customer Photos

Samsung represents a notable example of a brand having to bounce back from some poor PR after the follies of the Note 7 (think: Samsung’s exploding phone). Relying heavily on customer photos to give their followers a taste of what their products have to offer, Samsung is able to show off the superpowers of its newest devices.

Oftentimes your customers are your best cheerleaders. Samsung’s feed is a fantastic example of “show, don’t tell” as followers are given a firsthand view of what their devices are capable of. In a marketing world that trusts UGC 92% more than advertising, firsthand photos are always a safe bet.


4. AirBNB – Stellar Settings And Storytelling.

AirBNB Customer Photos

AirBNB brilliantly leverages the experiences of their satisfied customers by showing off high-res images of stunning destination snapshots. Since Instagram photos including unique locations receive 79% more engagement, consider the benefits of taking your followers on a journey from time to time.

The particular example also displays what it means to write an effective Instagram caption. Visual storytelling is a compelling tool for brands looking to make a personal connection with their followers.

Although AirBNB doesn’t have a physical product, their Instagram essentially sells an experience. Remember: there’s so much more to customer photos than selfies and shameless self-promotion. Photos such as the one above represent the perfect incentive for users to smash the “Follow” button.


5. Southwest – Taking Followers On A Trip.

Southwest Customer Photos

With so many airlines in the midst of a PR crisis, Southwest uses customer photos to keep their feed on the sunny side. In fact, posts with positive sentiments resonate most with Instagram users versus content with a negative tone.

Given Southwest’s“#SWApic” hashtag campaign and constant flux of travelers, the brand has no shortage of UGC on hand. As noted with AirBNB, followers are happiest with feeds that show them something that they can’t see every day. If your product or service has a global reach, why not take your followers across the world?


6. Swatch – Luxury Products With A Down-To-Earth Attitude.

Swatch2 - Customer Photos

Despite representing a luxury brand, Swatch’s takes a playful approach to leveraging their customer photos.

In addition to posing questions to their followers, Swatch uses their “#YOURMOVE” and “#SwatchSKIN” hashtags to curate user-generated photos. Not only do hashtags make customer photos simple to search on behalf of brands, but also encourage easy responses from followers. In fact, Instagram photos which include at least one hashtag boast 12.6% more engagement.

Hashtags are essential to brands looking to use UGC to its fullest potential. If you haven’t already decided to create a hashtag for the sake of branding, consider the benefits for curating customer photos.

7. Converse – The Power Of Customer-Driven Photo Campaigns.

Converse - Customer Photos

User-generated content is naturally associated with the world of fashion, and Converse’s Instagram marketing is a shining example of how just about any fashion brand can leverage UGC. Using a simple, straightforward hashtag and tagging their featured models, Converse’s “ForeverChuck” campaign is tied to all of the brands’ customer photos.

The lesson here? Consumers want to see products in real-world settings versus stuck on a product page. If your customers are willing to take your products out in the open, why not show them off for the sake of your followers?

8. Urban Outfitters – Giving Customers A Sense Of Class.

UrbanOutfitters Customer Photos

Brand loyalty is increasingly important to millennial customers; however, many brands simply aren’t talking back to their most loyal fans. As noted by Forbes, 62% of millennials want to get in touch with their favorite brands via social and 60% cite brand loyalty as a factor influencing purchasing decisions.

Especially in the world of fashion where identity and labels are huge factors for buyers, showing off customer photos is more than just a way to say “thanks.” Urban Outfitters’ feed often features elegant and model-like photos of fans to help cement their brand identity and show followers some love.

9. Au Revoir Cinderella – Customers Are Often Your Best Models.

Cinderella2 Customer Photos

Here’s some food for thought: one-third of Instagram users have made a purchase based on something they saw on the platform. As such, fashion brands are not only expected to post often but also show off their products in real-world settings.

As displayed by savvy brands such as Au Revoir Cinderella, oftentimes your customers are your best models. Allowing your followers to visualize themselves in the literal shoes of your product should be the goal of any fashion brand on Instagram.


Food & Fun

10. Ben & Jerry’s – A Prime Example Of Products “In The Wild.”

BenandJerrys Customer Photos

Brands such as Ben & Jerry’s have somewhat of an uphill battle as they must constantly come up with creative ways to show off their seemingly simple products. Thankfully, these brands also have the benefit of letting their fans show off their creativity for them.

These sort of “products in the wild” photos are popular among those selling physical products. Encouraging followers to bring their products to uncommon settings is a win-win. With a playful and lighthearted tone, Ben & Jerry’s take their followers on a journey and are able to advertise their product minus the sales pitch.

11. Starbucks – Reaping The Rewards Of The #Regram.

Starbucks Customer Photos

Sharing the photos of friends and followers is common practice among Instagram users. That being said, sharing should also be an integral in the content strategy of brands and influencers.

Starbucks has clearly mastered the art of the “regram.” Yet another strategy to show your followers some much-needed attention, remember that Instagram users crave communication with the brands they support. Although something as simple as a regram may seem like much, such action could sew the seeds of lifelong followers.

In fact, Starbucks has taken their regramming game a step further by compiling their “best of” regrams into a yearly gallery. This strategy not only creates a sense of competition among the brand’s followers but further encourages a steady stream of creative customer photos.

12. Sharpie – Show Off Your Followers’ Talents.

Sharpie Customer Photos

Social media managers are traditionally creative individuals, but there’s no harm in letting your followers do the heavy lifting, is there?

“Artsy” posts are a straightforward choice for a brand such as Sharpie. Likewise, the popularity of inspirational artist accounts on Instagram signal the need for brands to make sure their imagery is out of the ordinary.

Also, note that the creator of this particular photo reached back out and said “thanks.” If nothing else, UGC represents a chance to get on the level of your followers and let them know you’re listening.

13. Camping With Dogs – Coupling Cute Customer Photos With Deals.

CampingWithDogs Customer Photos

User-generated content has its place alongside your offers and deals, granted it’s done in a tasteful and natural manner. When coupled with customer photos, your promos seem much less “salesy.”

Anything you can do to add a human element to your deals is a plus. With this specific example, it should also be noted that social users love pets. Just saying.

14. Dunkin Donuts – Make Your Colors Count.

Dunkin Customer Photos

Even something as subtle as color significantly impacts your level of Instagram engagement. For example, Instagram images with a single prominent color garner 17% more likes than those with multiple colors.

The fact remains that photos featuring colors that pop will undoubtedly force followers to stop and look. Brands such as Dunkin Donuts understand that color counts regardless of what you’re selling. The psychology of color should be something brands keep in the back of their mind whenever they post something new to Instagram.

Final Takeaways For Customer Photos

Customer photos can be used across industries and represent something all brands should integrate into their feeds. Although the possibilities are seemingly endless, the following three key takeaways can apply to just about any brand looking to leverage customer photos:

  • Strive to give your followers something they can’t get anywhere else. Whether that means wild imagery or unique locations, the goal of your customer photos should be to make your followers stop and stare.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask your audience for their photos. Chances are they’re more than willing to listen and brands likewise have nothing to lose by asking.
  • Hashtags are a huge help for finding, curating and posting UGC. Rather than forcing you to hunt for photos, hashtags essentially bring them straight to you.

And that’s that!

How Can You Integrate Customer Photos Into Your Content?

Given the wealth of options brands today have with their visual content, UGC should be the cornerstone of any modern content strategy. From your Instagram feed to your ecommerce site, customer photos represent an awesome way to show off products and encourage the spread of your content.

This article was previously published here 

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