You get it. Getting consumers to become brand ambassadors is a no-brainer. It’s authentic. The content is free. The fan photos look gorgeous — especially when compared to dull stock images.

But how do you get started? We’ve got you covered. Here are four ways to kickstart your brand’s user-generated content strategy:

Empower store associates

When launching a user-generated content strategy, start with store associates. Not only are employees natural brand advocates, they’re already spending a ton time with your products every day — giving them the perfect opportunity to snap shots of everything from candid moments to cool new store displays.

Urban Outfitters empowers its team members by giving them their own hashtag to use, #USatUO. Providing associates with a go-to hashtag allows them to post on behalf of your brand while giving them the freedom to choose how they represent your brand on their personal accounts, ensuring that each post will have an authentic feel that’s unique to each employee and their personal taste. (Find out how Urban used user-generated content to boost clickthrough rates by 15%.)

https://www.instagram.com/p/BGjs_DXIn2v/?taken-by=maddieraeherman

Make your brand #hashtag stand for something

More and more, young people are drawn to brands that support a cause or charity. In fact, a report from Cone Communications last year found that two-thirds of millennials use social media to discuss corporate social responsibility efforts. When it comes to user-generated content, brands can leverage this trend by showing consumers that their posts can actually promote or advance a specific cause.

For example, Aerie is currently encouraging fans to post their un-retouched swimsuit photos on Instagram with the hashtag #AerieReal. For every post, the brand is donating $1 (up to $30,000) to the National Eating Disorders Association. By doing this, Aerie is not only building brand affinity by showing its followers that it’s actively supporting a good cause, it’s also getting tons of great photos of people rocking the brand’s swimsuits that can be reposted on its own social feeds.

Create something that’s worth sharing

It’s tough to get user-generated content if you aren’t giving people a reason to post about your brand in the first place. However, brands that have trouble getting social media traction organically can change this by hosting fun events or contests that encourage participation and ultimately get people excited enough that they’ll want to share the experience with their followers.

Kotex is hardly the first brand you think of when it comes to building an engaged social media following. I mean, who wants to talk publicly about periods? But recently, U by Kotex created a colorful pop-up period shop in the middle of New York City where women could explore comfy clothing, snacks, home goods and — of course — Kotex products. The installment was part of its ‘Period Projects’ campaign, so visitors were encouraged to use the hashtag #periodprojects when posting about the shop on social media. The brand even made sure to geotag the location so people could tag the ‘U by Kotex Period Shop’ in their Instagram posts. This campaign is JUST. PLAIN. BRILLIANT.

This place is amazing #periodprojects

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Keep tabs on what people are already saying about your brand

Even brands that employ elaborate campaigns to garner more user-generated content still rely on the tried-and-true method of simply monitoring social channels to find people who are already serving as brand advocates in their day-to-day lives.

For example, Starbucks often regrams photos of its drinks that people have posted on their personal Instagram accounts once it has permission from the user. Fans of the coffee chain are often so excited that their photo has been featured on the brand’s account that they’ll screenshot the Starbucks regram and post it on their own for bragging rights.

It's official, friends. All of the money I've spent on Pike Places and Macchiatos finally got me somewhere ☕️

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Want to learn more? Check out our Complete Guide to Visual Commerce and our case study on Z Gallerie, which used user-generated content to grow its Instagram following and deliver a 24% increase in sign-up conversions.