How Museums Can Get Rights to User-Generated Content

Every day, museum visitors are capturing and sharing photos and videos that showcase their experiences at your museum.

Whether they’re sharing their personal connection to a piece, creating a funny meme – inspired tweet, or just sharing what they’re seeing in a story, museum guests are creating and curating social posts, as they explore your curated exhibits.

This user-generated content (UGC) is created by real people, making it authentic, trustworthy and highly influential. In fact, 85% of consumers find visual UGC more influential than brand photos or videos! Many museums, like The Denver Art Museum and The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, are incorporating user-generated content into their marketing to lift engagement online and offline, and ultimately inspire more visitors.

Want to use UGC for your museum, but want to make sure you’re playing by the rules? Here are some practical tips for getting rights to some amazing, authentic, user-generated content.

1 Give your visitors a way to share with you

It all starts with having access to great UGC. Your visitors are already taking photos and sharing their experiences in real-time, but it’s up to you to show them how to make that content easily findable by promoting your museum-wide and exhibit hashtags.


The Instagram photo above was taken at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). By creating and promoting the #HurvinAndersonAGO hashtag specifically for the “Hurvin Anderson:Backdrop” exhibition, the AGO was able to inspire people to share experiences in that part of the museum and collect that content very easily.

Looking for ways to get more visitors using your hashtags? Consider kicking things off by having museum staff share content with the hashtag, display the hashtag with in-exhibit signage or stickers, and include the hashtag on any dedicated print or digital promotion materials or devices that accompany an exhibit.

2 Want to use visitors’ visuals? Just ask!

Most visitors are excited when a museum asks to use their content – who doesn’t like being recognized and celebrated? There are of course some “rights” questions you want to keep in mind as you use UGC, so here are some helpful tips to make navigating the “dos” and “don’ts” of UGC rights much easier:

First, consider if you even need rights. If you’re sharing UGC through the post’s original social network or an API partner, like CrowdRiff, you don’t need rights. This includes embedding a Tweet or Instagram post onto your website/blog or displaying a UGC gallery on your site using CrowdRiff.

On the other hand, you will need rights whenever you take a visual off of its social network. This includes:

Reposting a visual on your own Instagram account (this requires downloading the photo and re-uploading)

  • Using the visual in ads
  • Displaying the content on your website without a link back to the original visual
  • Displaying a modified version of the content

For those times when you do need rights, try using best practices when asking for rights to UGC:

  1. Show appreciation for the work with a compliment
  2. Tell them how you’d like to use their visual
  3. Give them a way to explicitly say “yes”

Museums with a high need for visual content, like The ROM, use CrowdRiff’s Advanced Rights Management to acquire rights and cut their search time for content down by 90%.

3 Want extra peace of mind? Direct people to your full Ts & Cs

As museums know best, working with creators and respecting their rights is important. If you want to go further than a simple “yes” from a social media creator, you can ask them to agree to terms and conditions specific to your institution.

When you reach out for rights, have your comment direct them to read and agree to your complete Ts & Cs.

4 Feel good about using UGC

People love sharing UGC with their networks and with the places they visit. Not only is using UGC a great way to inspire future visitors, it’s also a great way to engage with current visitors. You already know how important visitor reviews and word of mouth is for the success of a museum and UGC is the best way to tap into that power in a visual way.

With rights, using UGC keeps you, your visitors and your legal team happy!

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