Trending March 2024 # Save Money And Protect The Environment By Repurposing Your Old Outdoor Gear # Suggested April 2024 # Top 10 Popular

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Most hikers and campers have at least one torn and tattered piece of gear they refuse to let go. Those are the items that tell the stories of what we’ve seen, where we’ve been, and the muddy canyons and thorny bushes we’ve gone through to get there.

But just because a beloved jacket or tent has seen better days doesn’t mean it should go in the trash. In fact, you can often repurpose your old gear by using it to create something new. This has the simultaneous benefits of giving new life to a valuable item, saving you cash, and keeping perfectly usable materials out of the landfill.

Good for you, your wallet, and the environment

New gear is expensive, and so are the materials to make your own. So it only makes sense to save yourself potentially hundreds of dollars in new equipment by repurposing and salvaging what you can from items that seem to have fulfilled their purpose.

But it’s not only your bank account you’ll be doing a favor—there’s also the waste factor. Synthetic materials like those often used in technical clothing and gear are, well, synthetic, which means they don’t decompose like natural fabrics. When you dispose of them, they pile up in landfills, overflowing them and hurting the environment..

The average American throws away 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles every year, so if more crafty outdoors people chose repurposing over trashing, it could make a big difference.

And while saving money and helping the environment are great reasons to preserve buckles, belts, and fabric, you might find yourself repurposing worn items for more sentimental reasons. Our gear has helped us get through mountains, valleys, and everything in between—no wonder it’s hard for us to let go. But with a little creativity, you don’t actually have to.

“It’s cool to give old things new life and a new story to tell,” says Chase Anderson, program coordinator of the Outdoor Product Design and Development department at Utah State University.

And if there’s anything outdoor people love, it’s a good story.

Repairing vs. repurposing

Before you deconstruct a perfectly adequate piece of gear in order to salvage its parts, make sure the item cannot be repaired. Sometimes washing or re-waterproofing items like tents and rain jackets, or patching small holes in sleeping bags or puffer coats, can make them last months or years longer.

Still, sometimes, it’s time to call it—your beloved stuff sack or backpack is worn beyond repair. You might think all you can do is toss it, but there are likely many parts and pieces that are in good working order and perfectly usable on other outdoor gear or DIY projects.

Identifying useful materials

There are a lot of yards of waterproof fabric up for grabs here. Laura Pluth/Unsplash

Before you drop your gear in the garbage, give it a once-over and look for anything you might be able to use—you’re looking for things like large squares of fabric from a tent floor or rainfly, the internal frame of a backpack, zippers and buckles from a hip pack, and straps and webbing from an old pair of sandals. You can often salvage zipper pulls, metal poles, bungees, hook-and-loop strips, and elastics, too.

After you’ve stripped your items down, see if you can recycle any of what’s left. Often, aluminum or titanium tent poles, broken plastic buckles, or metal bits and pieces fall into this category. Still, we recommend you check with your local waste authority before dropping items in the recycling bin.

Even if you can’t use some (or any) of the parts you’ve collected, consider donating them to programs like USU’s outdoor product design and development department—which teaches students design principles, aesthetics, and technical skills in the outdoor product design space—or a local repair or craft shop.

Develop your skills

After you’ve stockpiled a few materials and you’re ready to start creating new from old, you might be tempted to jump into a project, but Anderson recommends first building a skill set that will help ensure success.

Sewing is a big one, but don’t think you have to be an expert to make gear. “Start simple,” Anderson says. “And slowly move up to items with zippers, or buckles, or multiple seams.” That includes things like jackets or backpacks.

In general, a solid base of tools and skills is never a bad idea. YouTube is a great resource for learning how to do everything from sewing to tying knots. If you’re not much of an online learner, check out your local craft supply stores and colleges—they usually offer courses for students of any age.

Project ideas

The key is to start with small project. Leave that DIY camping tent for when you master the sewing machine. jacqueline macou / Pixabay

If you’re just developing sewing skills, don’t start by making your own waterproof multi-pocket jacket. Instead, practice by using fabric from retired gear or clothing to patch holes or tears in newer items. Then you can move on to simple projects, like cutting a pattern out of a threadbare base layer and sewing a face warmer. Anderson’s students have made beanies by cutting and sewing a pattern out of an old sweater, or crafted covers for ski goggles and sunglasses out of jacket lining and an old bungee cord or shoelace.

And don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Anderson has seen students replace malfunctioning zippers on jackets with buttons or snaps, and come up with an idea for a new chalk bag after digging through boxes of scraps.

I recently had to retire an old backpack. Most of the fabric was worn, torn or tattered, and the bits that were still in good condition were too small to use for other projects. However, I was able to remove several yards worth of straps and webbing, a dozen or more buckles and D-rings, some usable elastic, foam, and the lid of the backpack. I cleaned many of these pieces and used them with some fabric from a leaky inflatable outdoor lounge to make a simple ultralight daypack that would have likely cost me around $50.

One thing to keep in mind, though—never use repurposed materials to make any gear or equipment meant to save your life. This includes items like climbing harnesses, safety ropes, and avalanche airbags. These items must be in perfect condition to perform properly, so you should always buy them new.

Tips and tricks

Obviously, the idea is to make something new using as much recycled material as you can, but if you start a project and don’t have everything you need, don’t hesitate to visit your local craft or art supply store to get it. And if you’re worried about mismatched fabrics, don’t be—part of the beauty of repurposed products is their uniqueness and the story behind it. And if that doesn’t convince you, consider outdoor brands like Cotopaxi, which are famous for their beautiful, mismatched gear made with fabric scraps from their other products. If they can get away with it, so can you.

As for the actual making, Anderson recommends you design your project in cardboard or paper as you practice and experiment with forms and construction. Don’t jump straight into using the expensive materials before you know what you’re creating.

And if you’re struggling for ideas or aren’t sure where to start, find inspiration in the outdoor community by searching for influencers and websites (like Patagonia WornWear or gear repair shops) that celebrate up-cycled and repurposed gear. Browsing through their feeds will definitely help you see products and materials in a new way.

Once you start seeing scraps not for what they were, but for what they can be, you’ll not only save cash on new and original gear and keep non-recyclable materials out of the landfill, you’ll also be giving the items you love a new life.

You're reading Save Money And Protect The Environment By Repurposing Your Old Outdoor Gear

Make Money Selling Your Old Tech

The good news is, you can probably find a market for the gear you no longer want. Unloading spent gadgets can put cash in your pocket that you can reinvest toward the latest technology.

Companies shedding old electronics used to have to pay other companies to help with disposal and with legal compliance. Now, however, you have numerous options for handling the process yourself.

In addition to the broader online marketplaces of Craigslist and eBay, specialized Web-based services will pay you for, and then resell or recycle, used electronics. In many cases the amount they’ll pay for goods that are only several seasons old can amount to more than half of the initial ticket price. What’s the best way to navigate this market?

How to Sell

For the greatest resale value later, when you buy new, keep the original box, cables, and software intact. When you’re ready to give your gear a new home, polish that laptop up and send it packing with its manual enclosed.

It takes only minutes to look up a quote for an item on a reselling service’s Website and then request a prepaid shipping envelope. Within a few days you can send away the unwanted stuff and then receive the money via PayPal or a check in the mail.

What to Sell

Smartphones and laptops–particularly from Apple–tend to fetch the highest prices. Digital cameras, MP3 players, HDTVs, storage drives, and inkjet printers are among the hardest sells. If you hold on to any product for long enough that its resale value evaporates, you might as well donate it to a school, or maybe to a tech museum.

Cell Phone Recycling

You can find a plethora of phone-recycling services that pay a pretty penny for relatively new smartphones. To start, EcoSquid lets you search multiple Websites to compare offers for old handsets, and then takes a share if you make a transaction with a referred service. A number of sites specialize in iPhone recycling and trade-ins.

I found it hard on both sites to browse listings casually, however. CelltradeUSA provides a form through which you can contact other users, and charges $20 if you complete a trade. Once you list your phone and service contract, you have to wait for potential takers to reach you. I could find only one iPhone owner with an AT&T contract similar to my own, and no BlackBerry users with the equivalent. On CellSwapper, searches weren’t working after I made several attempts of seeking someone to switch early out of a 24-month contract with AT&T to new Verizon service.

Among the services that pay for old phones but don’t deal with contracts, Sell Your Cell, and Simply Sellular offered some of the highest quotes–up to $144 for a 16GB iPhone 3G, and $110 for a BlackBerry Bold 9000. (See the chart at right for more details.) If you want to sell more than phones, sites with a broader focus, such as BuyMyTronics, Gazelle, and NextWorth (more below), offered competitive price quotes.

It’s wise to wipe text messages, contacts, calendar items, and other data off a phone even if you’re sending it to a service that promises to do the same–especially when those security pledges are vaguely worded. Remote wiping is available for the iPhone with a MobileMe account, and for the BlackBerry 6 operating system. For businesses, software such as that of AirWatch can provide deeper device management.

Instant Quotes, Simple Shipping

Comparing quotes for the same products, I saw few drastic differences among the sites. A 16GB, first-generation iPod Touch would fetch $51 on Gazelle, a dollar more on BuyMyTronics, or $63 on NextWorth. The same kind of iPod in varying levels of condition was going for between $100 and $200 on Craigslist in the San Francisco Bay Area, and had sold for between $58 broken and $148 in great shape on eBay.

Price quotes showed a bigger range for larger and less-popular items. BuyMyTronics quoted $41, NextWorth quoted $66, and Gazelle quoted $95 for a 1GHz, 60GB Apple iBook G4. A Garmin Nuvi 785T GPS device, not found on BuyMyTronics, would garner $35 at Gazelle and almost $84 at NextWorth. For older, less desirable goods, such as a Canon SD400 Elph digital camera, you’d be lucky to get $10. I couldn’t find any takers for a year-old Canon inkjet or an older HP laser printer.

As for security, each service pledges to wipe data from your equipment, but the details are relatively slim.

Brett Mosley, CEO of BuyMyTronics, says his company resells tens of thousands of units–more than two-thirds of what it buys–on other sites, including Amazon and eBay. It refurbishes another 15 percent of the items it receives, and sends another 15 percent off for recycling in first-world countries.

Vendor Trade-In Programs

If you’re a brand loyalist, trading in a product through the company that made it can help you afford a same-name upgrade. Apple offers gift cards toward new purchases if you send an approved Mac or PC laptop or desktop to partner PowerON, which provides a prepaid shipping label and a box. On the other hand, recycling a PC or monitor through Apple partner WeRecycle involves paying a $30 charge.

If you’re buying a new PC from Dell, that manufacturer will take any other old computer from you for free. The quarterly Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics can tip you off to recycling options from other big electronics brands, although most don’t provide payment or credit.

Selling on Craigslist Selling on eBay

eBay users were willing to pay a range of prices for a 16GB, first-generation iPod Touch: from $56 for a broken device up to $148 for one with cosmetic wear and tear. An Apple iBook 1GHz G4 fetched between $40 and $170, depending on the condition. Don’t forget to review eBay’s fees before launching an auction.

Selling Media Items on Glyde

If you have a surplus of DVDs, CDs, video games, and books, Glyde is an up-and-coming service for selling and buying media. Unlike with eBay, users involved in a transaction don’t learn each other’s identity; and unlike with Craigslist, buyers can pay by credit card. Red Dead Redemption for the PlayStation 3, for example, is selling on Glyde for about $41, including shipping. NextWorth says it will pay $28 for the same game with normal wear and the original case. Amazon offers store credit for used games.

Selling on Amazon In-Store Programs

RadioShack accepts some equipment that other services do not, such as car stereo amplifiers, radar detectors, and mice. In exchange for a store gift card, its Trade & Save program offers prepaid shipping of phones, GPS devices, cameras and camcorders, gaming consoles, games, and MP3 players.

The TechForward program at RadioShack, Office Depot, and online via Tiger Direct and CompUSA stores offers a resale program of sorts for consumers who upgrade frequently. You buy a TechForward plan at the time of a new product purchase. Six months later, you can return the product and receive half of its initial price, which you can use toward a newer model.

Printer-Cartridge Recycling

Makers of printers increasingly offer free mail-in recycling for empty ink cartridges, but you can earn back some of the fortune you lost buying printer consumables. Staples stores offer modest coupons for bringing in spent ink cartridges.

Donate Gear for a Tax Break

Giving away tech for resale through a group such as Goodwill can result in tax deductions for charitable contributions, with the side benefit of enhanced community relations. The nonprofit TechSoup has information on giving equipment to other nonprofits.

Compliance

Businesses must take extra steps to ensure that their getting rid of old gear complies with the law. In some municipalities you can be fined for tossing electronics into Dumpsters. The federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act makes it illegal to carelessly dispose of goods containing hazardous materials, such as lead-laced CRT monitors. Electronics make up 2 percent of municipal waste and are the fastest-growing portion of the waste stream, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Saying good-bye to old computers and hard drives isn’t just about getting rid of the equipment, but also clearing the data they store. Companies dealing with sensitive financial information have to consider the Sarbanes-Oxley and Gramm-Leach-Bliley acts. Those who work in healthcare must follow HIPAA regulations.

Responsible Recycling

There’s no law against shipping electronics overseas to developing nations for unsafe recycling–and that’s a problem. Just because you’re selling electronics to a willing buyer doesn’t mean that the product will wind up disassembled in a way that doesn’t pollute or harm workers.

“Typically cell phones have a better reuse and recycling market than computers do,” says Sheila Davis, executive director of the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition. And companies reselling phones to developing nations are usually doing the right thing environmentally.

Only 10 percent of obsolete computers, however, are recycled according to high human-rights and ecological standards.

Only recyclers certified through the Basel Action Network’s e-Stewards program are certified not to ship equipment overseas for unsafe labor, not to use prison labor, and not to incinerate items.

Follow Elsa Wenzel and TechAudit on Twitter.

Here Are The Best Times To Buy A New Phone And Save Big Money

Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

If you want to get a good deal on a new phone, you have to time your purchase correctly. Buying it the day it officially goes on sale may feel good because you’re one of the first to have it, but it’s usually a big mistake. To maximize savings when buying a new handset, you have to be smart and patient.

I’m a frugal person and hate paying full price on anything, especially smartphones. To combat this, I’ve been paying close attention to phone prices over the years and have figured out the best times to buy a new one. Some tips may be obvious, but some might surprise you.

Here are the best times to buy a new phone!

The best times to buy a new phone

Up to a month or so before the new model comes out

Ryan Haines / Android Authority

This tip only applies to those who are happy to get a soon-to-be-last-gen phone model. The best time to buy a new phone’s predecessor is around a month or so before the latest model comes out, as that’s usually when retailers start offering discounts to get rid of their stock. Discounts are also available, sometimes even higher, right after the new phone hits the market. Wait too long, however, and retailers may sell through their stock.

For example, the Pixel 3, which launched with an $800 price tag in 2023, was available for just $400 the following fall, just a week or so before Google announced the Pixel 4 series. While this is an old example, the story is similar with a lot of new devices.

Research is key to a good purchase!

Keep in mind that to get the best deals, you’ll have to shop around. Check out as many online stores as possible to see which ones offer the largest discount. For example, the Galaxy S22 Ultra is listed at $1,200 on Samsung’s website at the time of writing, while Amazon is selling it for $994 — that’s over $200 cheaper. This just goes to show that research is key to a good purchase!

Pixel 7 — $499 ($100 off)

Samsung Galaxy S22 series — Up to $400 off

OnePlus 10 Pro — $549 ($250 off)

Remember that many retailers start offering deals a few weeks before Black Friday actually kicks off, so make sure to start doing your research then. And don’t forget about Cyber Monday deals as well, which are available on the first Monday after Black Friday.

During Boxing Day sales and beyond

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Boxing Day falls on the day after Christmas Day (December 26). It offers significant discounts on phones and other products in places like the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and a few others. However, it’s becoming an excuse for retailers in countries that typically don’t celebrate Boxing Day to grab consumers’ attention and increase sales with various deals. So no matter which country you live in, it’s worth checking out phone deals on this day.

While many people are familiar with Boxing Day, even in countries that don’t celebrate it, not many people know that there are deals to be had in the entire week after Christmas. These deals frequently extend into January as well. People generally spend less money during this time compared to the weeks leading up to Christmas, so retailers start offering discounts to get you to pull out your wallet. I got a lot of great deals a few days after Christmas over the last few years on various electronics and have seen many others on mid-range as well as high-end phones.

Best time to buy Google Pixel phones

Never buy a Pixel phone at full price, as you can get a big discount or free gift if you buy one in the first month or so of its launch. For example, Best Buy offered a free $100 gift card with the Google Pixel 7 series right from launch.

Best time to buy Samsung Galaxy S phones

Samsung generally releases its latest Galaxy S phone in February, and the trade-in deals are your best chance to save. The Galaxy S22 phones all received a discount of hundreds of dollars provided you were willing to part with your previous device. You can also wait until summer when there are substantial discounts without the trade-in requirement. At the time of writing, the S23 range is about to launch, and you can get $50 in Samsung Credit just by reserving one. It’ll also be worth watching for the pre-order deals when it gets announced.

Best time to buy OnePlus phones

The best time to buy a OnePlus phone is during Black Friday or December. The company offered a $250 discount on the OnePlus 10 Pro during last year’s Black Friday in the US. There were similar deals available in other countries.

If you happen to miss OnePlus’ Black Friday deals, you still have a chance to save by getting a device from the company during December. For example, OnePlus celebrated its eighth birthday in January 2023 with plenty of discounts. However, keep in mind that OnePlus may not have the same level of celebration for every single anniversary.

OnePlus frequently offers discounts during Boxing Day as well — December 26. And in addition to Black Friday and December, OnePlus sometimes also provides discounts in August as part of their Back to School sale. There are also OnePlus Wednesdays on a weekly basis, but these tend to offer more modest discounts.

Best time to buy Moto G phones

Moto G phones usually start getting their first discounts — up to $50 — around two or three months after they go on sale. But to get the best deal possible on any Moto G phone (or Motorola phones in general), waiting for Black Friday is the way to go. However, depending on which model you get, the phone could be as much as eight months old by then.

Best time to buy iPhones

Apple typically announces its latest iPhone generation each September. The tech giant isn’t the most generous with discounts, but you can find a few great deals offered by retailers and carriers during Black Friday, which takes place around two months after the phones are released.

Your best bet is to try your mobile carrier. AT&T, for example, offers up to $1,000 off to consumers who bought an iPhone 14 series device with a qualifying trade.

There are plenty of iPhone deals available each Black Friday, but they differ from year to year. You’ll have to do a bit of research on your own to find the one that suits you best.

Review: Protect Your Photos From Thieves By Watermarking Them With My Watermark

There is a myth on the Internet that any photo out there can be taken and used without payment and/or attribution. Make sure you are not a victim of this myth by protecting your work with My Watermark.

Some people seem to think that if they find an image they like on Google Images, then they can just take it and use it how they please. If you are the owner of that photo, being exploited like that both cheapens your work and possibly loses you licensing fees. So the solution is to watermark the image, to make it obvious that the image is yours. My Watermark is a portable application that helps you do this quickly and easily.

My Watermark is a small portable application which you can place inside your Dropbox folder or on a USB stick. When you start it up, its first drawback becomes immediately evident–the app is donationware, which in this case means it’s free to use, but for as long as you don’t donate a minimum of $10, you are going to see a nag screen every time you start the app up, and every photo you watermark with this app for will have the developer’s website URL on it.

If you find this app useful, and you think you are going to use it often, then just donate the $10. It will entitle you to use all of the developer’s other software on his site too. So it may end up becoming a good deal for you. If you refuse on principle to pay money for software, you will have to learn to live with the website URL on your photos–or find another similar program such as TSR Watermark.

When loading photos into My Watermark, you have to load the folder where the picture or pictures are located. The app will then begin to generate thumbnails for each picture. The app claims this will speed things up, but I found that, while generating those thumbnails, the app was extremely slow and unresponsive, therefore frustrating to use. So if you have a lot of images in the target directory, it may be better to go off and make a cup of coffee while they all load.

Once they have loaded, you will then see that you have various options open to you. First, you need to type the text that you want as your watermark (such as your name). Then, you can specify the position of the watermark, the font, the color, and most importantly, the transparency. I have found that it is much better to have a softer looking watermark with a bigger transparency, so the picture itself is not ruined. But everyone will have their own tastes and the program allow you tweak these to your liking.

Once the watermark has been made to your satisfaction, have it made and copied to your computer.

As you can see above, the watermark is really good quality, although you can’t use images instead of text. The process is so painless that if you don’t like the watermark, you can just go back in and redo it in a couple of minutes.

Despite the initial speed issues and the nag screen getting you to cough up some cash, this is a nice little app that could end up paying for itself, when opportunistic people are discouraged from stealing your pictures and conveniently forgetting to pay you.

Note: The Download button on the Product Information page will download the software to your system.

A Guide To The Best Outdoor Activities For Kids

The digital era of 5G and Artificial Intelligence is more of an indoor world for all of us. Realizing the importance of the best outdoor activities in a kid’s life is very important for every individual on the planet. While you wish to play a positive role in the success of your child, it is important to focus on the physical fitness of children too.

During a survey in Wales in 2023, 79% of the parents responded that their kids’ outdoor activity is based on playing outdoors and nothing more. People nowadays have mixed up the concept of playing outdoor for fun and physically engaging in an activity that can be beneficial.

Opting the Right Outdoor Activities for Kids

Kayaking Plant Some Seeds

Gardening is a healthy activity that helps in the development of your child’s sensory skills and gross motor skills. Order high-quality seeds from a nursery store and help your child in sowing some seeds in the backyard. Teach them the significance of wearing gloves and share knowledge about plants and flowers.

Various online stores offer the best coupon codes on home and garden products. Opt for the right retailers and make sure your kids are using good quality seeds.

Seashell Treasure Box

Also read: Top 10 Programming Languages for Kids to learn

Exploring The Nature

One of the best outdoor activities for every individual comprises walking and appreciating the beauties of nature. Make it interesting by accommodating best kids bounce houses in your garden and teaching them about plants after while they take a pause from bouncing. Another option is to place best kids trampolines in your garden for helping them burn some energy while you educate them.

Play With Alphabets

Outdoor activities for kids are an attractive and handy way to play with alphabets in creative manners. Make the kids sit in a semicircle or a circle and start with the first kid. Encourage the toddlers to spell up their names and make the first kid say out the first alphabet of the name loudly. The next one repeats the same process, and fun starts.

There are different ways you can play this game and also make your kids learn different spellings by playing outside.

Paint Some Stones

Also read: Top 7 Industrial Robotics Companies in the world

The Treasure Hunt

It is the most essential of the best outdoor activities for kids. Very old and still lively, a treasure hunt is an extremely enthusiastic, interactive, and learning outdoor game for kids of all ages. Play it like school days and hide toddler’s toys, gifts, and tasty treats in the garden or a park nearby. Make sure to list everything you have hidden and group up kids for teaching them effective teamwork strategies.

Prick Soap Bubbles

Soap bubbles are an attraction to every individual. Make your own soap water and grab a bubble maker for starting with the fun. Encourage your kids to compete with your partner and prick soap bubbles. Start counting the bubbles after every prick and teach your infant some math and object tracking.

You can add colors to the bubbles and join more kids for healthy outdoor activity.

Hide and Seek

Also read: Top 10 Helpful GitHub Storage For Web Developers

The Hopscotch Grid

Solid grounds call for hopscotch during holidays. Use some colored chalk and make a hopscotch grid on the ground. Write numbers wherever you wish. Play with your children and make sure they are able to recognize the written numbers. Encourage them to jump on a specific number and keep changing numbers to widen their knowledge. Outdoor activities for kids are a great way to increase mathematical skills.

Water Balloon Baseball

Also read: No Plan? Sitting Ideal…No Problem! 50+ Cool Websites To Visit

Engaging Kids in Outdoor Activities

Outdoor activities for kids are designed to develop different skills. You can always add to better Sports & Outdoor activities with your toddlers according to their abilities. One flawless approach towards the selection of the best outdoor activities is, focus on improvement. Always try to opt-out of the less developed skill in your child and create games that can polish it.

Additionally, you can encourage your toddler to take the first initiative. It will boost up the confidence level of your kiddo. While you are adding this plan to this year’s resolution of your baby, try to engage in multiple activities every week. Be interactive with your child and also stay alert. Playing in groups is one of the most appreciative ways of playing outside with kids.

Steve Martin

Steve martin is a content marketer who works for Affiliate site – A Coupon and Discount codes Providing Platform. A writer by day and a reader by night; He is striving to make the most of the new opportunities that comes in his way and excels in everything he does.

3 Keys To Repurposing User

How your users’ content can boost your results

The best things in life are free. And user-generated content (or UGC) — which costs nothing — is one of the best marketing strategies available to brands, especially on Instagram. While its user base isn’t as large as that of its parent company, Instagram is crushing Facebook in terms of brand engagement.

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Understand how to best use social media in your marketing strategy as an individual or as a business.

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What Is UGC?

While the name is fairly self-explanatory, here’s a quick primer: If a customer or fan posts a photo or video about your brand, it’s user-generated content.

Any photo, video, tweet, snap, post, or review that’s shared about a brand can be considered UGC — which is great news for your marketing team.

Why Repurpose UGC?

Brands have a lot to gain by incorporating UGC into their marketing mix — both in terms of building customer loyalty and driving sales. UGC helps you build authentic and trusted relationships with consumers because it allows your audience to see how your products are used in real life.

If that’s not enough to convince you, consider this: Engaging with a brand’s UGC makes customers 97 percent more likely to purchase than those who don’t interact with it, and this engagement boosts the brand’s conversion rates by a staggering 78 percent. That’s a pretty clear indication of just how valuable UGC can be for your brand!

Consequently, user-generated content can save you money. Every post or endorsement that’s made by one of your customers is akin to free marketing — especially among Millennial consumers, who trust user-generated media 50 percent more than any other type.

In effect, by repurposing UGC, you benefit from an army of brand ambassadors who do the work for you, providing future customers with real-life testimonials and compelling imagery. If someone is searching for specific details about a certain product, for instance, UGC can even serve as a free (and candid) type of outsourced customer service.

Is Repurposing UGC Legal?

Using another person’s social media post in your marketing efforts does raise some legal and ethical questions. Before you invest in UGC for your marketing efforts, there are some finer points you need to address.

People who use your branded hashtag may be implying that they give permission for your brand to repurpose their content (with credit), but your bedrock principle should be that all UGC is, by default, copyrighted by the owner or creator of that content.

That means you’re technically required to ask for permission for use. But what exactly does that mean? Does getting someone to reply “Yes” when you ask, “Can I repost this photo?” count as permission? Do you need to send a link to an agreement and have the person sign it? Can you get an agreement from certain users to repost any of their content?

In summary, assume that all content is copyrighted, check the terms on each social network, and get permission from the original post creators. They should have no doubts about how you intend to use their content. Playing fast and loose with permissions may jeopardize your brand’s reputation in the long run. You need to ensure that your intentions don’t contradict the creators’ reasons for posting it to begin with.

Generating UGC

Of course, these questions about permission assume that you already have a system in place for curating user-generated content. If not, the first step is to create a branded hashtag and encourage your followers to post with it. By inviting your followers to post with your hashtag, you’re offering them a chance to stand in the spotlight — especially if you repost UGC on your own feed. Perhaps that’s why 65 percent of people will grant permission to use their photos within 24 hours.

Japanese retailer MUJI, for example, found great success with a contest it launched to encourage its followers on social media to post photos of artwork they had created with MUJI pens. Using the hashtag #mujipenart, MUJI saw more than 2,500 people enter the contest, greatly increased its social reach, and created an entirely UGC-driven campaign for the cost of a few special awards and prizes.

If contests and invitations fall short of meeting your goals, you can always turn to the power of influencer marketing. What better way to bring attention to your brand than to have a celebrity, an industry leader, or a popular media figure recognize your products in a social media post?

Instagram influencers with a large following can create content on behalf of your brand, allowing you to gain credibility and have impactful conversations with your customers. Influencers can give a shout-out to your brand or a specific product in a variety of ways, from simply using your hashtag to directly expressing the reasons they love the product. The goal of working with an influencer is to move your consumers to action by building brand trust that you may not be able to acquire easily or quickly on your own.

Succeeding With UGC

These days, repurposing UGC is considered standard, not standout. But there are a few things you can do to make sure your UGC efforts are actually furthering your business.

1. Publish UGC alongside your product.

Aligning UGC with your own marketing materials shows people how they can use it in their everyday lives, which amplifies the overall impact.

Sonos has mastered this by embedding Instagrammed UGC as part of the buying process on its website. On a Sonos product page, you’ll find not only marketing material and product specs, but also customer photos depicting how they use the brand’s speakers in their homes. These images seamlessly invite new customers to imagine how a Sonos product could improve their own lives.

2. Supplement emails and promotional materials with UGC.

When you sign up for promotional emails from shorts brand Chubbies, you receive newsletters bursting with UGC. Instead of promoting its products with models, the company uses photos of real, happy customers, which lends a sense of authenticity to the brand. In this way, Chubbies leverages its UGC to promote customer satisfaction with its products.

How does Chubbies manage to collect so much UGC? The brand actively encourages its customers to share their personal experiences with Chubbies on social media. By integrating UGC into all of its social accounts, the brand has inspired more than 331,000 people to follow Chubbies on Instagram and more than 1.6 million to do so on Facebook.

3. Build a branded hashtag.

A branded hashtag should be unique to your business. It can be as simple as your company name, your tagline, or the name of one of your products or campaigns, like Coca-Cola’s #shareacoke campaign, which resulted in a more than 2 percent increase in sales. Or it can be a hashtag that has nothing to do with your brand name but has everything to do with your brand identity. For instance, Always’ well-known “Like a Girl” campaign is meant to inspire confidence in young women and turn the common expression upside down by showcasing the stories of women doing amazing things #likeagirl.

A branded hashtag can help start a conversation with those unfamiliar with your brand, build or re-establish brand loyalty among current customers, and lead to the generation of more UGC. A branded hashtag with a good hook can spark a cascade of content from your best customers and help you reach previously untouchable — or even unknown — markets.

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