The missing manual for Instagram – interview with Philippe Gonzalez, founder of Instagramers.com

30 August 2013

The Next Web – one of the most influencial services about the technology in the world – named Instagramers.com as „the missing manual for Instagram”. And they were right – you can spend hours on Instagramers.com browsing through a lot of tips and advices. How to start uploading to Instagram? How to title and tag your pictures? How to become selected on popular page section? Besides that you can find there articles, reviews of the apps, interviews with inspiring photographers. Instagramers.com is recognised as the best place to start your mobile photography career and to become a part of world’s best mobile photographers society. The man behind Instagramers.com is Philippe Gonzalez – who created and runs this website. Ladies and Gents, let me present you Philippe Gonzalez, who agreed to be interviewed by Pawel Ratajczak.

Pawel Ratajczak: Would you like to present yourself to our readers? Why did the Instagram bring your attention and what was the reason to build the community around it?

Phil Gonzalez: I’m a  French guy, born in Paris from a Spanish family. I live in Spain for many years now. I work for more than 15 years in the Internet area and I’m the Head of Digital department in a Television Broadcasting company. My team runs the 22 Tv channels and it means 23 websites, 17 mobile apps, all kind of social networks etc..

In 2010, I started to use the Instagram app. Few months after its launching, I decided to help users with my experience and knowledge around social media.  I started writing some tips, tutorials and I launched a blog. There was no information at all around Instagram and I thought it might be interesting to set a specialized blog and be helpful for people. I started then to interview people, reviewing apps. I called the blog Instagramers.com and opened the first @Igers account on Instagram and created also our tag #IGers (already used over 68 millions times! – (Ed.))

One day, Marta Alonso, a girl from Barcelona, asked if she could set an #IGers local  group called Instagramers Barcelona and we set up the first Instagramers group called @IgersBcn.  At the same time, we decided to launch a second group in Madrid called @igersMadrid with a small group of motivated people and we organized two of the really first instameets ever. Then people from all over the world started to ask me the permission to use Instagramers Brand for their local chapters so they could have an identity, a flag, a credibility to organize instameets and events… Two years after, we have already launched more than 350 groups. Not all of them are active but I would say more than 200 of them do huge things and promote Instagram activities worldwide. Its the first time ever a fans network born from mobile app. And step by step, Instagramers became the main network of Instagram’s fans over the world.

Pawel Ratajczak: The Instagramers community is evolving quickly. How do you see a future of it?

Phil Gonzalez: Well, I tried not to forecast any numbers or target for the future. I never did. This has always been a non profit project and I try to stick myself to the Original philosophy and vision I had more than two years ago.. Let’s Instagram the world! It means promote the use of Instagram,  make people’s Instagram Lives more fun and bring a real “added value” to the app further than the followers and Likes amount… I always thought “Pop Page, Followers and Likes” would have a limit. Today, Instagramers organizes contests, exhibitions and meet ups. And what we have done until now (with no economical support, neither structure) is really amazing.

Among our 2013’s projects were Instagramers San Diego attempt to beat #TheworldslargestInstameet attendance last Saturday, August 24th. We  had around 350 Instagramers visiting our site at Del Mar Horses Race in San Diego. (See #worldslargestinstameet tag). There was people from different groups of Igers coming from California like San Francisco, LA but also from Phoenix, Tucson and even Mexico!

In the next months there will be several projects of mobile photography exhibitions in England, France, Italy, Mexico, Spain just to mention some of them. I’m thinking about organizing a charity campaign and exhibition for end of 2013. I can’t define what Instagramers will be in one year but I would like to go on promoting Mobile Photography as a new form of social art and Instagram as a social way to meet people. We have many projects in this area and we will announce them as soon as we will have dates and details.

Pawel Ratajczak: Instagram has gone through some changes since its beginning. How would you rate them? Which one do you like and which you do not? Do you like the idea of posting short videos?

Phil Gonzalez: One year ago, when first video rumors appeared (see Instagramers.com) I wrote an article called “Why I don’t believe on video on Instagram?” And I was clearly against videos.. But it was a different kind of video concept.. Vine brought a new way to edit, share and have fun with videos… And Instagram improved it.

Strategically,  Instagram had to do it. It was to risky to see “Twitter’s bird” flies to far away. And they launched at the right moment. I think right now videos on Instagram are still entertainment but we will see appearing many interesting projects of micro video  blogging in the next months. News, Marketing, Education.. You can do a lot of things with videos on Instagram. We launched this summer the first #Ministory Short Films contest to see what was the interest of people in participating to a video contest. We received around 400 videos until now and we detected the quality of video shared is improving every week!

I  rate positively all the last improvements in the app really. Things like Geolocation, Tagging People or new filters made people feeling satisfied. The things I rate negatively passed away… I think Instagram  should limit “number of tags” . It should be 4 or 5 max… Now people use tons of tags and it’s totally absurd. People just stick tags on their pics to get “fake Likes” killing the meaning and the interest of the tag itself and facilitating the crappy work of spammers accounts and bots.

Pawel Ratajczak: Would you like to share some tips for someone who’d like to step into the world of iphoneography? How to start? Where to share photos?

Phil Gonzalez: Well. If you want to be a mobile photographer you don’t really have to be on Instagram or other social mobile photography networks, you can enjoy it with your smartphone and have fun.. However it’s true that Instagram rewards you with “Likes” and “Follower”s and its a wonderful motivation that keeps your mobile photography passion alive. So, being part of a network (i always suggest Instagram because i think its simply the best) and learning from the other users would be the best advice.
Start watching what others people do. Try to ask them which edition apps they use. Just download two or three apps at the beginning and try them. It’s not necessary to have tons of apps. You will not use them. After a while, you will probably use one or two. For example, I only use Camera+ and Hipstamatic and roughly Noir. That’s it. Then take photos, share them and read Instagramers.com! There is always plenty of tips to make your Instagram’s life better!

Pawel Ratajczak: The big part of iphoneography movement is street photo. How to become a good street photographer?

Phil Gonzalez: I don’t know if I can answer as I don’t consider myself, neither a photographer, neither a street photographer (even if I take pics that could be included in this topic) but my intuition would say that being a good street photographer requires a special talent and sensibility. Feel the people and the world around you!  Photographers usually say you need patience and wait for the “perfect moment” but personally I think it’s important to be receptive to the world. My best pics were just because I could “see” them before shooting them.

Pawel Ratajczak: Are there any chances to make profit from iphoneography or mobile photography in general?

Phil Gonzalez: Of course. In the US everybody talks about this group of “famous Instagram and mobile photographers” who decided to create a team of influencers. You can check Tinker Street web page. They have a company and work for important brands like Mercedes’s  last marketing campaigns. Mobile Photography is here to stay and there will be photographers who will get famous through mobile photography and Instagram. The same thing happened with YouTube. How many bands got to know thanks to home made videos? Some of them will make probably a lot of money but it will be a very small group of lucky people around the world.

Pawel Ratajczak: There are many users who don’t know how to be seen on Instagram. They have no idea how to tag photos but also how to differ from thousands of others. Do you know a recipe how to bring the audience to ours work?

Phil Gonzalez: It depends on what is the target you aim. If you want to have fun, enjoy photography and meet people.. You don’t need more than 100 friends for that. You will get this amount of followers by finding them on your Facebook friends or in less than two or three months. Looking back to the past, I was so happy with my first hundred followers. I used to enjoy taking pics and starting conversation with people. For this, you just need to take good pics, write nice titles, don’t abuse of tags (3 or 4 max) and build friendly links with your friends…

Now, if your aim is to have thousands of followers in a short space of time, you have to be a famous and rich young teenager, or a beautiful model, a celebrity or… Spend years on the app posting nice or really original pics.

Average people, unknown… who got tons of followers in few months were or 1) featured by Instagram Team on IG suggested list. Thats how I got +300.000 or 2) Used many nasty tricks I would never recommend. That’s disgusting.

Pawel Ratajczak: I’m getting lots of questions about how to start the local community of Instagramers. What are the things that local leaders must know about?

Phil Gonzalez: First, I always recommend to set a managing group of people who are friends and get on well in “real” life. It’s better to be three people and share different tasks on different days of the week. One member will feature local users in a “photo of the day” contest, one other could be in charge of contacts with companies and will organize  instameets and one other could take pics and motivate people to tag their pics with the local #igers tag… There is tons of possibilities/activities you can run with a local group but it depends on the time each member will dedicate to the group. Both members have to be really motivated and ready to spend time for the community without any kind of compensation. In my case, I spend all my free time for the community and sometime I have even no time to upload a single pic to my stream… That’s sometime frustrating but that’s our life! A local group means 15/20 minutes per day if you do it well.. And a little bit more when you want to make other things like exhibitions or meet ups of course.

Pawel Ratajczak: Let me end with the personal question: have you ever thought about visiting Poland?

Phil Gonzalez: It’s a place I didn’t visit yet and I wish I could visit soon. I know by the pics of my polish Instagramers friends that it’s a beautiful country and I’m sure that soon an opportunity will arise and I will visit you!

Pawel Ratajczak: Thank you very much.

Phil on Instagram: @philgonzalez

@igers on Instagram: @igers

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