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Have you heard of #IGers communities? Maybe you’ve seen the hashtag on Instagram, but didn’t know what it meant. Who manages this community? And what’s their aim?
Being an agency from Lausanne, we’re very happy to have been able to speak to some members of Lausanne Instagrammers (IGers Lausanne), the group of Instagrammers based in Lausanne and the Canton of Vaud.
So, without further ado, here’s the interview!
Luca, Nasser and I (Jerôme) met in September 2012 at an InstaMeet in Nyon, organised by Instagrammers from the region. We liked the idea of meeting in real life and already knew about the IGers network that was active in certain parts of the world, and in some regions of Switzerland. Then in December 2012, we decided to organise an independent InstaMeet, during the first Lausanne Festival of Lights, and we all told our followers about it. It was a big success – more than twenty people turned up. It also enabled us to make connections with the IGersSuisse team at the time. And then a few months later, in summer 2013, the IGersSuisse and IGers (Criz Jiminez in particular) teams asked us to set up and run the IGersLausanne community, which didn’t exist back then, because they thought that we had the necessary skills and motivation. After thinking about it briefly, we were happy to accept, whilst setting out our conditions: mainly that we would be allowed to conserve our independence and freedom of action. Then Béa joined us a few months later.
"It’s also important that we all, as manigers, have personal objectives that are compatible, and that there are no ego battles. Even if we’re just doing something on a voluntary basis, we have to take it seriously."
Each week, we take it in turns to run the IGersLausanne account. Whoever is responsible for it that week interacts with the community and looks through the photos that have been hashtagged #IGersLausanne, as well as using other hashtags. Once a week, the person in charge will select a photo in black and white to be showcased, as well as another photo which we call the ‘photo of the week’. We post them on Instagram, and then on Twitter and Facebook. The interactions with followers (likes, comments etc.) are therefore generally carried out by whoever’s in charge that week.
When photo challenges are organised, the 4 of us are all involved in the selection process, each having the same number of votes.
In practice, for everything linked to written communication and interaction with partners, it’s usually Jérôme who takes charge. Certain projects may also be led by one of us in particular, depending on who has which contacts, opportunities and personal relationships.
When you work in a team, it’s vital to ensure good coordination so there are no mistakes, misunderstandings or communication issues, because these can become evident very quickly. It’s also important that we all, as manigers, have personal objectives that are compatible, and that there are no ego battles. Even if we’re just doing something on a voluntary basis, we have to take it seriously. You won’t be successful if you’re in a group which doesn’t have that sort of chemistry.
We don’t live that close to each other, so if we ever need anything, have doubts about something or need to make a decision, we communicate virtually (through WhatsApp groups and using other virtual tools). If time allows, we also try to meet regularly, but our schedules are often jam-packed, so sometimes we have to make decisions without all of us being there.
"We’re passionate about images, but that’s not our job, so we still have a slight amateurish quality. We prioritise photos taken by amateurs, but we do sometimes showcase photos taken by professionals."
The key thing is that the photo appeals to the manager for that week; they’re the one in command. We know that if we stuck to current events or the Lausanne or Vaud regions, it would soon become boring and repetitive. Someone may have taken a photo of Machu Pichu and used the hashtag #IGersLausanne, which suggests they wanted to share it with the community, even if the photo itself wasn’t directly connected to Lausanne or the Canton of Vaud, so it may still get featured. Some people from other towns in the Canton of Vaud have told us that they don’t dare use the hashtag #IGersLausanne, or don’t use it for any photos they’ve taken abroad. But we reassure them that it’s fine and invite them to use the hashtag whenever they want: the main idea is to share great photos with the community.
When we choose photos to feature, we like to make people aware of new accounts that are often not very well-known, and we try to focus on diversity. We’re passionate about images, but that’s not our job, so we still have a slight amateurish quality. We prioritise photos taken by amateurs, but we do sometimes showcase photos taken by professionals. As a rule, we avoid showcasing photos which are advertising something. We also now have enough experience to exclude photos where it seems as if the hashtag #IGersLausanne has only been used to help the person get more likes, and where there’s no link with the community.
Une photo publiée par Instagramers Lausanne (@igerslausanne) le 4 Janv. 2017 à 11h01 PST
How much time do you spend on Instagram each week, gathering all the photos with the hashtag #IGersLausanne? Do you use a dedicated tool to make the process quicker?
The amount of time spent each week varies quite a lot; it depends on what’s going on and what projects we’re working on. We view all the photos, but generally only gather two a week. We each have our own method: some of us just use our smartphone, while others use their laptop. Sometimes we use repost apps (Repost for Instagram) which make it easier to pick up photos along with their captions. For captions, we have a basic text model that we all reuse and adapt as necessary.
When we’re choosing photos for a competition where more than 600 photos have been submitted (which doesn’t happen every week!), it takes us a few hours each. But it’s a pleasure and a process of discovery, not a restriction. We each take our own approach to this too. Often we make our selections using tablets rather than smartphones, because we can look at the photos on a bigger screen.
There’s no magic formula, but experience has shown us that there are a few key elements:
The popularity of the partner with whom we organise the competition also has an influence on how successful it is. But beyond popularity, a successful competition is one that gets people talking about the partner, sometimes on other forms of media (written press, for instance).
"Tourist offices are now aware of the notion of working with existing communities on social media, and of the importance of being present on these platforms."
With so many great photos of the region all featured on one account, tourist offices must be happy about all the publicity. How are you linked to them?
You’re right, tourist offices are now aware of the notion of working with existing communities on social media, and of the importance of being present on these platforms. They realise that we can really help them to establish an online presence. We bring our active, diverse community and they bring their logistic methods, and the combination of these elements results in strong, wide visibility for the photos that are posted. The Igers community has a different vision to that held by corporate photographers; it’s considered more real and therefore has a stronger impact, at a much lower cost. We regularly work with Lausanne Tourisme, Morges Région Tourisme, Montreux Riviera Tourisme and Gstaad Tourisme, either for InstaMeets or photo competitions. But it’s important not to see us as being in competition with professional photographers, communication agencies or specialised journalists; that’s not what we’re about at all, and we make sure not to interfere in their work. It’s quite the opposite: we work in complement to them.
As well as tourist offices, we also work with museums, and for the same reasons. We work with the Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne, and the Nuit des Musées – we’ve organised photo challenges for them. The RTS have also reached out to us to ask for assistance in drawing attention to certain events on social media, so to act as influencers for a variety of events, like the European Triathlon Championships in Geneva, RTS’s “coulisses”, and also its “Coeur à Coeur” initiative.
Une photo publiée par Instagramers Lausanne (@igerslausanne) le 15 Janv. 2017 à 9h30 PST
Une photo publiée par Instagramers Lausanne (@igerslausanne) le 11 Janv. 2017 à 10h23 PST
"In certain cities like London, Barcelona and Paris, it’s common to have InstaMeets co-sponsored by big brands, and where around a hundred people turn up."
Yes, InstaMeets are becoming increasingly popular. Some are organised at the last minute and attract around a dozen people, but our most recent night InstaMeet, held during the Lausanne Festival of Lights and organised in collaboration with Lausanne Tourisme, attracted fifty participants, which is a record number for us. It’s great, because you get people who followed each other on Instagram, but who didn’t know each other, having the chance to meet in real life. We also have a few regulars who often turn up and who we like seeing again and again, but we’re always happy to welcome new people, whether they’re residents or just happen to be in the area. Sometimes we even have people who’ve come from neighbouring countries. Photography is a passion or hobby that we all share, but equally we often have InstaMeets where we go for a drink or meal, and discuss varied topics which aren’t always related to photography. In certain cities like London, Barcelona and Paris, it’s common to have InstaMeets co-sponsored by big brands, and where around a hundred people turn up.
From our point of view though, we’re not just trying to maximise the number of participants – when you go over a few dozen people, it becomes difficult to interact with everyone, which contradicts the ‘community’ idea. Some private InstaMeets actually place a limit on the number of participants. Last autumn, the tourist office in Tessin organised an InstaMeet in three towns (Lugano, Bellinzone and Lucarno) over one day. More than sixty people came from all over Switzerland, and they also invited the travel photographer Chris Burkard. InstaMeets have gone from being easy-going, almost self-organised events to becoming communication tools which are institutionalised by tourist offices.
Une photo publiée par Instagramers Lausanne (@igerslausanne) le 4 Déc. 2016 à 8h30 PST
Beyond the local aspect that characterises our community, it’s a real plus to have interaction with other communities. We know the manigers of the IGersGeneva and IGersBern teams; we’ve all been friends for a long time and hold joint events. We also know the manigers from Zurich and Basel, mainly through having attended their InstaMeets. The other local Swiss teams aren’t as active (just a word to any amateurs who might feel like relaunching those communities which are currently on stand by!).
In Europe more generally, we have strong links with the IGersGrenoble team, which was actually created following our example. We’ve been invited to a weekend event in Nantes this summer, organised by IGersFrance, to attend their annual national congress and promote the summer event “Le voyage à Nantes”, so we know the teams from several cities in France pretty well. These relationships have allowed us to invite two French manigers to come here in the winter, with the support of Lausanne Tourisme. We’re also linked with some Italian communities. When we’re planning our personal trips, we sometimes contact the people who run certain local IGers communities, to get information about places to visit which are slightly off the beaten track. We’re also in regular contact with the IGers founder, Phil Gonzalez, who lives in Madrid. This enables us to publish some of our posts on the world IGers network to give us maximum visibility on a global scale.
In order to avoid disappointment, we only unveil our projects when they’re sufficiently complete, so we can’t reveal any detailed plans too far in advance, but we have already identified several meetings that we want to organise. We’ll reinforce our existing partnerships, for instance with several tourist offices. And we can also say that there’ll be a collective exhibition of photos held in Lausanne in June, in collaboration with a big garage in the Lake Geneva region. And then we have a few InstaMeets planned already, like the traditional one we hold during the Lausanne Festival of Lights, and we’ll also be collaborating with this event in December 2017. We’re also planning another InstaMeet at the Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, which will take place in the spring. We’re also hoping to be able to go inside some of the buildings.
We’re also hoping to be declared a non-profit organisation since December 2016 to enable us to gain more credibility as speakers. That will also help us to think about getting financial support to develop our projects and benefit our community, because it’s important to remind people that we’re all volunteers but that what we do is virtually full-time.
Other new ideas are forming and will develop over the coming weeks. We also want to leave some time for any spontaneous collaboration offers which we might receive; we strongly encourage these, as long as we’re available and there’s a link that can be made with images or photography.