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What you may not know is that the 27 year old Montreal based content creator also has a Bachelor degree in engineering and is finishing up a master in economics. Turkish born, Ali has also been playing the saxophone since he was 12 and is an avid chess player. Out of everything though, it’s his passion for travelling that drives him the most.
Luckily, his content creation expertise might just allow him to do both all at once.
Here’s a quick dive in the creative mind of Ali Inay, our featured Content Creator of the month of June 2016.
Just like any other passion project, Ali’s photography prowesses started of slow.
“I was just taking photos everyday.”
Quickly, his hobby became a project of its own, doing small gigs here and there. (Visiting the Kingston wineries to promote the region, per example). It really took off with when he founded his first project: @mtlcafecrawl.
“I was going to a lot of coffee shops to study and taking a lot of photos. I wanted to put them all under one hashtag and that’s how #MtlCafeCrawl started.”
With now close to 30K pictures posted with the hashtag and a following of 12 600, safe to say his side project is gaining a lot of traction.
« When you do something significant, it’s easy to gain attention in this city.
"Our growth is 100% organic. People have just picked up on the hashtag.”
Ali attributes the success of this initiative to the universality of its subject - coffee - but mostly, to the local aspect of it.
“People resonate with coffee everywhere but it’s the local aspect of this community that makes it grow.”
Based on Ali’s say, this project is still very much community driven as he's never done anything sponsored.
« It’s pure. Strictly out of love for coffee.
Like many other photographers out there, Ali’s platform of choice is Instagram.
« When I started, I was just posting pictures for fun. It started very slowly but since there weren’t many people in the community when it started, I gained many followers really fast.
So what does a photographer like Ali look for when taking a picture?
« I look for anything interesting that's happening in my daily life: it could be a photo from the bright interior of a coffee shop in the afternoon to a colorful facade that I'm passing by.
To Ali, this personal content creation journey is directly linked to his lifestyle. For someone who travels a lot, it therefore comes with beautiful sceneries like the ones he did in San-Francisco, Italy, Thailand or the majestic hot-air balloons shots he took while in Turkey.
« I try to post content on new places. People love the discovery aspect to it.
Content on Instagram is obviously focused on photography, but to Ali, the caption necessarily comes into play, giving context to what could be just another photo.
“Caption & photos go together. If you post an amazing photo out of context, I can bet you 100% people won’t like it as much. It can be only one word, as long as people feel the experience is real.
So how interesting is it really for a content creator to work with brands?
*« I’d love to work more with companies that are not just sending products and expect content placement.”
Everyone has their own take when it comes to creating content with brands and on this one, Ali & republik share the same co-creative mindset.
« I don’t want to be at the end of the tunnel. I want to contribute to how the project is done. I think that’s where there is real value to be gained, working all together at putting something out there.
Just like any other business partnership, there needs to be a fit in personality for the relationship to work.
« If the proposition is not fitting with what I do or what I believe in, I wouldn’t do it. For instance, if a company proposes to promote a nutrition drink or a luxury watch, I would kindly tell them that it doesn't match my artistic style.
Communicating clearly and allowing room for creativity are two of Ali’s keys to a successful brand - content creator relationship.
« At the end of the day, it’s a personal experience.
"My account shouldn’t be a billboard. If you take the personal elements out of it, what is the difference between traditional and social?”
Ali doesn’t mind signing a contract or making things official. In fact, setting clear expectations is another key of his.
“If they want to put an emphasis on something, they need to express it. As long as the brand stays true to the person it works with.”
So how does a passionate photographer turned influencer sees his future in the industry?
“I feel like I’ve done enough of the execution. I enjoy content creation but I feel like I can add more value doing other things, like content strategy.”
Wait a minute... so a renown instagrammer like Ali would give it up to jump on the strategy side?
“I don’t see myself creating content like this forever, maybe as a hobby or part time. It does give you a lot of exciting opportunities to do things you couldn’t do otherwise.”
And how does engineering & economics come into play as far as strategy goes?
“Economics is all about evaluating different paths to go from A to B, and the engineering is the structure. You need structure in all projects. For content, even though digital, it’s still a product."
« The only difference is the medium.