Best Instagram Account
Javier Guillen didn't set out to become a social media maven. The 31-year-old East L.A. native was just fooling around with his iPhone — and trying to finish his degree at Cal State Northridge after a seven-year hiatus. But it didn't take long to find a focus and, ultimately, a business that he hopes will both sustain him post-graduation and enrich the neighborhood he loves.
The catalyst? Instagram.
At first, after getting an iPhone, Guillen recalls, "I started Instagramming everything" — his pet, his lunch, you name it. But it was the photos of his community — the colorful murals that adorn Boyle Heights and unincorporated East L.A., the sunbaked city streets, the Mexican restaurants and their bright flags — that earned the strongest response from his followers.
He set up a dedicated Instagram account and companion Twitter, @goeastlos. There, his gorgeous photos began to attract plenty of positive attention.
He has posted more than 1,500 photos to date and earned almost as many followers. Our judges give him marks for both his artistic eye and the depth of his coverage. In the words of one, "Murals, street scenes, people, details and even Jack White's recent pop-up show at Mariachi Plaza? Javier has it covered, con sabor."
The photos ended up dovetailing with his final project at Cal State Northridge. Guillen had finished all the coursework for a bachelor's degree in business management back in 2005, but he needed to complete an internship to graduate. As he interned for an East L.A. attorney doing loan modifications this past spring, he started to see the possibilities.
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The university had stressed the idea of making your résumé stand out. "They suggested we do something with social media," he says. Immediately, he thought of his Instagram account. The more neighborhood businesses he visited while on his internship, the more he saw the potential.
"A lot of the businesses here don't have any kind of online presence," he says. "I show them on my iPad what I'm doing, and the reaction it receives, and then they become really interested. I tell them, 'You could do this. And here's how you set it up.' "
Guillen graduated in May, at long last, after finishing that one final internship. He's since established a consulting business to help local businesses get online and start self-promoting: Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, maybe even Instagram.
Even now that it's his full-time job, Guillen's social media work isn't just about a paycheck. He's also eager to shatter the stereotypes that dog East L.A.: "We're not just gangs and poverty — there's so much history and culture, and so many layers to this community. This is a way to show the world what we're really all about."