CAITLIN: My name is Caitlin Jenkins. I’ve lived in Santa Fe for three years now, and absolutely love it. I’m a professional photographer.
AMY: My name is Amy Tischler and I am a 44-year-old woman living in Santa Fe. I’m an amateur photographer which is how I got involved in Instagram. I am a mother of three boys. Ages 13, 11, and 8, so I have a super busy and increasingly hungry household to keep up with (laughs).
A couple years ago I met Caitlin Jenkins, through Instagram. We had been liking and engaging with a lot of the same imagery and started talking to each other over Instagram and then Caitlin asked me to go for a hike, and so we did. And like two years later, we have this business that we really just fell into.
I feel really fortunate as a 40-year-old woman who was a stay-at-home mom for about four years.
Going back into the workforce is always a little tricky after you’ve been at home, and so, falling into this with Caitlin was meant to be. I’m really thankful to have such a great business partner who is also a friend and to meet so many amazing people through what we do. People like Bobby Gutierrez and his wife Maria, and so many people from around the state just literally through social media.
We are a living testaments to what we preach all the time to people, that you really can make connection and you can build community and you can make change through this format of social media. It’s not just selfies and, you know, the stereotypical. I think [that] things that are associated with social media usually have a negative connotation. This is why we use a really positive way to that medium.
CAITLIN: Amy said we met through social media, we met through Instagram, and we had the idea to start a grassroots, kind of platform through Instagram where we focused on grassroots businesses, local community, and bringing people together. So, we did! The first time that we met, we instantly connected. We had this vibe through Instagram, and so, we knew that we wanted to start it through that platform and it just kind of started really organically and it’s taken off way faster than we ever thought it would (laughs). We started Simply Santa Fe, our Instagram account which now, two-and-a-half-years later…
AMY: Yeah we started December 2014. The two of us, kind of, [were] not exactly sure of how we were gonna do this. A friend of ours kind of spotted what we were doing and shared it on his account, and that was the push…
AMY: …official, push… (laughs)
CAITLIN: …and we were out there and, no turning back (laughs)
CAITLIN: It was scary – we had questions and we were like let’s just run with it ’cause there’s, just, no real rules for social media. This is whatever we want it to be, and we decided we want it to be a community builder and a place to bring people together and fun. We’ve never missed a day posting on our Simply Santa Fe New Mexico account, and we talk a lot about businesses. People use our hashtag all the time – pretty pictures of sunsets or businesses.
We like to feature a lot of local businesses throughout the week to give credit because it’s hard – advertising your own business and getting out there, and we like to help, especially since we can… and it’s easy for us.
We’ve got 21-point-something thousand followers and it’s big community – we love bringing people together to hang out. We run into people on the street, and it’s just great to see how this thing that we built has brought people together.
We bring people together in what is called Instameets. We always talk to them about goals, and that it will bring people to their location. It’s got that top-of-mind marketing and it will encourage people to take pictures at that location and it’s just like in real life experiences. Wow many do you think we’ve done so far (asks Amy)?
AMY: At least 10… At least…
CAITLIN: Quite a few…
AMY: I think there’s more…
CAITLIN: And we’ve got a lot in the works for this year. You see [people’s] posts on your Instagram feed all the time, but to see them in real life, watch how they take pictures, how they edit, people vibe off of each other. “Oh, I’ve been following you for years, so nice to finally meet you!” “Oh, I’ve always wondered how you edited your style like that.” It’s really cool to see how things have changed over the years too.
AMY: The Instameet format is obviously beneficial to the business to do that, and then the people coming get to enjoy some kind of unique, one-of-a-kind experience. But it has opened up other opportunities. So we’ve done an Instameet where we invited people to come into an art gallery, and they basically make art with art, and then those images could be submitted under a certain hashtag, and then those were actually put into a juried photograph show that is up [for] about a month after that Instameet at that gallery.
A lot of Instagram is amateur photography. People [don’t always] have access to seeing their work printed and hung up on a gallery wall, and for sale, and to see it off of the screen. It was really cool to see sixty people actually that were in a group show. It’s just like this win-win-win type of situation, and we see that happening with a lot of our photographers [who] have been hired by the businesses that we do work with to come and do their own photography. That’s what feels great for us, [that there] is [an] opportunity created beyond just that single event.
Travel New Mexico
CAITLIN: Another promotional Instagram account that the two of us run – it’s called Travel New Mexico and it features road trips around the state. So, Instagrammers will show their perspective of different trips and tell stories and what happened to them and what they loved and what not to do if you’re gonna do that trip (laughs).
For the first anniversary of that account – last May – Amy and I went on a road trip, and we planned this entire road trip based on the people that we met and the things that we learned about through Instagram. It was so cool!
AMY: Every single connection or place we went had been made through Instagram.
CAITLIN: While we were on that trip, we made a point to create these events where we invited people to come and hang out with us and photograph and just kinda get together – bring people from behind their phones to meeting in real life. We instantly vibed because we all had this common interest, which [is] photography. It’s so rewarding to have that and to know that there’s such good people out there
AMY: People make connections at those events that are longer lasting, like our relationship with Bobby and Maria, and we can name off fifty more people that we have met. I mean we’re primarily in North and Central New Mexico, because of our location. What was great about that road trip is we got to go down South. We went to Albuquerque, Silver City, Las Cruces, and White Sands, were the four places we did Instameets at. We got to meet this community that we don’t usually, normally get to see in real life. And then, they got to meet each other, too. So people from Las Cruces met people from Socorro, or Silver City, and now those people keep in touch and get together in real life and have warm friendships. I mean we don’t even know all of the effects that these things have and probably won’t, but that’s what we really love about what we do – the chance to help make connections for people.
AMY: I’ve lived here about twenty-three years now. Our kids are born here, all of our family is here, we’re very rooted to Santa Fe. We’re not going anywhere (laughs). I was very active with my kids’ schools when I was staying at home, and sort of building community that way, and then having this opportunity to do it this way, I feel like Santa Fe is unique from places I have lived before this. There is a lot of community here.
There are a lot of chances to do things collectively and there is a really collaborative spirit. It’s not a hard sell all the time, you know, (laughs) to go to someone with a crazy idea about a collaboration and have them say “All right. “Versus having to, to really sell them on it. I think Santa Fe has been a particularly good place for us to do what we’re doing because I feel like it’s just an extension of that already built Santa Fe community to online.
CAITLIN: It makes it so easy that Santa Fe is so pretty, so everybody goes out and takes a bunch of pictures. “Oh! That’s a great shot.” (laughs) Everybody can vibe off of each other really easily.
I’ve only been here in Santa Fe for three years, and I feel so much more connected to this area because being like thrown head-in and showcasing all of these things around town. I’ve learned so much about this town, I’ve been able to share that with other people that maybe have been here for years and years and have never known. We’re constantly learning more things about Santa Fe and it’s ever-changing moods, super exciting…
AMY: I don’t think you can ever fully discover all of it.
AMY: There’s always hidden things everywhere here. I feel there’s always things, people, and places to discover, which is exciting.
AMY: It’s [social media] the first thing in the morning, last thing at night, that’s not a super healthy lifestyle, trying to balance that, you know, being onscreen so much is, is tricky. Personally, I would say that’s the negative [thing] for us doing what we’re doing.
AMY: I see my kids growing up with this tool that I never had access to and how it’s great because it opened up their world, but it’s scary because it opens up their world. I think there is that negative [connotation] to social media that it can be used for nefarious and not good purposes. That’s a challenge, but I think that’s why we always try to go that extra bit to keep it positive and to build real things out of it.
CAITLIN: Yeah, and we’re lucky because part of the reason we gravitate so much towards Instagram is the visual aspect, but it’s also out of the social media platforms, people just tend to be in better moods on Instagram.
AMY: I have to say that is another thing that is really cool about Santa Fe, that there are a lot of really strong women here, women entrepreneurs, women out there in the community changing things and making it happen. We’ve been really fortunate through this to have been able to meet so many women who have been really amazing for us.
AMY: Every Instameet we do is a collaboration, with a business. So we’ve collaborated with the opera, with the David Richard gallery, with the Santa Fe Botanical Garden. There’s a wide range of people that we get to meet and work with.
CAITLIN: Yeah, also, every now and then we have people take over our account through Simply Santa Fe, or definitely through Travel New Mexico…
AMY: That’s an ongoing, daily collaboration, because our takeovers on that account are usually between two and four days, so we’re constantly out there looking and, and asking people to be a part of that…
CAITLIN: We request that people use our hashtag, #TravelNM on their pictures. That’s one of the ways that we’re able to discover new photographers. There’s a big community out there that frequently comments and ask questions.
AMY: …through the hashtag, and that’s how we go through it and something will catch our eye and we’ll go deeper into that and we can see that this person is a New Mexican [who] loves New Mexico, or is a tourist and just really had this amazing trip. We send them a direct message on Instagram and say we love their work – [and ask them if they] would they be interested in learning more, and then we just start talking with them. If they’re interested, we have guidelines, and we send them those, and then we schedule ’em. What we try to do is we’ll schedule it so there’s always different areas of the state being featured, so it’s not like three weeks of White Sands, so there is some strategy…
AMY: I think that is a constant collaboration…
CAITLIN: And it’s a good way for people to get their own photography out there. We don’t charge for takeovers…
AMY: Yeah, never.
CAITLIN: It’s a fun way for people to showcase their own work and to talk about their trip and it’s good to see perspectives coming from different people, even if it’s people going to the same area sometimes, but everybody always has a different experience, and it’s great to hear their feedback.
AMY: We also collaborate with another woman in town, Carol Baker, and she has her own social media account agency. Normally you wouldn’t work with a competitor… but we really have different styles, and we have different markets. We’ve just really enjoyed her energy.
We actually do a weekly Facebook livestream talk show called “Remotely Social.” We talk about social media stuff and ask people to engage with. That’s just in its infancy really… just starting off the last couple months, so that’s been a really, fun collaboration… [people ask] “are you working together? What?” But, it’s cool to be able to put all of that [aside], the harsh competitive stuff aside. Maybe we’re taking a risk here in doing this, but nine out of ten times, it works out.
Daily Life of Social Media
CAITLIN: As well as managing these two promotional Instagram accounts, we also have our own social media company, Simply Social Media, where we manage the accounts of other businesses, so we’re a little bit more thrown into it than the average person…(laughs)
There’s a lot of like preparing, researching, planning, scheduling, all of that. I would probably recommend to somebody getting into it… [that there] is no rules, just have fun with. You can vibe, you can look out there to see what other people are doing and try to do something similar or completely different. There’s really method set in stone.
AMY: A lot of our day is spent at a computer.
CAITLIN: A lot. (laughs)
AMY: I mean, so you see us on social media. Everyone’s like “Oh, your job is so great. You’re going to openings, and you’re doing this” …that’s, like one percent… of the time, the rest of the time we’re in front of computers doing what Caitlin said. Researching for our clients and strategizing and scheduling and doing the work. Someone going into it, I think [needs to] find that balance for themselves early on because, again, the screen – it really can take over your life. So the thing that we love turns into the thing that’s not really good for us, and that’s something I’m really working personally hard on this year… is finding that balance. When you’re starting a business, you have to be like eighty hours a week, you know, just because we’re hustling…
My family has a cabin up north and there’s no internet access, and I love going up there in the summer because I just, I have no choice – I have to step away from it.
CAITLIN: It’s funny ’cause we’ll see these new accounts pop up. New Mexico has so many accounts that are… It’s just funny to see new ones pop up everyday and then, they’ll like gradually drop off because it’s so much work.
AMY: People don’t realize.
AMY: We’re both [from] different generations. I’m in my forties, Caitlin’s in her twenties. So, maybe [we] wouldn’t see each other on the street and think “yeah, that’d be my business partner.”
AMY: …but it’s actually worked out really great…
AMY: I have different strengths then Caitlin. I think some of that is generational. There’s a wide range of people that we can relate to.
CAITLIN: Yeah, we each bring really unique things to the table and it works so well to combine those strengths together to do what we do.
AMY: I feel like she’s really empowered me in a lot of ways. Caitlin’s got a great go-getter energy that is just infectious.
AMY: So I could not do this without a partner. A lot of people [who] do [the] same… people say, “I’m really jealous that you guys have each other because it is nice to be able to… bounce ideas off of each other or – we text each other a lot because we do work virtually. Part of doing this was I still wanted to be able to be at home with my kids in the afternoon and Caitlin is also a professional photographer, so we had to make that time work, so we text a lot, but Caitlin always knows if I call her in the evening…
AMY: ….that I have a really good idea. (laughs)
AMY: because I wanna hear her say “oooh”.
AMY: Yeah, so it’s just nice to be able to have this idea and to be able to tell someone and turn that idea into action, and if it were just me, you know, half – maybe a third, or a fourth of the ideas I have would actually happen.
CAITLIN: To have such different perspectives coming together – it makes a huge difference.
Photo Credits: Bobby Gutierrez