On an 80-acre artist residency a few hours north of the San Francisco Bay area, Benjamin Lotan starts his day with an hour of digging holes. “It’s work with no goal or purpose,” he says. And, yet, it’s productive.
As the co-founder of Social Print Studio—a San Francisco-based company that’s still widely known for its former incarnation as Printstagram—Benjamin thinks a lot about productivity. After a year of exceptionally hard work in 2016 that brought little growth compared to the company’s first few years in business, the team is using this year to consider what it would mean to be less productive. “We want to focus on growing a long-term company and staying authentic.”
So they’ve decided to slow down, step back, and think about how they can maintain the same authenticity they started with. Since Benjamin first printed a poster made up of his friends’ Facebook profile pictures back in 2010, the company has evolved into a desktop and mobile app print studio. People can print the photos they have stored on their social media accounts or phones and turn them into anything, from frameable images to pillow cases to calendars. Even though the team’s taking it easy for a while, they still put a lot of effort into sending campaigns on a regular basis.
“Sending email newsletters is pretty much our primary channel for reaching our customers,” Benjamin says. “We’re not super active on social media, and we feel we get the best responses with email.”
Keeping campaign premises
It can be difficult to come up with reasons to send marketing emails, according to Cat Sylvain, the copywriter and creative director for Social Print Studio. “We like to keep our marketing emails very fun and fresh, and we try to avoid recycling content.”
Campaign planning and creation is a team effort that begins with brainstorming a premise. Once they have a campaign premise, their GIF master (official title), Mira Nguyen, creates GIFs and artwork to fit Cat’s copy, and they use Mailchimp’s collaborative tools to leave each other feedback or see who’s editing a campaign.
Cat finds holiday campaigns particularly challenging, because she wants to avoid doing something stale or overdone. “We try to be a little zanier,” she says. Like the prank campaign they sent on April Fools’ Day to introduce Social Print 2.0, a virtual reality visor that lets you “virtually” print your photos. Or the campaign for last Valentine’s Day, which invited customers to submit their ideal romantic dinner menus for a chance to have it prepared by the Social Print Studio team.