Fast Company

With Twitter Art and More, Social Printshop Moves Beyond the Facebook Friends Poster

What do a Columbia J-school professor and a soft-core pornographer have in common? They're both investing (probably) in Social Printshop, a start-up devoted to printing social media photos.

Social Printshop has launched a new website featuring several new products, including a print-your-followers Twitter poster. The bootstrapping start-up (aka Social Print Studio and Printing Facebook), founded by an MFA student in San Diego named Benjamin Lotan, has been growing over the last few months, swelling to a 10-person team since we covered its first product, a 20'' x 40'' high-resolution print of your Facebook friends' faces. Social Printshop has even attracted the attention of a few potential investors, including a professor at the Columbia Journalism School and a soft-core pornographer.

In the last few months, Lotan tells Fast Company, he has been trying to define a brand. "We're trying to claim a space a little bit," he says over the phone, either hesitantly or groggily or both. "We're in the space of photos, printing, and social. I'm not terribly proud of these products, I just felt it necessary to push them out. They're really simple products."

He's working on two iPhone apps that he declines to elaborate on publicly at this point, and he is developing a site, (a URL he has owned for a while--"it just needed to be bought"), that he intends to be a powerful photo-sifting engine along the lines of Pixable's photo feed, which assembles and sorts all the thousands or tens of thousands of photos you have access to Facebook. All he has for the time being, though, is a splash page, and he says "I'm not sure I'm prepared to talk about" exactly how will outdo Pixable.

But it's not all vaporware at this point. Lotan and his team have been churning out real products, too--on top of the old standby, the Facebook friend poster, and the new Twitter poster, they'll print out nice vinyl Tumblr posters, miniature photobooks, and small stickers with images from Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr. They've teamed with Mashable to wallpaper its New York office with images of fans of its Facebook page. Why do people want to order a mosaic of faces staring at them? "The language people like to use is, they want to honor fans, put them on a wall, have them present," Lotan says.

Recently, when a PR firm met with Bacardi, it paid Lotan to decorate a space with Bacardi's Facebook fans, "just to help the client be able to visualize who they're interacting with," he says. If you think about it, printing out a Facebook fan page is something quite similar to what pizza parlors have been doing for decades when they tack up Polaroids of their visitors. Lotan says, in fact, that he'd like to work with restaurants, but hasn't yet.

Nonetheless, Lotan's progress has been considerable enough that he's attracted attention from at least two potential investors. Matt Paolasso, a musician/photographer/actor/soft-core pornographer/"man of mystery, hysteria, and lore" (according to the gentleman's site), has been talking to Lotan, who also hopes Paolasso might help make content for the site. "I'm not saying we're gonna make porn," Lotan adds, just standard PG-rated promotional videos. A Columbia Journalism School professor intererested in social media also reached out to Lotan about possible investment.

So why all the past company monikers? In its first incarnation, perhaps not surprisingly Printing Facebook got a cease-and-desist letter from Facebook, and so it changed its name to Social Printshop. But then Broderbund, makers of the software Print Shop Deluxe, sent a cease-and-desist letter of its own. Lotan is noncomittal as to whether his company is now called Social Printshop or Social Print Studio. He'll be incorporating under the name "Toad Murphy."

"There's not really a story behind it," he says of that puzzling name. "That's all there is to say."

Whether or not it's in his best interest, Lotan's total lack of PR sheen is refreshing. A bit of goofiness and a tinge of self-mockery seem integral to his fledgling company's indentity at this point, and we're pleased to see that he qutoes Fast Company's first report on Printing Facebook on his site: "You could have hard-copy, colorful proof of your wild popularity comforting you each night as you struggle to fall asleep."

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  • Marketinggrrl

    Social Printshop is a fantastic idea for personal fun, office decoration and business marketing. I can see this being a real hit with people of all ages and serving both large corporations and brand new business owners. These fun little books is a great way to show off to friends and family as well as keep up with people who don't go online or go online as much. The posters will be a fabulous addition to a trade show booth! I'm definitely going to be looking into these myself.

    Marketing Grrl

  • heidi vick

    I guess it's a small momentum reminding the purchasers of how many friends they used to have in their prime.

    Social networking is great fun. If you want to check out some stellar videos I have complied a set of extreme, abstract, hilarious, artistic videos in my channel! Check it out!


    This is NOT spam. Thanks, Heidi