I’ve been asked multiple times about building and maintaining a street team, from what a team encompasses to the various benefits for an author. We’re living in a society of instant gratification, worldwide connections, and endless chatter. Readers not only want to read books—they want to know the author behind the words. Stories are extremely personal and words still hold a powerful bond from author to reader. With the overwhelming number of choices available, a reader may buy your book over another’s for one simple fact: The reader feels like she knows you.
This guest post is by Jennifer Probst. Probst is the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of sexy and erotic contemporary romance. Her book THE MARRIAGE BARGAIN was ranked #6 on Amazon’s Best Books for 2012, and spent 26 weeks on the New York Times’ bestseller list. Her work has been translated in over a dozen countries, sold over a million copies, and was nominated for a RITA award. She was dubbed a “romance phenom” by Kirkus Reviews.
Street teams are meant to be an extension of an author, offering opportunities to build valued relationships with readers. They are also commonly termed “reader groups” and “fan clubs.” Let’s go through the various steps of building a street team, and how they can take your platform to the next level.
A street team is a dedicated group of readers who like your work and are interested in helping promote your books. These readers are interested in helping to promote your book because your relationship with them is mutually beneficial. They get to hang out online with one of their favorite authors and receive exclusive material, and you get help with promotion to share new releases, giveaways, and special events. This group is primarily created on Facebook, where access is easier than e-mail lists or Yahoo groups.
If you’re struggling with having another group on Facebook, I understand. But for now, it’s still the best game in town and authors should be on it.
When I gathered readers who would make up my street team, I wanted to grow the group slowly and organically. I didn’t want to add a bunch of people in a mad dash to increase my numbers. I wanted the group to be made up of readers who truly loved my work; wanted to help me promote; and were reliable for feedback, brainstorming, or commiseration.
I put out a call on my social media pages for interested readers, and when I had recruited twenty, I let them brainstorm a cool name for the group. The majority picked The Probst Posse. I created a Facebook group with this name, and assigned my assistant to be the administrator.
Now, I’m still the driving force behind the Probst Posse, but my assistant’s task is to make sure the group runs smoothly. She also sets up giveaways, polls, contests, and helps me stay on top of posts. She is not a substitute, though, and when I committed to the street team, I decided to make it a priority to hang out there. This includes posting regularly (except for when I’m on deadline); checking in with members on what they are doing or reading; and sharing new release information, book sales, excerpts of my manuscript, cover reveals, and holding brainstorming sessions regarding my current works-in-progress. When I started, I wanted the page to be a fun, dynamic, and always positive place. I distributed some swag to welcome the original twenty members.
And the Probst Posse was in business.
I built my group slowly. I put a tab on my website that allowed people to request to join the group. Occasionally, I’d give the page a shout-out in my newsletter or on social media, but I never heavily advertised or pushed to grow my member list. If a reader emailed me regarding my books, I suggested she join the Probst Posse. If you’d like to grow your team a bit faster, I’d also suggest reaching out to readers who left positive reviews on your books.
I now have over one thousand members. Not all of them are active. Some like to pop in when there is an event going on; others are regulars. I embrace them all, and try to keep the page welcoming for everyone.
If you are interested in building a street team or already have one, make sure you engage with and bring new ideas to the group. During a reader poll, I found an extremely important item that helped solidify the purpose of my group: Members are not there for the giveaways. Yes, the ones who subscribe to your newsletter so they can enter to win a prize—and then quickly drop out—don’t have your best interests in mind. But the majority of members are there for the personal interaction with the author. Reader interaction is important. In this case, it helps to think like a parent: Like your children, sometimes readers don’t want a cool pen or signed bookmark; they want quality time. That is, they want to talk to the author, ask a question, or find out what you did over the weekend. Give readers quality time and they will be loyal and supportive.
When my street team begins promoting a new release, I always see a jump in my rankings during the day. You can run a street team in whatever manner works for you. You can start small and grow. Just keep the group personal and a safe place to hang out for everyone. This means no bullies, mean people, or trolls. I’ve only had to block two members in the past several years, and I’ve never had a problem with negative comments. I know authors who are very comfortable posting personal pictures on their street team pages. Some don’t. There are no rules, except the ones you set up for yourself.
Do get personal, but in a way that relates to your books, or to open up a fun dialogue.
For instance, I love to check in on my members to see how their weekends are, what they’re reading, or their thoughts on the latest hot movie.
Do make it fun.
You want your readers to want to drop into your page and check in to see what’s going on. For example, I hold a Throwback Thursday where I give away a signed copy of one of my backlist books. I give the book away to a reader for answering a specific question. Many authors encourage members to post pictures of their hero or heroine inspirations and link back to their Pinterest page.
Do offer exclusive content to your street team members.
Make them feel special. I always share cover reveals, teasers, and excerpts from my work in progress. I go there first for all announcements.
Do involve your team in brainstorming sessions.
For instance, when I need a new name for a hero or heroine, I post my request in the group. Immediately, I get feedback and usually have a lively conversation. I have written dedications in books to Posse members who have helped me name a character, develop a scene, or gave me certain feedback I found important. Members love seeing their name in your book. I have also thanked my Posse in the acknowledgement portion of my books.
Do host special events around your book release.
I recruit my team to do more work around my releases, and I try to give back. For instance, I’ve hosted a book club with my team members two weeks after a new release so we can discuss the book in depth. I’ve done a Facebook party exclusively for my team where I give away fun stuff and welcome author guests.
Don’t assign an assistant to be the primary voice of your page.
Your readers are here to connect with you—not your assistant.
Don’t persuade readers to join your group for the giveaways.
This is in complete contradiction to what you want to accomplish. Instead, offer exclusive content, cover reveals, and brainstorming sessions. Offer more of you.
Don’t treat your group like a personal page.
This is not a place to dump political or religious views, or anything controversial. A street team’s focus should be on your work and your books. Always.
Don’t focus on other author’s work.
This is not a promo page. That being said, I love using my team for introducing authors or books I have personally vetted. I also host author takeovers where I invite certain authors into my group page to do giveaways and interact with the members. This is on an invitation-only basis and is exclusive.
Don’t offer bribes for reviews.
Ever. This will get your reviews kicked off Amazon and make people angry. I offer ARCs to Posse members in exchange for an honest review. I never include any free gifts for a review. And I don’t care if they post a bad review, as long as it’s fair. Once, a reader emailed me and said she didn’t want to post a review because it would only be for three stars, then explained her reasoning. I encouraged her to post anyway because it was honest, and deserved to be included.
In the competition of this new digital world, our readers are treasures. Honoring readers by giving them their own space with you is something they appreciate, and it’s a way you can give back. It’s also a fun way to promote your books with readers who love your work.
Isn’t that a win-win for everyone?
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