Ok, what is a street team? Literally, it is a team that takes word to the streets…a publicity technique that has been used very effectively in other venues such as the music industry. E.g. http://concertpromousa.com/STREET_TEAM_MARKETING.pdf
(be forewarned, it is an advertisement for this particular product but it does have some information on the concept).
Authors are learning how to utilize this tool but should be aware that, just like any other of those dreaded publicity techniques, it takes time, but the investment may be well worth your efforts!
Typing ‘street team’ into a search engine will cause many different articles to appear, such as:
and I invite you to peruse some of these. I am actually a participant on probably 10 or more street teams myself and offer observations from my own experiences.
What does a street team do?
All kinds of things, whether putting your book on their ‘shelves’ at Goodreads or starting a discussion thread there or on Amazon, writing a review, having a Facebook or Twitter conversation about your book(s), passing out trading cards or bookmarks or other swag to their local libraries, booksellers or other gatherings, posting comments on your blog tours, asking Amazon to price-match (especially useful when they are being stubborn about offering titles for lower prices), hosting ‘book parties’, the list can be long and creative. I ask that you be careful about what you ask your team to do as I am not a fan of blitzing (and thankfully am not subjected to a lot of it since I don’t use FB or Twitter or most of the other social media) but that technique can become quite irritating although some authors are quite successful at utilizing it. Please use caution when asking your team members to vote down low reviews because you do NOT want them to get into flame wars on your behalf and sometimes team members get a little too enthusiastic in their quest to support/protect you. Please also realize that your requests reflect on you as a person, so asking people to join a particular forum JUST to garner votes for your title is not only frowned upon but actually forbidden in some venues and may reflect badly upon your integrity.
How do you find a street team?
First decide how large a team you can handle. Are you a hands-on person or not? Will it drive you nuts to have e-mails flooding your box asking you how you want to handle things? Do you want to set up an e-mail account just for the street team members? You may wish to choose one of your team members to be your liaison to everyone else. Decide how you want to handle communication to everyone. Some teams have private Facebook sites, some use yahoo loops, some use a password-protected area on their website or blog, some communicate just through e-mails. Just remember that if you only use one venue, you may be excluding some of your most ardent fans. Most of you who are just beginning would probably be advised to have 10 members or fewer to work out the kinks. You can post a message on your blog or Facebook page and ask for members, if you are in a chat you can mention it or if you do signings or go to some of the conferences where you interact with readers, you can pass out a little card with your website or contact e-mail. Please use caution because there may be some who join only for the ‘freebies’ so you have to decide what is the most comfortable way for you to decide who is appropriate for you.
What’s in it for the street team members?
First, you should decide what you can afford in terms of time and expense. It does you no good to plow all of your hard-earned profit back into a street team and have nothing to show for it. Be creative, often the most thrilling reward for these fans of yours is having access to you…to hear what you are writing about or other aspects of your life, to be involved in naming a character in your book or helping with a title or choosing a path for your hero or heroine to follow. Some authors send out autographed or handmade items, or ARCs or sneak peeks that are only given to a chosen few, others pass out t-shirts that loudly promote their most recent title (and offer prizes for pictures that show the t-shirt is being worn in public). Naturally, you have to use care because unfortunately, there are unscrupulous folks everywhere but it has been my experience that some long-lasting friendships and mutually beneficial relationships can arise and the synergy is uplifting. Some authors find beta-readers who are willing to help catch errors and critique or folks who will write reviews just for the privilege of receiving an early copy. Other authors offer prizes…e.g. all those who send a link to a review or a blogpost/Tweet/FB posting about your title get an entry into a contest for some particular prize.
The possibilities are endless…and those readers who are your fans and join your street team can offer wonderful inspiration and enthusiasm when they are able to share in your life. You may need to consider an extra special gift or some kind of reward to those who go above and beyond for you, especially if they become a virtual assistant for you. Just remember, the goal is to get your title out there in front of people and encourage them to become life-long fans so make sure you present yourself in the best possible light by always being respectful of others, having a nicely edited product (ha, my bias is showing) and displaying honesty and integrity.