July 1st, 2016

Street Teams: When and How do you start them when you have nothing to offer?

Kerry Lonsdale

Headshot-Kerry LonsdaleBefore I launch into the when and how, a couple of disclosures. First, I am, by far, NOT an expert. I am a debut author and this whole street team business is new to me. I’m literally muddling my way through.

Second, I must give a shout out to the queen of street teams, Steena Holmes. Orly was kind enough to remind me about Steena’s WITS article published a few years ago. Plus, in a round-about way, I modeled my street team “community” after Steena’s Secret Society.

Once I decided starting a street team was on the agenda, there were two bigger issues to tackle: How do I do this and when, especially since my book wasn’t even published yet?  What could I offer my followers?

WHEN DO YOU START A STREET TEAM?

It’s hard to  start a team when you don’t have a book on the shelves, or a publishing contract, or even an agent. My advice? Don’t start building your street team with an actual team. Start building an audience through your newsletter. Gain your readers’ (fans, followers, whatever) loyalty in advance.

I launched a newsletter way before I created a street team. But here’s what I did differently. Rarely, if ever, do I call it a newsletter. Following the beachy theme of my website, I branded my newsletter as Kerry’s Beach Club. My subscribers don’t sign up for a newsletter. They JOIN a club. Immediately, there’s a sense of community, right?

So, when do you start a newsletter?

Now. Today. No better time than the present no matter what stage you’re at.

Here are the steps I took. Some may work for you, others not so much. Glean what you can use and spin it, rebrand it, mold it to fit the image you want as an author.

1. Start that newsletter. Just started writing? Already have several books published? Just to reiterate: There is no better time to start than the present, no matter what stage you’re at. As for content, well, the reason my friends, family, and social media followers were interested in me is because they wanted to get to know me as a writer. Every journey to and beyond publishing is unique. When I didn’t have a book to share, or book covers to reveal, or anything tangible to offer, I shared my journey. I let them into my world. I tried to be as personable as possible. Share the downs along with the ups. Let them feel what you’re feeling. (You’re a writer. Write with emotion.)

2. Brand your newsletter. As I mentioned above, I branded mine as Kerry’s Beach Club where I could INVITE people to JOIN. Again, it evokes a sense of community.

beach-club-300x250

Secondly, I keep the content and tone of the beach club mailings personable. I write as though I’m talking one-on-one to each “beach pal.” And I do my best, hopefully, to put an interesting twist on the news I share as opposed to just spouting off updates in an uninteresting and dry format.

3. Market your newsletter. Make it easy on yourself. Do an initial announcement on your blog, share to your social media accounts. After that, automate it. Schedule bi-weekly tweets on Twitter. Schedule a monthly (or quarterly) post on your Facebook page. Spin your tweets and posts to make signing up or joining enticing. Come on, you are writers. You can do this. Here’s an example I once used:

Have you joined my beach club?
I’ve reserved the best spot under the sun for you.
1st virtual Mai Tai on me. (insert Tinylink)

(If you have space, add a picture or fun emoticons to grab the reader’s attention.)

4. Make it easy to subscribe to (or join) your newsletter. Your registration form should be located in AT LEAST three places on your website:

  1. Home page
  2. Newsletter page (For me this is my FOR READERS)
  3. Left or right margin on blog page, depending how your page is set up.
  4. Pop-up. Assuming your website is capable. I use the MailMunch plugin.

Slowly, but surely, your subscribers list will build. When you’re ready to start your street team, you already have a list of loyal readers eager to further demonstrate their loyalty. (PS, This is exactly what Steena suggested in her article.)

As for when I started my street team, I created it as soon as I publicly announced my publishing contract. That was two years after I launched Kerry’s Beach Club.

HOW DO YOU START A STREET TEAM?

If you’re sales-pitchy shy like me, don’t ask friends to hawk your book. Don’t wrangle your family into spamming their connections. Do, however, invite family, friends, colleagues and social media followers to JOIN your COMMUNITY.

1. Create the structure of your community. Where and how will you interact with your team? For mine, it’s a secret Facebook group. It can also be a chatroom, a forum you embed on your website, a Google+ circle, or Yahoo group. Any place where you can engage with your top readers and supporters and they can not only interact with you, but with each other.

2. Brand your community. My “street team” is the Tiki Lounge, an exclusive area of Kerry’s Beach Club. (Notice how I doglegged off my newsletter?)

tiki-lounge-1-300x250

I also spun it so that if you want to be a Tiki (Shout out to Andrea Katz for coming up with that gem.), you must gain access to the Tiki Lounge. Not everyone automatically gets inside. (Envision a cordoned off section of the hottest night club in town. With bouncers.) You need to follow a few very specific steps to get inside. These include: subscribing to my newsletter, liking my Facebook page, following me on Twitter, and adding my book(s) to your Goodreads bookshelves.

Does it take time for me to verify this? It does. But if someone goes through these steps, I then know several things:

a.) how active they are on social media;

b.) how much they love books (judging by who they follow); and

c.) what types of books they read (ie, are they similar to what I write). Also, they now know where I am on social media, which puts them in the perfect position to share with their friends and followers what I share online.

3. Make them WANT to join your community. The more they want to be inside, the more likely they will support you, by chatting up your books, sharing your posts, retweeting your tweets and regramming your Instagram photos. How do you do this? You give them what they want. A behind-the-scenes look at your process. Sneak peeks of your works-in-progress. Advance announcements of deals and other news the general public won’t know for some time. Fun bits like daily-lines and cover concepts. All that good stuff you wouldn’t think about showing to the public but want to share with your posse.

4. Make sure they know WHY they are joining your community. While ARCs for Tikis (while supplies last), advance NetGalley access, giveaways, welcomes gifts and, recently, Happy Hours, where I open the virtual bar, shake up virtual cocktails, and we have book discussions, are nice perks inside the lounge, they aren’t the reason for my Tiki Lounge. I make it clear on the Tiki Lounge registration form that gaining access is to support me as an author. In fact, the form doesn’t submit unless they check mark an agreement to do so. Because, isn’t that the reason for a street team?

5. Market your street team to increase membership. You can do this through your social media accounts and newsletter. Schedule monthly or quarterly tweets and posts to increase awareness. What’s worked for me is including a “what’s happening inside the lounge” section in my Kerry’s Beach Club emails.

By structuring a street team as indicated above, I didn’t have to beg or coerce a single person to be on my team to hawk my wares. They came to me because they are interested in my books, and I’m absolutely grateful for every single Tiki.

And that, my friends, makes this sale-pitch shy marketing-loving author very happy indeed.

Do you have a street team and how have you structured it? When did you start your street team? How does your street team support you as an author?

About Kerry

Lonsdale-EverythingWeKeep-FINAL-150Kerry Lonsdale believes life is more exciting with twists and turns, which may be why she enjoys dropping her characters into unexpected scenarios and foreign settings. She graduated from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and is a founder of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, an online community of authors located around the globe. She resides in Northern California with her husband, two children, and an aging golden retriever who’s convinced she’s still a puppy.

Kerry’s debut EVERYTHING WE KEEP, releases August 1, 2016 from Lake Union Publishing. It is available TODAY as a July Kindle First selection. Kerry’s second novel, ALL THE BREAKING WAVES releases December 2016, and WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND, the sequel to EVERYTHING WE KEEP, releases summer 2017.

You can find Kerry here:

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter

28 comments to Street Teams: When and How do you start them when you have nothing to offer?

  • Fascinating. I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never heard of a ‘street team’ before this post. Sigh. Another new way to promote for us authors so we can gain loyal readers. Thanks so much for the info.

  • Great post, Kerry. Thoughtful and informative. Thanks for the guidance. Street Teams — now added to my marketing plan.

  • Okay, good to know that I’ve been going about this the wrong way. Hmmm…

    Great job, Kerry!

  • Beverly Turner

    Kerry…Thanks so much for this info. Like another commenter, I had never heard of a ‘street team’. Sounds like a fun way to promote. Will definitely be using.

  • Orly Konig-Lopez

    Great tips, Kerry!

  • Interesting and thought-provoking. Nice one!

  • Love this, Kerry! I’ll be using your tips. Thanks so much for sharing. PS – I just downloaded your book as my Kindle First pick for the month! Can’t wait to read it!

  • Daphne Woodall

    Great ideas on the newsletter points. My only concern would be with the Tiki Lounge not everyone participates in Twitter and Goodreads. But maybe your readership is age 35 and under.

    It took me a while to realize how big a commitment it is to be part of a street team. I think team members need to know what is asked of them before committing.

    But love how you intentionally tied it all in together as a theme. You given me great ideas.

    • Hi Daphne, and you’re concerns are spot on. Not everyone in the lounge has a Twitter or Goodreads account. Word of mouth is still a very effective marketing medium, and social media isn’t the only way readers can support you as an author.

  • You’ve done a beautiful job, Kerry. I see you all over social media! Great blog, too. You tempt me to try this….but nah. I’m good with social media, but there’s something about street teams that makes my skin itch – I’m not exactly sure why, but it’s got something to do with felling like I’m ‘special’. Like anyone would want to be in MY fan club!

    What if you had a party and no one showed up? Yeah, it’s that Junior High insecurity. I’m sure of it.

    • ok! ok! I made it over here before the weekend is out. I sneaked away from the family.

      In the interest of post length, the paragraph about my abhorrence of the term “street team” landed on the cutting room floor. Honestly, I don’t call my Tiki Lounge a street team. They are my reader group, and I think that’s the direction these teams have taken, similar to your Readers’ Coffeehouse.

      Yah, tooting my own horn does get weary. It feels very weird. I do a better job at taking criticism than compliments. And, I agree, I don’t like talking about me. But I try to give my readers what I want as a reader. And I think I’ve only out right asked once or twice for news to be shared. That was in the beginning when I first launched the lounge and promo for my debut barely started. Now that they’ve read the book, I’ve been amazed at the extent news about the book as been shared. And I’m ever so grateful.

  • Thank you, for a good writing.

  • I had never heard of street teams before I read this post. It sounds interesting but too be honest it also sounds terrifying! Good luck to you though, it sounds like you deserve every bit of success you get.

  • Ha, ha, ha. It’s VERY terrifying. Some days I have to force myself to suck it up and dive in.

  • Thank you, Kerry, for sharing this. I’ve been contemplating starting some sort of group but was at a loss. “street teams” sound so aggressive, but I like the idea of a “lounge” or “secret group.” You’ve given me a lot to ponder!

  • questteaching

    Thanks for all the great information here, Kerry. So helpful when it comes to getting our books out there!

  • […] Other marketing items are media kits and street teams. Rachel Thompson lays out what a media kit is and why you need one, and Kerry Lonsdale discusses street teams: when and how to start them when you have nothing to offer. […]

  • This is me wanting to start a street team! Lol. Thanks for the great info.

  • Hi Kerry!
    What an enlightening article!
    Sharing NOW. ?
    Dani