Street Teams: Why you need one and how to create one

Note: Congratulations to Robin Kramme, winner of the giveaway by Melissa Cutler!
Writers In The Storm is thrilled to welcome Steena Holmes.

Steena Holmes

Steena Holmes

There’s one key aspect to writing that authors either love or hate. Promotion. We either find it exciting and can’t wait to dive in or we fortify ourselves with pots of coffee followed by bottles of wine all the while wishing our books would magically appear on the bestsellers list with no effort on our part.

I’m one of those authors who fortify myself with a fresh pot of coffee and some of my favorite chocolate before I dive in. But I’m not relying on magic. I have a Street Team!

A street team is made up of readers who love your storytelling and want to help get the word out about your book(s).

Why have a street team? Simple – promotion! By banding together readers who love your stories, you’ve expanded your sphere of influence to reach more potential readers. The best form of promotion after all is word of mouth.

Creating a street team

First, I had to get over the “Who in their right mind would want to join my street team” angst, I’d seen several authors spam their way through social media trying to get people to join their team. Not the way I wanted to approach this.

The objective for me was not to get more sales, but gain new readers.

How?

  • I redirected attention off me and focused on my books. Through social media (Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, etc) I connected with readers.
  • I redesigned my website so that it would be more appealing to readers.
  • I created Steena’s Secret Society. Who can resist a “secret society”?
  • I built up my newsletter following and sent out a special invite to join my Secret Society.

That’s it. I didn’t fill up my friends timeline with multiple requests to join my street team. I didn’t create a group and then invite all my friends and all the authors I knew. I didn’t join Goodreads discussions or visit the kindle boards and entice strangers with free books.

In other words – all I did was ask the readership I had built up if they’d like to be part of my secret society. I didn’t want to inflate my street team with people who ONLY wanted free gifts. I wanted people who loved my stories and would support me as an author.

I expected to garner only a handful of readers who were interested. I was surprised at the responses and found myself needing to cap it to a level I found manageable for the beginning.

Once I created my group I had one focus. NOT to promote myself.

Weird, right?

Counter productive? No.

I don’t want just a street team. I want a community. I want it to be a place where my ‘sisters’ feel like they belong. Where they feel a personal connection not only with me but with each other.

Why?

Because I write stories that touch women’s hearts. If I’m going to connect with them personally, then I need to connect with their hearts as well. I don’t want a group that will only promote me if I’m throwing gift cards or free books or other items their way. I want them to want to promote me – because we’ve built a connection, because they love my stories, because they want to see me succeed.

What about the free stuff?

Of course I offer free stuff as well. They get swag for being part of my group and then I offer gift cards and chocolates here and there as a way to say thank you for all the promoting they do. But I’m the type of person who likes to be part of their lives – so when they lose a loved one, when there is a wedding, Easter, Christmas, birthdays…they are not JUST my street team – they have become my friends.

And to me, that’s the key. I’m connecting with my readers in a personal way. My street team are my readers. My team will grow and will continue to bond as a community, as a family.

It’s probably why it started out as Steena’s Secret Society and my group now calls themselves Steena’s Secret Sisters.

Have you started a Street Team? What worked for you? Or are you part of a Street Team and what made you join?

About Steena

Emma's Secret-front coverChocoholic. Reader. Wife. Chocoholic. Mother. Author. Chocoholic. Living a life full of passion is the only way to live – especially if you have coffee on hand. Author of Bestselling Finding Emma, Steena snagged a 3-book deal with Amazon Publishing after thousands of readers fell in love with a little girl and grandfather from her story. Emma’s Secret is coming out June 25th! Visit www.steenaholmes.com to find out more.

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67 Responses to Street Teams: Why you need one and how to create one

  1. LauraDrake says:

    Steena, this is so timely for me — with my debut release just out, I don’t have ‘fans’ yet, but I’m saving this for if/when I do! I felt a little smarmy about doing this, but I LOVE the point about not promoting yourself. It’s funny, that changed my whole perspective on this subject!

    Thanks so much!

  2. Word of mouth from impassioned fans is the best marketing there is, and your sincere personal interest is the key. I tell all my clients that generosity is your greatest marketing tool. I’m in the process of converting my newsletter readers to a Secret Society, though I didn’t have the term until now!

    I also tell them that since chocolate grows on a tree, it’s a vegetable. Or a fruit. Anyway, it’s health food. Eat some right now.

    Hey, Laura! When you’re talking to your fans (of COURSE you have fans; look around you here at WitS) remember that you’re just talking about a book you love. The fact that you wrote it is a BONUS in the conversation, not a drawback. Talk about it as you would ANY book you love. And let the other person rave and gush. Never EVER stop a gusher. If they’ll gush to you, they’ll gush to others.

    • Joel, it amazes me how crucial word of mouth is! I ‘knew’ it but never ‘got’ it until now.

    • LauraDrake says:

      Thanks Joel – You’re right, of course. I love my child, of course – it just surprises me when others like it! Hoping to get over that soon.

    • J.M. Griffin says:

      I’m in on the chocolate description! Fruit, heck yeah! I can call it a fruit! LOL
      On a serious note Joel, you’re absolutely right about word of mouth. I’ve been considering a street team and wondered if it was another time suck and waste of it, but I like what I;ve read here and will give it some serious consideration. Thank all!

  3. Thanks, Steena. I’ve been spammed and pelted with emails and posts … buy me, get me … and it actually has the opposite effect. I resent the fact that I never heard from these people until they had a book to promote. Your idea is less invasive and sort of comfy. A way to connect to the author and their other readers. And psst … who doesn’t love being privy to a “secret” ??

  4. Betty says:

    Thanks for explaining what a street team is, or should be! I’ve seen references to the concept but wasn’t sure how or when to create one. Thanks!!!

  5. Nickie Asher says:

    I love my street team. I asked people who I knew liked my books and we are a nice little unit. We also have a lot of fun just hanging out in a secret group and sharing pictures of pretty guys. lol

  6. I’d heard the street team term before, but didn’t know much about it. Thanks for the tips on putting one together. I have questions, though. What do you do in the group or ask them to do? Is it sort of like a Facebook group where you post what you’re doing and they talk about it? How often do you engage them? What was the magic number that worked for you? I realize it’s a secret society and I’m asking for the secret handshake, but you’ve peaked my interest! Thanks for whatever you’re willing to share.

    • Secrets are fun, aren’t they! I created a private FB group and there’s a lot of action on there. I started off finding out who they were, what they liked, what they read etc…I knew I was the common denominator but I wanted the group to grow beyond me. Not everyone knew about all my books, so I introduced them to what I wrote, talked about what they like from authors – what they didn’t like as well. I engage daily and multiple times – but that’s because we’re a community. We talk about our day, what we’re reading, what we’re baking…I wanted to make sure the emphasis wasn’t always on me.

  7. I echo Carol: what do you do with your team? Strategize? Share “secrets” and they’ll adore you so much they’ll promote your book? If I got ten team members together, the first thing I’d do (after thanking them) is …?

    • The first thing I would do is find out who they are and what they like to do. Ask them questions. Be interested in their lives. And THEN I post a request … I started off with goodreads – add books to their shelves or maybe recommend my books. I share things with them first about my books. I ask for their help in research or naming characters etc. But FIRST get to know them. Show them that they are important to you and then you’ll be important to them.

  8. texasdruids says:

    Do I need to start a newsletter in order to invite readers to join a street team for me?

  9. Thanks so much for blogging with us, Steena!
    I’m seeing more and more authors talk about their Street Teams and have been very intrigued by the concept. Thanks for helping demystify it.

  10. elfahearn says:

    I’m also curious about what you ask your street team to do, and have you kept records on how effective they are — have your sales actually gone up — or is having a street team more about building a stronger connection to fans?

    And since I’m so full of questions, one more — how many books had you published before you started your street team?
    Thanks, I’ll leave you alone now. :0

    • Ask away🙂

      Right now, I’m not focused on sales. I made sure to start my team before my next release…I wanted to build a connection, create a community feel before I asked them to start doing the heavy stuff for me – like promote.

      There are things that I’m asking for their help in – like recommending my new release on Goodreads and I see it growing on shelves, so I know that is working.

      Books: In total I have 13, but the majority are novellas. I had to rebrand when I signed on with Amazon Publishing since I write romance and women’s fiction. I created a pen name for my romance and kept my WF under my name. Right now under ‘me’ I have 4. And … I don’t think it matters how many books you have. I think what matters is what is your goal. If you can build up your fan base before your first book – go for it. Start one🙂 Or start it after your first book is released, or second…. there’s no magical number to how many are in your street team. All you need is one. One person who loves you, who believes in you and is willing to talk about you to others.

  11. christicorbett says:

    I have a small street team I started about two weeks ago. In naming the group I tried to play off the title of my debut book (Along the Way Home) so I came up with the “Along the Way Home Announcers”.

    This is my debut novel that doesn’t release until June 11th, so I have no fans/readers at all. Basically it’s a small group of people who are my friends, family, and my writing friends. I figured I’ve got to start somewhere🙂

    This is a great post, and I’m bookmarking it to review over the next few weeks.

    Christi Corbett

  12. Great advice, Steena! I’ve been dabbling at the things you’ve suggested for a few months now. I have a newsletter that grows slowly (maybe 40 subscribers now), a subscribers only/password protected page on my website, and a private, invitation only Facebook group I named Kristy’s Posse. ‘K’ kind of sucks when trying to come up with a clever name….and I flatly refuse to go with something that would make it three in a row.

    I think it’s wonderful to be able to turn an author/reader relationship into friendships, and I truly appreciate the women I’m getting to know. So just to throw in my two cents…your advice is spot on!🙂

    • Slow growth is good growth because it means you’re getting the people you really want. Don’t try to inflate your newsletter or author page just so your numbers increase – the majority of those people who ‘have to sign up or like’ aren’t your true fans. K is a hard letter to start with but I like your group name!

      • That’s what I figure, too. I try to put the same message at the end of each blog post mentioning the secret group – and that the only people allowed in are newsletter subscribers. It’s worded a little nicer than that – and it’s not set in stone. I do let others in. I also let them know which of my books I offer for free, and the links where they can get them. And that’s it. I am not, and never have been, a salesperson. I hate when someone tries to hard sell me…and I flatly refuse to do it to others.

        And thanks about the name. I think a couple of the members like it, too.🙂

  13. marsharwest says:

    Interesting post, Steena. I’ll be interested in your post on why the newsletter, because I haven’t bought in to that yet. And that’s where you got your “sisters.” I don’t particularly like to get newsletters from folks. I follow blogs and post pretty faithfully at quite a few, (including this one) plus have my own blog and post on FB and Twitter. My first book is released July 15, so maybe I’ll see it differently when I have readers who aren’t just my good friends and writing buddies. LOL That’s assuming I can get regular readers without your street team concept. Seriously, I hope you’ll write about the newsletter. Thanks for this very clearly stated “how to.”

    • Marsha I understand your thoughts on newsletters – they can clog up your email. BUT..what better way to get your news, information etc out to your readers than by newsletter? They might not catch your blog when you need them to, or might not catch your tweet or post until after the fact. I like the newsletters that are personable and are more than just ‘buy my book, look at me’ type of newsletters. I think that’s an area that a lot of authors can grow and engage their readers better.

      • J.M. Griffin says:

        I agree about the newsletters. In the beginning I worried about what I;d write. Once I got started, it turned out to be a fun letter with less about my books, and more about what was happening within the community and I even posted a few recipes for the fun of it. Personable is the best route to take. When I get a newsletter from an author, I want to know more than what they are asking me to “buy”/”Promote”.

        • marsharwest says:

          Thanks, J.M. I see my blog that way. Personable and about what’s going on in my life. I don’t write about writing there. And I won’t have a problem finding something to say. LOL I tend to be a bit wordy and pretty much always have an opinion or thoughts about things. Just like everything else in this business, we take what we can, make it our own, and move on through the process. Fortunately, there are really nice and knowledgeable folks like you and Steena to share what you’ve learned.

  14. Thanks so much Steena for talking about specific actions in creating a team. I get so frustrated hearing what authors need to be doing, but not getting the “how.” So I have a few questions too. When you capped members in order to manage it, how many did you stop at? You said you asked people who were already fans to become part of the team—where did you do that? In a newsletter announcement? A post on your FB personal wall/fan page? Did you advertise in the back of one of your ebooks?

    • Thanks Angela🙂 Yes – I’ve capped it for now. I had a specific number in mind that I wanted (although, I hit it right away instead of building up to it – I wasn’t prepared). You want to make sure it’s manageable for sure! I stopped it at 50, but that’s going to depend on your comfort zone. Maybe you’ll feel more comfortable at 20 or 10.
      How I asked…I have a button on my website about my street team and set up a page for it as well. Check it out here: http://www.steenaholmes.com/connect/steenas-secret-society/ . Then what I did was send out a newsletter and I included my new brand for the secret society and added a little blurb about if people wanted to sign up. I will be sending out another call to action within a few weeks and opening the doors up again. One thing to be careful about … be sure you don’t have too many authors sign up. Most times fellow authors will sign up to see what you are doing – and that’s fine – but you want them to be a fan as well and be willing to help spread the word about you.

  15. Yvette Carol says:

    I had to tweet this, it’s such a great idea.

  16. Steena, you have done a masterful job of getting this all set up. I tip my hat to you! It’s a pleasure to watch you take these ideas, work them the way you want them to be, and make them successful.

  17. faithandrews says:

    Reblogged this on Faith Andrews.

  18. denise says:

    just be reasonable in what you expect of a street team to do for you. expecting a reader to promote your books by making trips to any store that sells your book on a weekly basis to stuff the books with bookmarks (for a one-year commitment), drive around with a 12″ square magnet on her vehicle, wearing temporary tattoos on a daily basis, carrying around a fanny pack daily to hold the swag you want distibuted is beyond the scope of a dream team. I can tell you as a reader, I’m not an author’s slave. No swag is worth that type of pimping. I joined a street team and quit because this was the expectation told after-the-fact.

    • elfahearn says:

      Yikes! that is some serious boundary pushing. I don’t blame you for quiting, Denise. I’m an author,and I’m just diving into the whole promotion thing. Would you mind sharing what you would feel comfortable doing for an author? and what you’d expect from that author in return? That would be very valuable information for all of us, I think.

      • denise says:

        I don’t mind leaving reviews, posting them on my FB or twitter pages. I don’t mind handing out a few bookmarks, but I don’t want to feel like it’s a chore. I’ll share a post on FB/Twitter for a new release.

        As an author, you should provide the bookmarks.🙂 If you want to have a contest for the team, that’s nice. A drawing for an occasional ARC or backlist etc…

        • denise says:

          ps. I leave the reviews on Amazon, B&N, GR, Amazon UK, Target, etc… and post links on FB and Twitter

        • elfahearn says:

          Hey Denise,
          So awesome to hear back from you. I just agreed to write an article for RWR on street teams, which was inspired by your comment. Would you do me a favor and email me at elfahearn@hotmail.com. I’d also like to hear from others about their street team experiences. What I’m looking for is the human side of the process. How one feels as a member, how authors feel as the recipients of team member’s efforts, good experiences, bad experiences, etc.
          Thanks!
          Elf

    • That’s crazy! I don’t blame you for quitting that team.

    • texasdruids says:

      I’d quit that team too, Denise. Whoever that author is, she’s got some nerve asking fans to go to such lengths to promote her work. Unreal!

    • Nicole Laverdure says:

      Denise, I totally agree with you!

  19. You really addressed what have been my concerns. I have two books on pre-order and my newsletter signup has begun to grow. How many people did you have signed up for your newsletter when you made your query?

  20. Wonderful advice – thank you! I’m just setting up a new blogsite where I can concentrate on the writing side of the work I do (at the moment my blog is a ‘catch-all’ of various topics). When I’ve got it up and running I will certainly make my own ‘Street Team’. It is a great idea!🙂

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  25. Nicole Laverdure says:

    I really enjoyed your comments which helped me decide to join, remain or quit! I totally agree with Denise, I am a reader who enjoys writing reviews, post comments and share them to help promote my favorites author’s books. But, there is a limit to what we should do as readers…I have a question! How do you quit a group that does not meet your expectations….without hurting the author!

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  27. Thanks in favor of sharing such a good opinion, article is
    good, thats why i have read it completely

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