Feature: Running an Author Street Team with Erin Kinsella
A few weeks ago, I sent a tweet out in the universe about author street teams and the use of Facebook.
Authors, please find other options for your street teams. I desperately want to support you and be off FB https://t.co/alMYG8n8bL— Christy Jane (@diamondxgirl) January 13, 2020
I unofficially left Facebook a few months back and haven’t looked back, except when I randomly check in on an author street team. I participate in several on Facebook and am torn with not wanting my personal data there and yet not having an alternative to heavily support several authors I love.
Enter Erin Kinsella, who tweeted back that she had made a successful move to Discord, a chat community generally reserved for gamers. I was instantly curious about her success and how she manages, and WOW, was I not disappointed. Check out our interview below, plus some tips on how to get started on the move from Facebook.
Running an Author Street Team
Connecting with readers on a closer level is a challenge. Instagram is more one way, Twitter feels too open at times, and Facebook is bleeding users due to political policies. How did you pick a platform to connect with?
Each platform tends to have a different demographic of users, so you want to choose one that fits with the demographic of your readership. I use all 3 you mentioned – Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook – not because I agree with or particularly enjoy one over the other, but because it allows more connection opportunities with the varying demographics who might read my work. Some require less work and investment than others as well, so you can make your selections if your time is extremely limited. Usually if there are readers I speak to regularly I’ll keep to Twitter DMs or I’ll ask them to connect on Discord. Discord is where I actually have conversations with people and it’s where my strongest community develops. The other social medias are more for spreading the word and sharing thoughts, in my experience, than building a community of fans that actually care about your work.
What level of planning goes into running your Discord group? How do you balance it with writing and other responsibilities?
It really depends on the purpose of the group and how active they are. So on Discord I have a personal writing group, my Patreon server, as well as my street team server in addition to other groups I mod or am a part of. If you’re running a group I think it’s really important to develop a code of conduct prior to getting more than a few members just so everyone knows what the rules are and what actions warrant removal.
You may never need to enact any measures, but having them there from the start doesn’t let any potential instances fall through the cracks. You want to think about what you want the group to accomplish too. Say you’re wanting to run a writing group. You can customize it by adding channels for beta reading, doing writing sprints, book recs, writing playlists, etc. to best serve the needs of the group. Obviously those can be adjusted and tailored as time goes on based on what people are asking for, but it’s nice to have a good foundation to start with. For something like a street team I have a separate channel grouping for each of the challenges that lays out the timeline, rules, and expectations for each challenge.
I also have channels for where people can chat about the book, a spot for introductions, a channel where anything I post there is safe for participants to share with the wider world, a channel where things I post there are for them to collab with me on (whether that’s for challenge ideas, opinions on art, quotes to share, etc.), and I also make sure that the media kit is available there for them as well. Other channels are added or removed as needed. The thing about Discord versus something like a Facebook group is that I find it much easier to communicate with the members. It’s very easy to stay organized by comparison and you can pin important messages or have them be in their own channel so they never get drowned out by group activity. As far as balancing with my responsibilities go, again it depends on the group. Larger, more active groups require a lot more attention. In those cases I tend to check in a few times a day and/or when someone tags me.
For the street team, if people are just chatting then I’ll hop in and talk to them, but there’s also not a huge obligation outside of making sure you’re there to encourage, answer questions, and provide whatever content they need to complete challenges. It can be very easy to lose time to conversations, so it’s mostly up to you to put the brakes on and get back to work.
What challenges have you run into?
Like with anything that’s reliant on volunteers you’re going to run into issues with participation. People over-commit themselves, run out of time, etc. and you may run into less participation than you expected. In terms of the platform itself I haven’t really run into any issues. Once in a while there will be server interruptions, but they’re not too common. Otherwise with very large groups they can feel overwhelming, especially when you get into the realm of 100+ people writing things constantly so it’s difficult to keep up. For the groups that I run, I keep them intentionally small so it feels more like a tight-knit community.
How do you manage street team challenges?
For posting in the street team, I made sure at least the first 5 challenges were already set up with the information and timeline when I started adding people so they can plan ahead. a lot of the challenges are super simple but they get more involved as you go along. Whenever I had character art finish or anything like that, I would share it with the street team and let them know when it was safe to be spread around.
When someone completes a challenge, I make note of it on a spreadsheet and that also lets me keep track super easily of who is regularly participating and who is winning challenges. I do teeny giveaways/prizes with each challenge so it’s like a mini competition too.
What would you recommend to authors wanting to start their own fan groups or street teams?
I would recommend that they join a server or two before creating their own to get the hang of things. You’ll meet new people, get a feel for how Discord works, and it’ll give you time to set up your community. Develop your code of conduct, figure out what you want the group to accomplish, and design it accordingly. Once you have a group that you want to grow you can share it across your other platforms. The only way that I ever find other Discord groups is from people I follow on Twitter or Tumblr sharing them, so don’t just expect your group to exist and magically grow without sharing it around. Additionally you can connect a Discord server to your Patreon, if you have one. What I and a few other writers I know do is use entering a Discord server as the first tier reward. Then people who are already fans can hop on and interact with you while also supporting your continued work.
Erin Kinsella is a romance and historical fantasy author dedicated to sharing stories of love, heartbreak, and triumph. You can also find her on YouTube, where she educates writers about the publishing industry, world building, and how to make your readers swoon. She attended the University of Alberta where she studied psychology and history. When she’s not writing or YouTubing she’s hanging out with her husband and three cats.
Follow Erin at:
- Website: https://erinkinsella.com/
- YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/ErinKinsella
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ekinsellaauthor/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/ekinsellaauthor
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/erinkinsellaauthor/
- Tumblr: https://ekinsellaauthor.tumblr.com/
- Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14852207.Erin_Kinsella