Passive Promotion

My First ReverbNation Street Team Mission

I love ReverbNation. I could write a dozen articles on the various tools they provide for artists. For now I’ll focus on one I just tried for the first time: Street Team Missions.

Whenever a fan subscribes to your mailing list, they’re given the option to join your street team. You create missions to direct your team’s promotional efforts on your behalf, and they compete against each other for rewards of your choosing. ReverbNation manages the whole thing automatically by measuring plays, widget clicks, banner impressions, and mailing list signups.

Sound too good to be true? I thought so at first, so I joined several other artists’ missions to get a closer look. I wasn’t exactly blown away. Participation was limited to a handful of fans, even on teams with 1000+ members. My enthusiasm waned, and I put the idea on the back burner.

Fast forward to two weeks ago. I was selected to participate in a Windows 7 promotion hosted by ReverbNation, called Playlist 7. Microsoft posts 50 songs for free download each week, and the seven most downloaded artists win $507! Easy enough, right? But there’s a catch: before anyone can download your song, they have to “become a fan of Windows” through Facebook, Twitter, or MySpace. Few consider this a badge of honor.

While I’m actually quite fond of Windows 7, I’m an even bigger fan of $507, so I quickly drafted a campaign to get out the vote. My street team had grown to 215 members (out of 1055 on my mailing list), so it was about time I gave them something to do. I emailed ReverbNation for advice on how to set up the mission, and followed their directions.

First I created this banner (“help a friend win money” seemed a stronger pitch than “download music from bands you’ve never heard of”):

I uploaded the banner to my profile and embedded the RN-provided link to my song. Finally, I created a custom mission to promote the banner, determining the winner by the highest number of clickthroughs. Here are the results (click to enlarge):

Not impressive. Of the 202 clicks generated, I’d guess maybe 50 resulted in downloads, factoring in the “become a fan” disincentive and the assortment of problems people had getting the site to work. Fortunately, that was enough to do the trick. In the end, 19 downloads made the difference between winning and losing (full results are here). We made the top 7, coming in 4th place with 297 downloads, and winning the $507.

If Rob and Ken hadn’t been in such a tight battle for the top spot on the leaderboard, the mission could’ve been a total bust. Their efforts accounted for over three-quarters of the total activity. Only 11 people even signed up for the mission, and two of them apparently didn’t even post the banner.

Still, I’ve got to hand it to ReverbNation. The automatically generated emails they send out to street team members are ugly, but beyond that I can’t think of anything they could do to improve the feature. If I wanted more participation, I could’ve offered a bigger reward, or perhaps counterintuitively, no reward.

Armed with 20/20 hindsight, I present my step-by-step guide to launching your own street team mission:

  1. Recruit. First, email your entire mailing list. Explain what a street team does and ask them to sign up. Provide step-by-step instructions for doing so.
  2. Choose reward(s). To discourage gaming, I suggest you come up with something that your fans will value, but wouldn’t fetch a large sum on eBay. Knowing that many of my street team members are musicians themselves, I offered the choice of a collection of Color Theory rarities OR mastering their next release (full details are here).
  3. Get commitments. After a few days have passed, email your street team. Start by describing the reward(s), then explain exactly what you’ll ask them to do. Insist that anyone willing to participate let you know by replying to the email.
  4. Make the call. Does the response justify the mission? If not, email back your potential participants to tell them you won’t be moving forward at this time. If your fans aren’t eager to recommend you to friends and family, maybe your music isn’t where it needs to be just yet.
  5. Launch the mission. Uncheck the box marked “Notify Street Teamers of New Mission when it becomes Active” to prevent ReverbNation from automatically emailing your street team. Instead, create your own personalized email to the team asking everyone to join the mission. Provide step-by-step instructions for doing so. Email your committed participants individually to thank them in advance for their help.
  6. Recruit again. Email your entire mailing list with a full description of the mission and reward(s). Provide step-by-step instructions for joining the street team and mission. Invite them to email you with any questions.
  7. Monitor and support. Update the mission with suggestions and encouraging comments, every step of the way. Make sure the members at the top of your leaderboard are playing fair and promoting you in appropriate places.
  8. Say thank you. When the mission ends, email your entire mailing list to thank the street team for their help. Congratulate the winners, mention the rewards, and yet again provide step-by-step instructions for signing up for the street team.

Let me know how it goes!