Cyndy Aleo

Four Little Bees Writing & Editing

author, freelance writing, editing, and a little bit of web development, helping clients with content development, book editing, and blog set-up and customization

So it's NaNoWriMo month...

... and as usual, I'm super, super behind. I had all these delusions of catching up on my TBR list and reading and getting all my laundry caught up and trying this new pie recipe and finishing up editing THE FOREST'S SON (which is now, like, six months behind, but I promise the changes I'm making will be worth the wait!)

But then I was watching this ongoing conversation on Twitter that featured Courtney Milan -- who's a bestselling author and overall badass, if you aren't familiar with her work -- talking about street teams.

Let me tell you, I had way more to say than I could fit into 140 characters at a pop. Because the whole concept of street teams leads into another weird topic, which is what I like to call "sekret skwirrel clubs."

I'm sure a lot of you are part of these: locked Live Journal communities. Private Yahoo Groups. Private Facebook pages. Member-only Goodreads Groups.

I've been online a long time. I'm older than the hills. And the one thing I know for certain is that the more you say "Don't talk about Fight Club," people are going to talk about Fight Club.

Street teams often utilize these sorts of groups, as do cliques. As do organizations. Some of them are good, and makes sense. Some of them don't. What NONE of them are, however, is secure.

Please read that again. NONE OF THESE GROUPS ARE SECURE. EVER.

If you've been following the Ellora's Cave v. Dear Author lawsuit (and again, if not, go Google yourself some Courtney Milan, because she has an excellent breakdown), you'll notice something there: 

Some of the evidence Dear Author had to support the post in question was forwarded from a closed mailing list. Or group.

ANYTHING you put into words online has the potential to be leaked. Twitter DMs have been exposed. People will have friends--or even spies--in your closed groups. Even instructions to never forward information get forwarded. You can't trust that what you are putting out there in secret isn't going to get out somehow.

Now, how does this lead back to street teams? As Ms. Milan pointed out, street teams aren't always avid fans. They are folks you are essentially bribing to do marketing for you. That seems harsh, but it's true: these are people who want early access or special things that others don't have. 

Now, read what I said about about the sekrit skwirrel groups and think about that for a second. 

These are people who are not your employees, who may not be superfans, to whom you are giving exclusive things to. Don't talk about Fight Club, right?

Closed groups, exclusive memberships, group-only mailing lists are only as secure as the people in them, and you don't usually know all those people. You may not even know half of them. And some you may not even be aware are there, because they don't ever post or contribute. But they're still there.

When you say "Don't talk about Fight Club," people are ALWAYS going to talk about it. So my recommendation is to think long and hard about what you're posting or sharing or giving away... and how big you want your Fight Club to end up once it's out of your control.