The Call-to-Action: A Necessary Evil

By Theresa Braun RT this if you’ve seen a brand use a call-to-action on social media in the past week. “Like” this if you found it desperate. Yes, calls-to-action have become routine, perhaps even formulaic. And yet, we see brands continue to use them. Why? Because they work.

If we learned anything from this year’s Oscars (besides how to “Travoltify” our names), it’s the power of a direct call-to-action. Turns out, you can get over 3 million people to retweet your photo--all you have to do is ask first.

When Ellen DeGeneres took her “selfie” at the awards show, she gave the audience a simple mission: help set the record for the most retweets (previously set by President Obama’s tweet after winning the 2012 election). She united viewers with a clear challenge, compelling them to immediately take action (even causing a temporary Twitter outage). The stunt was a success, breaking the current world record and far surpassing Ellen’s previous photos from the night (which only received anywhere between 5,000 and 20,000 retweets).

With the most famous selfie in the world, the lesson is obvious: Ask for it, and they will come.

But we already knew that. Including prompts like, “Comment with…” or “Share this…” have been previously proven so easy and effective that we’ve seen Facebook combat this “gaming” of the News Feed algorithm by taking steps to show more “high quality content.” As a leg up for brands, however, Facebook has recently offered call-to-action buttons to Page posts, helping drive users to click through to “learn more,” “buy now,” etc.

Here are 4 simple tips for making the most of calls to action on social media:

  • Provide relevant context. Users won’t typically engage with content that’s blatantly promotional. They’re not going to risk the shame of being “tricked” into advertising. Use content that already fits into what your audience likes to tweet and post. Create a relevant, compelling story around it (with the promise that if a user does take action, there’s only more and better to come).
  • Increase urgency. Spur action by creating a sense of urgency with a limited time offer or contest deadline.
  • Offer an incentive. Provide a reason for users to take action. A study shows that providing an incentive (whether an offer, prize, or goal), increases retweets by an average of 311%.
  • Create content that’s great on its own. If your photo or message itself isn’t worth interacting with, the call-to-action is pointless. It’s the difference between a star-studded impromptu selfie and a planned, posed photo.

And most of all, remember: You don’t get what you don’t ask for.

What are your tips for using calls-to-action on social media? Share in the comments!