how to write CTAs


How to Write Killer Call-To-Action Phrases with Examples for Social Media, Blogs, Emails & More

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Chapter 2

How to Use Call-To-Action Phrases

Call-to-action phrases can be used to inspire several types of useful action. Here are some of the most popular ways that companies use call-to-action phrases on and off social media.

Start a Conversation

People love to talk about themselves and share their opinions with others. They love it so much that on average, people spend about 60 percent of conversations talking about themselves—and this figure jumps to 80 percent when communicating via social media.

That’s because talking about oneself lights up part of the mesolimbic dopamine system – an area of the brain that is associated with rewards, and has been linked to the same motivation drivers and pleasurable feelings that arise from drugs, sex, and good food.

By using call-to-action phrases to start a conversation on social media, you are inviting your customers and followers to engage in a discussion about their favorite, most motivating subject: themselves.

Calling on customers to share their opinions, experiences, stories, etc. is a great way to boost social media engagement, and have your post reach a wider audience.

However, one thing to be aware of is how open your call-to-action is, and what exactly you’re inviting customers to share. To avoid disaster, make sure that your call-to-action phrase isn’t so open ended that your customers can interpret it the wrong way, such as when McDonalds started their #McDStories campaign. What started out as a seemingly harmless campaign calling upon customers to share their

McDonald’s stories ended up backfiring, as Twitter users harnessed the hashtag to tell their McDonald’s horror stories instead. Within 2 days McDonald’s took down their call-to-action, however consumers continued the conversation for over a week.

You can avoid what happened to McDonalds by making sure you’re on the right platform to start the conversation you want to have (Snapchat, for example, might not have generated so much bad press for McDonalds in this situation), and by thinking ahead to any potential criticism that could come your way (such as by being aware of your brand’s reputation). Start conversations with a call-to-action that is relevant to your product, a current event, current campaign or partnership, and that is on brand.

Check out how in 2014 Newton’s used the World Cup and its parent company’s status as the Official Snacks of U.S. Soccer to start a conversation that both promoted the brand, incentivized conversation, and kept commenters on task.

newtons facebook ad

Encourage Sharing

Having a call-to-action to get your followers to share your posts (or tweets) is a great way to increase your social media reach. When your audience shares your social media content, it broadens your network and attracts new viewers to your page. That means more leads, future engagement, and multiplying customers.

Many businesses use call-to-action phrases that give customers a specific incentive to share, such as being entered into a contest to win a coveted prize. Others use call-to-action phrases that appeal to customers’ emotions, or customers’ desire to share their beliefs and interests on their own social media pages.

Check out how Kraft does this in the social media call-to-action example below:

kraft mac and cheese ad

In asking Twitter users to share if they #didntnotice, Kraft created a hashtag to go along with their

campaign, as well as a community of nearly 200 people who admittedly #didntnotice. That’s a lot of new people who otherwise wouldn’t have learned about Kraft’s recipe change. And, there’s a good chance that out of the of people who saw this retweeted, at least a few of them found themselves suddenly hungry for Kraft mac & cheese.

Draw Traffic to Your Blog

Call-to-action phrases can be a great way to draw traffic to your company blog posts. One way to do this is by telling your viewers on social media to go check out your blog. Another way is by slipping call-to- action phrases into blog post titles and headlines. Well-written, actionable blog post titles can capture the interest of viewers who otherwise might not have been compelled to click on them (remember our first CTA example with GrubHub?).

Part of the beauty of putting call-to-action phrases in blog post titles is that you won’t just gain traffic to your blog by linking to it on social media – you will also get hits from people browsing sites such as Google, who will be more compelled to pick your article out of the lineup. More people on your blog means more people on your website – which means more potential for sales. You can also use call-to- action phrases at the end of (or throughout) your blog post, to encourage further reading and keep potential customers on your website.

See how Smile Direct Club uses a call-to-action phrase to steer readers towards their blog:

smile direct club facebook

By calling more customers to their blog, Smile Direct Club can educate more people on why they need their product, while asserting themselves as industry experts.

Improve Website Design

Call-to-actions aren’t only useful for web copy – they are great for website design as well. On your

company’s website, you can use basic design principles and simple call-to-action phrases to guide your customers where you want them. This means making sure that your call-to-action stands out aesthetically, and that users feel compelled to click.

Take a look, for instance, at how Netflix does this on their website’s home page:


This page contains multiple actionable CTAs. The first, and the largest, is “See what’s next.” That leads to another call-to-action: “Watch anywhere. Cancel anytime.” Then, the final call-to-action phrase beckons the user to click by saying “Join free for a month.” The white text over a fading, dark background keeps

the user’s eyes focused on the CTA, while also allowing them to sneak a peek at the company’s offerings. And the red button offers a bright contrast, making it a tempting click.

CTA’s aren’t only relevant design-wise on company websites – they can also be incorporated into an actionable social media banner on your Facebook and Twitter pages.

More Email Clicks

Email is the grandfather of digital communications, and shouldn’t be forgotten when it comes to CTAs. Use a call-to-action phrase as your email subject line and get more clicks.

Take a look at how these three companies used call-to-action phrases in their email subject lines:

email subject lines

These three emails have the same goal: get the customer to open the email and not send it straight to the trash.

In this example, the first call-to-action phrase from Expedia is presented as a lottery-like question, and beckons the reader to find the answer.

The second email from IHOP invites the recipient to make plans to visit the restaurant, and follows the headline with an emotional appeal: your visit will support a cause (in this case, Children of Fallen Patriots).

The final email from Trusted Housesitters frames the contents as opportunities that could pass the reader by if the email is not opened. Which one would you click?

Get Feedback

Using a call-to-action to get feedback is a great way to improve company processes and engage your customers. Common ways that you can use a CTA to ask your customers for feedback is over social media, email, a handwritten note, in person, or on websites where your product is posted.

By using a call-to-action phrase for feedback on social media, you can benefit from the herd effect and social media algorithms – once one customer comments with their feedback, others are more likely to see it, and may be enticed to do so as well.

Here’s how Lonely Planet asked its followers for feedback:

lonely planet

Not only does this social media call-to-action example promise Lonely Planet positive feedback, it gives customers a chance to show off and makes the task a bit of a competition. This sort of feedback request is a great way to make customers feel like they are part of a community of travelers, while also getting plenty of free press and gorgeous images.

Convert Customers

All of these uses of call-to-action phrases ultimately serve one greater purpose: To convert browsers into customers.

Here’s a social media call-to-action example that doesn’t beat around the bush:

madeva instagram

The “Shop Now” on this paid advertisement invites the user to view Madeva’s catalogue and begin initiating a purchase. It isn’t subtle about what it wants – nor does it have to be!

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