When you work in marketing, you’re always trying to convince your audience of something. Maybe you want your followers to sign up for a free trial, download a PDF, visit your landing page, or pick up the phone and call. But getting people to take action, especially on social media, is tricky… unless you use a clear call to action.
If there’s something you want your audience to do, you can’t just hope and hint (this same advice holds true for most things in life, actually). You need a compelling call to action, or CTA, to draw people in and point them in the right direction.
In this post, we’ll teach you what a good social CTA is and share tips and examples from brands that are nailing it. By the end, you should have everything you need to write a social media call to action that gets results.
Bonus: Unlock 28 inspiring social media bio templates to create your own in seconds and stand out from the crowd.
What is a call to action (CTA)?
A call to action (or CTA) is a text prompt that encourages your reader to take a specific action. On social media, a call to action might direct your followers to leave a comment, buy a product or subscribe to your newsletter, but there are many options.
Social media CTAs can appear on both organic posts and ads. The actual call to action will appear as text on the image, in the caption, or on a CTA button.
In ads, like this one from Loop Earplugs, you’ll often find CTAs in all three places.
Source: Loop on Facebook
A CTA can be as simple as a single word, like “Buy!” or “Subscribe,” but effective CTAs are usually a little longer and more specific. They tell the reader what they’re going to get by taking the desired action, and they often include a sense of urgency. The best CTAs are also highly relevant to the specific audience they’re targeting.
A great CTA will make it easy and enticing for your target audience to take the action you want them to take.
Before you can start writing, you need to know what you want your audience to do. Do you want them to make a purchase, visit your landing page, create an account, enter a contest, or like your latest selfie? (Kidding. Mostly.)
Your desired action should also fit within your overall social media marketing strategy. Think about how your CTA will serve your social media goals.
Here are some simple tips to keep in mind while you write.
Keep it conversational
There’s no need to be formal. You and your ideal customer are already best friends*, right?
Encourage a connection by using “you” and “your” in your copy. It’s an easy way to make your message feel more personal and less like a sales pitch.
*If you are not, in fact, best friends with your ideal customer, check out our guide to creating buyer personas.
Use action words
You want to inspire your audience to take action — this is no time to play coy.
CTAs that use powerful, clear, instructive verbs (aka command words) can help cut down on decision fatigue.
Try phrases like:
- “Sign up for your free trial”
- “Download my guide”
- “Get your free instant quote”
- “Shop dog hammocks”
- “Post jobs for free”
Simple and direct is usually best, but avoid phrases like “Click here,” which can sound spammy or off-putting.
The more specific your CTA is, the better. Instead of saying, “Sign up for our newsletter,” try, “Sign up for our weekly travel newsletter to get the latest flight deals.”
It’s also a good idea to stick to one CTA per post. Otherwise, you risk overwhelming your reader with too much information and losing them completely.
Create a sense of urgency
As any impulse shopper can tell you, nothing is more tempting than a limited-time offer. The clock is ticking!
Lean on FOMO and use words like “now,” “today,” or “this week only” in your CTA to encourage people to take action right away.
Vessi has limited edition fall sneakers? Better snap those up now!
Source: Vessi on Instagram
Focus on benefits
Features are what your product or service does, but benefits are what your customer gains from those features.
For example, instead of saying, “Sign up for my 6-week course on social marketing,” you could try something more like, “Learn how to make six figures by selling on Instagram!”
The first example tells your audience exactly what they’re signing up for, while the second tells them what they’ll gain by signing up.
Ultimately, both CTAs might drive readers to the same destination, but one is a whole lot more intriguing than the other.
Offer something valuable
Need a little extra oomph? Go beyond benefits and give your readers an unbeatable reason to take the desired action.
Free delivery is often a major motivator. In fact, almost 50% of internet users are motivated to complete an online purchase if they’re offered free shipping.
Source: Digital 2022
Discounts are always compelling, especially when combined with the urgency of a limited-time offer, like Gap does here:
Source: Gap on Instagram
You can also try offering access to exclusive content. See, we’re even doing it right here:
Bonus: Unlock 28 inspiring social media bio templates to create your own in seconds and stand out from the crowd.
Your offer should be valuable, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. Just make sure there’s something in it for your audience.
Stay true to your brand
Consistency is important on social media. Once you’ve established a brand, you want to stick with it. Believe us, your followers will notice if you slip up.
LensCrafters, for example, leans into its polished brand voice on social. This LensCrafters post uses words like “discover,” “premium,” and “high quality” in its CTA to build trust and convey their professional expertise.
But can you imagine if this post ended with “Hey Four Eyes, get your goggles here!”? An unusual CTA might earn a second-look, but it will also cause confusion.
Choose clear over clever
You only have a few seconds to make an impact, so save the jargon and wordplay for another time. Your CTA should be brief, clear and to the point.
Source: Digital Trends 2022
The average person spends almost 2.5 hours on social media platforms every day, and in that time, they’re bombarded with ads. If you manage to grab their attention, make sure they know what they’re getting and how to get it.
If your first campaign falls flat, pick yourself back up. Experimentation will serve you well.
Try switching up the words, the colors, the placement, the images, or even the font to see what drives traffic best.
A/B testing can help you measure what works best and then tweak, polish and try again.
Even a simple change from “Start your free trial” to “Start my free trial” can make a world of difference.
Every ad you post should have a call to action, but organic social media content can also include CTAs. Here are a few places you can sneak in a CTA:
In your bio
This is a great place to include a CTA that’s relevant to all of your followers, such as “Check out our website for more info!”
Instagram still doesn’t allow links in captions, so The New Yorker uses its bio to point followers to a landing page with links to more information on each post.
In your posts
You can include CTAs in individual social media posts, depending on what you’re promoting.
You can place your CTA pretty much anywhere in your post:
- At the top, if you want to grab attention right away
- In the middle, separated by a few line breaks, if you want to mix it up
- At the end, if you want to establish some context
For example, if you want people to visit your new blog post, you might want to share a few highlights before including an end-of-post CTA like “Check out the link to learn more!”
When Sephora starts carrying your products, it’s kind of a big deal. Beauty brand Tower 28 pointed followers to the nearest Sephora location with this Instagram post.
In your Stories
CTA stickers are a great way to encourage your audience to take action. You can use link stickers to promote things like contests, new products, or blog posts.
Link stickers can be placed anywhere on your Story. Just make sure to keep them away from the edges of your post, so they aren’t difficult to read (or tap!).
Source: Erie Basin on Instagram
Vintage jewelry dealer Erie Basin shares the newest additions to their shop with a simple product shot and CTA link sticker.
If you’re almost ready to get writing but still need a little inspiration, check out these examples of great social media CTAs.
1. Sign up for our newsletter
Cookbook author Dorie Greenspan is famous for her sweet treats. When she tells followers that they can get free recipes just by signing up for her free newsletter, you better believe they come stampeding.
2. Don’t miss this sale
Makeup brand Kosas knows just how to speak to their target audience. This post advertising their Friends and Family sale is specific, urgent and personal.
Who doesn’t want to be friends with Kosas?
3. Like, tag, and follow to win
HelloFresh Canada offers a major incentive to enter their contest that also happens to benefit the brand.
Followers have to like, tag, and follow to enter their contest, boosting HelloFresh’s reach and engagement.
4. Go minimal
/heyNetflix @discord pic.twitter.com/yPSQ3WiY3v
— Netflix (@netflix) October 27, 2022
Netflix promotes their new Discord bot with a tweet that will likely confuse anyone who isn’t part of their target audience — and that’s the point.
The minimal slash command will be familiar to any Discord user, though.
5. Sneak peek
Poet-artist Morgan Harper Nichols offers a long preview of exclusive content from her (paid) app to encourage her followers to download.
By the time you make it to the end, you just want to keep going.
6. Register now
P99 CONF is the event for developers who care about P99 percentiles and high-performance, low-latency applications.
It is not about products but about technology, so open source solutions are preferred.
Highly technical audience only. Your boss is not invited.
— P99CONF (@P99CONF) July 12, 2022
The CTAs on the image and headline are both simple, driving followers toward a registration link, but the body of the tweet is doing the heavy lifting here.
My boss isn’t invited? How exclusive!
7. Take the quiz
What’s your role? Tag yourself or comment with your own role and why.
Everyone’s got a critical role to play in Dungeons & Dragons. Take the quiz on our website if you need help deciding your role: https://t.co/cfW8uJHC5G pic.twitter.com/iG50mR9ZGm
— Dungeons & Dragons (@Wizards_DnD) September 27, 2022
This is a great example of a low-cost, high-value CTA. The official Dungeons & Dragons account encourages engagement by sharing a graphic and asking followers to tag themselves.
But if you’re still deciding if you’re a Wizard or a Rogue, you can take their free quiz to find out.
8. Find a store near you
Le Labo’s Reel shows behind-the-scenes footage of their in-house perfume lab and then casually reminds followers that it’s easy to find refills.
9. Focus on values
Instead of going right for the hard sell, Aesop uses this post to focus on the principles behind its brand. This softer approach uses a “Learn more”/”Discover more” CTA that invites the reader in and builds a connection.
A post like this is a long-term investment that can really pay off. Almost 20% of online shoppers are more motivated to purchase from an eco-friendly company.
10. Shop the link in our profile
Super simple and effective, this post from home goods store Nineteen Ten does everything right.
They share the product on sale and make sure the reader knows where they can find more just like it.
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