How to Write a Compelling CTA for Social Media (+10 CTA Examples)
Maybe you want your followers to sign up for a free trial, download a PDF template, head over to your landing page, or pick up the phone and call. Whatever it is, you need a call to action (CTA).
If people always did what we wanted them to do, I would have somebody rubbing my shoulders right now and gently hand-feeding me popcorn. (This imaginary person has three hands.)
But we all know it’s tricky to get others to take the actions we want. Especially on the dense, distracting internet.
If there’s an action you want your audience to take, you can’t just hope and wish and hint. You need a CTA that shouts it out loud and clear.
Read on for tips, tricks, and plenty of examples to prompt your audience to make your dreams (popcorn-massage-related or otherwise) come true.
Bonus: Download The Wheel of Copy, a free visual guide to crafting persuasive headlines, emails, ads and calls to action. Save time and write copy that sells!
What is a call to action (CTA)?
A call to action is a prompt to get your audience to do something specific.
This is the part of your content, ad, or website that invites a reader to, well, take action. On a website, a Call to Action is typically a button, a clickable image, or a link.
Usually, a CTA will be found at the end of a blog post or webpage, but they can appear anywhere on a website, or even within a social media message.
That action could be:
- Creating an account
- Requesting a quote
- Entering a contest
- Signing a petition
- Registering for a course
- And more
A clear CTA makes it easy for the reader to do what you want them to do. No friction, no hunting around or googling for the right form or PDF.
It’s the button or link that kicks off the next step in your funnel. You’re placing the ball on the tee, so the reader just has to step up and swing. (And presumably actually hit if, if they aren’t me.)
It might be a few words, or it could be a sentence or two. Whatever it takes to instruct your reader to do what’s next… and, importantly, motivate them to do it.
Because here’s the trick: you’ve got to give people a reason to click. The key to a good call to action isn’t just to tell them what to do, but why they should do it. Which means honing the fine art of writing effective CTAs.
How to write a call to action for social media
Before you actually sit down with your keyboard (or quill and ink, you do you) to craft the perfect message, it’s important to consider your ultimate social media goals and how your CTA might serve them.
How will you measure success for your post? Visitors to your landing page? Newsletter sign-ups? Number of saucy photographs submitted?
There’s no wrong answer, but it’s a helpful question to have in mind as you’re composing your CTA.
Not sure about your brand goals yet? Take our social media strategy guide for a spin.
Pick strong action words
Whatever action you’re hoping your readers take, you want to compel them to go for it.
Powerful, clear, instructive verbs (a.k.a command words) are great here.
Try phrases like:
- “Sign up for your free trial.”
- “Download my guide.”
- “Get your free instant quote.”
- “Shop dog hammocks.”
- “Post jobs for free.”
Here are 401+ power words to consider. Be bold!
Source: ZipRecruiter screenshot
Consider urgency… before it’s too late!
Limiting time usually entices users to respond more to CTAs.
“Call us today” implies immediacy and urgency much more than just “Call us.”
“Register for your spot in our naked skydiving workshop—before it fills up!” instantly makes the experience feel exclusive.
Call it the FOMO principle. But don’t MO on trying this trick yourself.
Make the benefit clear
Does your CTA pass the “so what” test? Readers care what’s in it for them, so tell them.
Choose language that can inspire enthusiasm or emotion. Go beyond just stating what your business does, and tell them exactly what it can do for them.
Basically: what’s your unique selling point? Will your audience improve their career? Fix their love life?
One example: “Sign up for my course to earn $1,000 a day on your blog!” is an intriguingly specific proposition. Of course I want $1,000! Today and every day! Sign me up!
In a similar vein, the CTA from MeUndies below clearly states the immediate benefit of signing up for their newsletter.
Source: MeUndies screenshot
Stay true to your brand voice
If you’re cool and chill (like me, obviously), your CTAs should feel the same.
If you’re upscale and professional, stay on tone.
“Shop the fall collection” versus “Head to my website to snatch one up!” both push your audience to the same action, but with a different vibe.
Everything you do—including CTAs—are part of your brand DNA. Make sure it fits the flow.
Choose clear over clever
Keep it simple, sweetheart.
Ditch the jargon and resist the urge for wacky wordplay (it’s a struggle, I know) and write your message so it’s crystal clear.
The shorter it is, the more likely a reader will be to understand and act. Cut down the syllables. If you can do without a word, do it.
Which is crisper and cleaner? “Complete this form” or “sign up today”?
You’ve got just a few precious seconds to get your message across. Keep it snappy!
Send them where they need to go
You should be guiding your readers exactly where you said you would.
After all, how frustrating is it when you click through to a page that just leads you to another page and another? Your trustworthiness is at stake.
(Also, by being clear about what to expect when they click through, you’ll also reduce your bounce rate.)
So if your copy for a contest says “Head to this Instagram account to play,” readers better be just a click away from entering! The more steps between clicking that button and actually getting what they want, the more opportunities there are to lose their attention.
View this post on Instagram
✨🤪 IT’S NATIONAL ICE CREAM DAY & the last day to play in the My/Mo Mochi Chompionship Games! 🤞🏼👅 @mymomochiicecream is giving away up to 100K mochi balls to celebrate and guess what… today one lucky winner will win A YEAR’S SUPPLY! head over to @mymomochiicecream to play #MyMoChompionships #NationalIceCreamMonth
Make it pop
Give your CTA a little oomph.
On your website, whether it’s a button, or a big highlighted link, or a pop-up box, you’ve got to make it stand out from the rest of your content.
It’s not possible to customize this on every social media platform, of course, but emojis or line breaks can give you some control to make that CTA pop from the rest of the copy. (A light oomph is better than none!)
— Thinkific (@thinkific) September 18, 2020
Keep it conversational
One simple trick for you: Using “you” in the copy is an easy way to make your readers feel like you care.
You just notice things feel a little more conversational, not sales pitch-y. That’s because you—the one and only you!—are a smart and beautiful genius, you.
It’s like an instantly personal interaction between me and you. You can feel it, right? You do, do you?
Here are 64 other power words to nudge your audience in the right direction.
Try and try again
Experimentation will serve you well. Switch up the words, the colors, the placement, the images, and even the font if you can, to see what drives traffic best.
Try A/B testing to 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.
10 smart call to action examples
Need a little inspiration for your CTAs? Borrow some ideas from these great posts.
“Read the full profile here”
Vogue teases us with some info and photos of Lizzo and then shares that we can get even more of that hot Lizzo gossip by clicking through the link.
At a time of unprecedented strife, struggle, and opportunity, writer Claudia Rankine meets up—at a distance—with October cover star @Lizzo, the musical sage who wants us to get through this moment together. Read the full profile here: https://t.co/O0ol9Q9qBH pic.twitter.com/0ToM4bxk4o
— Vogue Runway (@VogueRunway) September 24, 2020
“Don’t miss our lightning sale”
Frank and Oak gives their sale a sense of urgency (lightning?! hurry!) with a to-the-point CTA that also tells us how much we can save (20%? hurry!)
Don’t miss out on our Flash Sale – Enjoy an extra 20% sitewide!https://www.frankandoak.com/
“Take the quiz.”
There’s no pressure or commitment on the landing page for vitamin delivery service Care/Of: just a prompt to try a quiz to find out which vitamins are right for you.
Source: Care/Of screenshot
“Pre-order and receive exclusive bonus material”
Racial justice educator Rachel Ricketts gives you a “why now” reason to put in your pre-order for her book, with the promise of exclusive (ooh, VIP!) bonus content.
“Download the full report”
With this reassuring CTA, it’s clear that Buildium isn’t going to give you a runaround. They’ll deliver the complete report once you click on the button.
Source: Buildium screenshot
“Tap to shop”
The CTA at the bottom of this postpartum kit post from One Tough Mother makes it clear how to take action: just tap!
“Take 60 seconds to install Engage and rake in new business.”
This ad from NiceJob tells you the what, the why, and even the time commitment in just 11 words.
“Get a quote.”
The first part of TD Insurance’s ad explains that alumni get a preferred rate. Their CTA compels us to not just learn more or compare rates, but to actually jump right in to getting that sweet, sweet quote ASAP.
“Start your free trial.”
Unintimidating, and the price is right: Hulu offers a CTA on its landing page that’s hard to resist.
Source: Hulu screenshot
“Avoid these mistakes.”
Ooh, a rare negative CTA! “Avoid” is a powerful action word that evokes emotion, and Food52 taps into that as they try to drive traffic to their garlic-mistake guide.
Avoid these mistakes… for good! https://t.co/IRbSJ4ffnz
— Food52 (@Food52) September 22, 2020
Ultimately, a successful CTA is one that answers the questions “What’s next” and “Why should I?”
Run your shiny new CTAs through that filter, and you’ll know you’ve got something compelling and clickable ready to share.
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