How to craft a compelling call-to-action (CTA)

Whether or not you realize it, you’ve probably written a call-to-action (CTA) before. A CTA is simply a statement or question that encourages someone to take a specific action. You’ll usually find a CTA placed at the end of a piece of content to encourage further interaction between an audience and the content. If you’ve ever asked social media followers to like, comment, or repost/retweet something you’ve shared, then you’ve composed a CTA.

It doesn’t matter your job title or specialty; you will likely have to write CTAs at some point, if not often, in your career. If you work for a nonprofit, you may create outreach materials — emails, newsletters, social media posts — that encourage your audience to donate, volunteer, or otherwise support the nonprofit. If you work in marketing, you would be out of the job if you didn’t compose CTAs; you’re constantly persuading and asking your audience to buy a product!

There are countless purposes for writing a CTA. If written well, they can be compelling and receive a great response from the audience. Poorly written CTAs, however, may be demanding or unclear, and might actually discourage further interaction from the viewer. To better understand the strategy behind composing a CTA, let’s look at some of the different types of CTAs, the essential characteristics of a CTA, and steps for constructing a great CTA of your own.

Types of calls-to-action

This article from the Huffington Post describes five types of CTAs:

  1. Engagement CTA. With an engagement CTA, you simply encourage your audience to engage with your content or brand in some way, whether they promote it or share their own thoughts. Asking viewers to like, comment, or share on Facebook is a common example of an engagement CTA.Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 4.14.17 PM
  2. “Driving to other content” CTA. Here you are prompting your audience to view/download/purchase other content you’ve created. Links to previous articles or a “download now” button are examples of these types of CTAs. Below is an example from justineclay.com.Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 4.45.57 PM
  3.  Sign up CTA. Here you ask for your audience’s email or other contact information. A newsletter or service sign up form is an example of this. Below is a bold sign up CTA from WIRED.
    Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 5.26.04 PM

  4. Lead-nurturing CTA. While not directly asking for anything, you are providing deeper information in hopes that your audience will take an intended action. An example of this would be providing an informational video to help viewers decide which product to buy. Spotify has a page where users can learn more about upgrading to Premium, shown below. 
    Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 5.28.09 PM

  5. Sales-oriented CTA. With a sales-oriented CTA, you are driving your audience toward buying something. An example of a sales-oriented CTA is a “buy now” or “shop” button. Below is a colorful sales-oriented CTA from Puravida Bracelets.Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 5.31.38 PM

Characteristics of calls-to-action

CTAs can take on a wide variety of forms, from a simple request to an informational page to a button. The most successful CTAs, however, will have certain characteristics in common. CTAs should be:

  • Clear. Use simple language.
  • Concise. Use as few words as possible.
  • Audience appropriate. Who will see your content, and what will encourage them to take action?
  • Two-sided. What’s in it for them? Make the desired action beneficial to your audience as well as for you.
  • Undemanding. Ask for only one small action. Don’t overwhelm your audience.

Writing a call-to-action

There are endless motives to create content, and every piece of content could incorporate a CTA, even if it’s as simple as asking for a like. When creating content that will incorporate a CTA, be sure you know what the objective of your content is. Is it a web page for an organization that needs donations for disaster relief? Is your article reviewing a product you think viewers should buy? Are you trying to encourage your followers to share their own stories and experiences on social media?

Once you know your objective, decide which type of CTA would help meet your objective. This is pretty simple. If you’re trying to expand your subscriber base, you might want to provide a sign-up option. Using the CTA characteristics described above as a guide, compose a succinct message that encourages your audience toward the action you would like them to complete.

To help you start crafting CTAs, look through these CTA formulas developed by Hubspot. If you need more inspiration, this article provides examples of stellar CTAs. However, don’t forget to put yourself in your audience’s shoes when you write a call-to-action. What action or message would be compelling to you? Conversely, what would annoy you or turn you away? Being sensitive to your audience’s needs and preferences may help you get a positive response and further interaction with your content.

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