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There’s not much point in creating content if it has no objective. Just because you need to avoid the hard-sell (otherwise you’re just writing sales copy to be frank), you still want your content to produce results.
For the different objectives that you have, you will need unique conclusions that not only sum up your content, but cause your visitors to take action – whether by sharing your content on social media, commenting on it, or purchasing your product or service. These are your calls to action (CTA), and you will need them if you expect your content marketing strategy to produce results.
It’s easy to get bogged down in using the same or slightly varied CTA’s which do not inspire your visitors. Below are 8 tips to help you avoid this, with some great examples of calls to action that work.
Without your goal in mind, it’s easy to pluck out a generic call to action which is unlikely to produce the results you want. It is also easy to be too blatant in your objective – by straight up asking your visitors to comment or share your post, there is no heart in your intention and so your visitors will not be inclined to ‘get involved’.
In my first example, a blog post from the makers of arguably the best TV show to ever grace our screens (Breaking Bad), the CTA is clear – they want you to look at their gallery, a perfect supplement to the post about San Diego Comic-Con. Perhaps their goal here is to keep you on their site longer, but really by offering extra content, they are showing themselves as a trusted source for Breaking Bad nerds, like myself.
It goes without saying that your CTA needs to be related to your content – if you’re a car insurance company writing a post about the best ways to secure the contents of your car, then you want your CTA to be along the lines of stories from visitors about how they protect what is in their cars.
People will notice very quickly if your CTA is unrelated – and it will look a lot more hard-sell than you intend.
There are many different styles of writing your content – but it really boils down to the fact that you can merely inform, or you can entertain and inform. No one expects you to write jokes, but if your content is dull as dishwater; your visitors won’t even get to the CTA, let alone feel the need to prescribe to it.
To inspire action, you need to be inspiring. Be passionate about what you write about, and give your visitors a reason to trust your knowledge and opinions. If you gain their trust, they are much more likely to abide to your sign off.
No one is going to share their thoughts within an atmosphere that doesn’t encourage them to. Too many blog posts fall into their own trap of empty comments by being too simplistic with their CTA – ‘Leave a comment’ is not enough – why should they leave a comment?
This example from Glamour magazine has received a few comments because it asks the readers a question – it gives them something specific to comment with, making it much more likely for someone to bother sharing their thoughts.
This example below from Laura Ashley is great too, because it also adds some personality to the CTA by referring to a member of their team.
Many blog posts out there will encourage you to Like them on Facebook or Follow on Twitter – my instant thought to this is “why should I?” – you need an incentive (as James recently discussed).
Whether you create a hashtag on Twitter related to the piece of content (for example #protectyoursatnav) to encourage visitors to tweet about to share their tips, or let your readers know that you have a current offer on Facebook related to a policy on car contents, there is no point in shamelessly promoting your social media channels without giving people a reason to click through to them.
Sharpie did a blog post about 4th July, sharing ideas and links to tutorials on using their pens to essentially draw the American flag over things. At the end of the post, their CTA refers specifically to the occasion, but also promotes their popular Pinterest page. Above that, it tells you why the page is worth a look.
It’s a shame that they don’t link to a 4th July specific board – the upside to Pinterest is that you can create boards around specific content to help promote it, something that more brands should certainly take advantage of.
There are several different things you can offer your readers within your CTA. Here are a few examples:
Discounts – Want your visitors to comment on your post? Offer a voucher code if their comment makes it past moderation (this avoids spam). To receive the voucher code, they must leave the email address.
Downloadables – If you offer an easy to download PDF user guide or whitepaper, you automatically have provided your visitor with a valuable tool. By doing this you become a reliable source for them.
Tesco Books wrote a blog post about trying to break the world record for longest chain of paper dolls. They encouraged their readers’ involvement by offering an easy to use paper template and entry form – giving parents something for their kids to do and to be part of.
Links to relevant content – I am not talking about the ‘Relevant links’ list that many posts have – although they are helpful. Instead, I am referring to leaving a link at the end of your blog post which points your visitor to a relevant page on your site where they can receive more information.
This is particularly useful if this page has reviews on it. For example, if you publish a blog post about cleaning your car, you can then refer to a page on your site which sells car cleaning products – this will appear less sales-led if customer testimonials support the products.
As with the rest of the content, the tone of your CTA needs to be useful, practical and fun where appropriate. If it is technical and sales-led, it will be a huge turn off for your readers.
You also need your action to be irresistible, so make it short and simple. It should not be a whole paragraph long. Whatever you do, do not try and inspire multiple actions as this is just confusing to a reader and will likely put them off from performing any of the proposed actions.
With any style of marketing, you will need to experiment to see what works. It’s incredibly important to do this with your calls to action, because you may come to the realisation that encouraging social network interaction is no good, as your users might not even use social networking sites (yes, there are people online who don’t have a Facebook account!), or when offering whitepapers or other additional resources, they perhaps can’t be downloaded. You will need to change tact.
However, don’t give up easily on any technique because they did not work on one post – it takes time to build an engaged audience, and they will all respond differently.
With these tips at your disposal, you can start brainstorming the best calls to action for your content.
What do you think are the most (and least) effective calls to action? Let me know in the comment section below.
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