Call Me... Maybe: When to Use a CTA in your Social Posts

Phone on a cord
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As a business or small business, creating an effective social media strategy is oftentimes a balancing act. On one side, you want to use your social media platforms to show off your company and your values, and you want to use the space to build a meaningful community full of connections. Yet, on the other side, you also want to simply promote your product and/or services. Then, of course, you worry that if you’re too self-promotional, you’ll drive your followers away.

Wrestling with these two sides of the social media coin can be one of the most difficult dances to master for any social media strategy. Eventually, you’ll need to answer the inevitable question:

When, or when not, should I ask my social media followers to take an action?

Hand holding a cell phone over a laptop

What is a Call-to-Action?

The answer is in the title. A call-to-action is a sentence you can use in your marketing copy to direct the actions of your reader. Encompassing typically one sentence, you can ask your reader to “email us today with any questions you have” or “sign up for our newsletter right now at the link” and so on. A CTA is specific and almost always benefits you, whether it be through increased click through, sign ups, or even purchases.

In social media, a CTA is often quick, short, to the point, and is often focused on making the reader take a singular action such as reading a blog, clicking through to a website, or following the account. More often than not, social media CTAs ask the reader to “click the link in the bio,” “click the link below,” “swipe for more,” “follow us at___,” or “contact us at ___.” Lastly, a social media CTA typically happens at the very end of a social caption.

Need to see an example? Look at this Eternity social media caption to see what we mean: 

Understanding Your Audience

Here’s where things get tricky: You need to understand the behaviors of your audience, and how they use their social media, to know how often you should actually use a CTA/self promote. To be honest, saying “click the link in the bio” or “click to buy” could cause irritation on social media rather than constant business success.

We’ll show you what we mean.

We’ve spoken a lot here at Eternity about how social media needs to become social again. In the early days of social media with platforms like Friendster, MySpace, and even Facebook, the platforms were built with the intention of connecting with family, friends, neighbors, and even coworkers. They were built on the foundation of genuine, person-to-person communication. Businesses and advertising came into the game only after that foundation was set.

While today social media has become a hub for businesses—on Facebook, the average user sees 36 ads per day, and every seventh post on your Twitter feed is an ad—people still primarily use social media at that foundational level of personal connection.

In 2021 data presented by Sprout Social, they found that 65% of Facebook users use the platform to view photos from connections, 57% of users use the platform to share their own content to their connections, and only 15% of users use Facebook to find new products or services. For Instagram, they found that 77% of Instagram users use the platform to view photos from connections, 45% of users use the platform to share their own content to their connections, and only 11% of users use Instagram to find new products or services. Twitter is just the same: 42% of Twitter users use the platform to view photos from connections, 32% of users use the platform to share their own content to their connections, and only 7% of users use Twitter to find new products or services.

The answer is clear: People are on social media to connect with each other. CTA’s are (not all of the time, but most of the time) about directing, not connecting. Therefore, when you use a CTA such as “buy this” or “click this” too often or at the wrong time on a platform that is built for human interaction and conversation, well, you could end up deterring your audience rather than engaging them.

If you’re trying to market your business on social media, it’s all about balance. When developing your social media strategy, you should mix your “buy this” and “click this” posts with personal, genuine content about your business.

For example, Eternity runs the social media for the coffee roasting company Brave Coffee & Tea (see their accounts on Instagram and Facebook). We do what we call a two/three split: Two posts a week that are directly promotional (that include a CTA often asking a viewer to “click the link”) and three posts a week that are personal and target connecting with Brave’s audience one-on-one. 

For example, see a promotional post: 

And a personal/human post:

Through this posting split, we still manage to plug their products while also creating a truly social space. The CTAs we do use are intentionally placed rather than constantly pushed in the face of our viewers, therefore creating a more positive experience.

By carefully mixing your personal and promotional content, you might find more meaningful engagement coming your way.

Scrabble pieces that spell "Go for it."

When To Use a Call-to-Action

So, keeping in mind what a CTA is, and what your audience is looking for, the instances when you should and should not use a CTA in your social media captions become clear.

You should use a CTA when:

  • You’re directly promoting a project or service
  • You have a new blog or website update you want people to see/read
  • You want to share an exciting video, article, or news piece with your audience
  • You want to direct your audience to your contact page
  • You want to direct your audience to further portfolio items on your website

You should not use a CTA when:

  • Making a personal post about your business/team
  • Making a post that tries to genuinely connect with your community
  • Making a casual, conversational post

Here’s an example. Let’s say we want to post a picture of this office dog:

Small black dog on a couch looking cute.

Your social media manager has decided the goal of this post is to connect with your viewers and encourage engagements. A great caption that keeps things personal yet still engages with your audience could be:

“Working from home isn’t so bad when you have a view like this. Tell us in the comments: Who is your furry co-worker today?”

This caption keeps things human yet still interacts with the viewer in a fun, personal way. If you added a promotional CTA to this… things might start to feel off. Here’s an example:

“Working from home isn’t so bad when you have a view like this. This Eternity pooch is helping us build out our new projects page on our website. Check out our progress at the link in the bio.”

The first caption is more sincere, more genuine, and it offers more chances for human connection, which is what people are really looking for when they log onto their social media accounts.

Now we’re not saying never use a promotional CTA in your social media. CTAs are important, and you’re a business—you should show off your stuff! You want people to “click the link in the bio” and you want people to “buy this.” What we’re saying is that you should find your posting balance. Think about it this way: If you were at a party with new friends, and one person kept handing out their business card during every group conversation, wouldn’t that get a little annoying after a while? Your social media feed is one big party, and you don’t want to be the one to kill the mood. Find your mix.

Well, there’s no better way to end a blog about CTAs than with a CTA. If you’re interested in seeing how we balance our posting mix here at Eternity, you can check out our accounts at Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. We’ll see you there.