When to ask for a “Call to Action” in Social Media?

If you are a returning reader to the SocialSteve Blog, you know I usually provide some guidance, best practices, or strong opinions on marketing and social media. But in this post, I pose a question and look for your input. A question that I really do not have an exact answer to – in fact I do not think there is a correct answer. It falls into the category of “it depends.”

When is it appropriate for a brand/company to ask for something from their social followers?

So let’s face it. Social media is not a toy. We have business responsibilities and need to the answer the tough business question. While social media is an important approach in developing strong relationships with your target market, you are going to have to answer why and what is it doing for your business – performance metrics.

At the same time, I am the first (well maybe not the first) to say social media is not good for sales. So how do we deal with performance metrics when I am saying social media is not good for sales? Well, you know I love the social media marketing funnel. I’ve written a number of articles on it. (“Social Media Conversion and the Social Media Marketing Funnel”, “Measuring the Stages of the Cyclic Social Media Marketing Funnel”, and “Social Media – How is Your Performance?” just to name a few.) You measure performance at each stage of the social media marketing funnel.

Now comes the question – do you let your prospect move through the funnel stages on their own accord or do you help them along? If you have business responsibility, the answer is you help them along. If you are looking to build relationships you might not see this as the answer. So if you have business responsibility and are looking to build relationships the answer is that you softly help them along. Yeah, this might sound like a cop-out, but it really isn’t.

A couple weeks ago I introduced the relevance of “psycho-demographics.” I contended that we must understand our target market’s individual state (as listed in the funnel above) and be contextually relevant. If you group your audience based upon funnel states (and other attributes) you can be contextually relevant and work on the relationships for that specific group. And if you do so, you can ask individuals to move to the next step (not literally).

In marketing, we call this request to move to the next step the “call to action.” But a call to action need not always be “buy one of these” and certainly not in a social setting. Throughout my career, I have run many marketing campaigns and I have generally followed one methodology. While social media is not a campaign and needs to be a continuous effort, the foundation of this marketing campaign is definitely applicable and provides excellent guidance. Here it is in five steps …

Communication/Campaign Goal
Defining the desired result –
a) What are you attempting to accomplish through this initiative? (Generate leads, build awareness, shift an attitude, build a client database, etc.)
b) What results are you seeking? (Generate __ hits on a website; capture __ new subscribers, __ “friend/connect” or “fans”, generate __ leads; generate __ requests of info, etc.)?
c) How do you intend to measure the results?
d) How will responses be captured?

Target Audience
Define the person who the communication must speak to. Identify them by their position/job description, industry, country-specific profiles, psychographic profiles, values and behavior.

Target Audience Perceptions
Describe the current perception of the target audience as it relates to your brand and what they think (positively or negatively). Describe the perceptions that need to be reinforced and those that need to be changed.

Offer and Value Proposition
Crisply and concisely describe the Solution/Service/Product/Program. This may simply be an initiative to gain awareness of your brand. Describe the functional role of the brand. Differentiation is also addressed here. Define the key message(s).

The Call to Action
Define what action you want the target audience to take as a result of the communication? (Subscribe, connect, attend seminar, visit a blog/website, answer a short questionnaire, tell a friend) How will you motivate the target audience to act in the desired manner and timeframe?

You see the call to action is well scripted in a marketing plan. But once again, a social program is not a marketing plan. We should take lessons from the marketing plan methodology and apply it to our social media efforts. For each stage of the funnel, see if you can define the five stages I have listed. They will vary in each stage because each group has different psycho-demographics. This becomes the bases for communication and socialization. It guides you to make sure you support and reinforce the brand position.

Now, back to the question raised in the beginning. When is it appropriate for a brand/company to ask for something from their social followers? When is it appropriate to have a call to action?

Here is my take …

Focus on socializing – delivering entertaining, useful, and/or valuable content. Make sure this is your real driver and that you are committed to engagement with people. If you really make content and engagement your key driver for social media, then, from time to time, you can and should have a call to action. But remember, the call to action must be contextually relevant to the psycho-demographics of the recipients. Your call to action should not be asking for too much, but rather the next logical step to be taken in deepening your relationships. Yes, the devil is in the detail and the detail changes for each brand and each funnel stage for the brand. Can you visualize and define the detail for your brand?

What is your take?

Make It Happen!
Social Steve



Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brands, content marketing, marketing, marketing plan, measuring social media, social media, social media marketing, social media performance, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

14 responses to “When to ask for a “Call to Action” in Social Media?

  1. Since you have already offered such amazing content on your blog, all you had to do is tweet that you were having a WordPress problem and I was thinking “that’s too bad I’ll read everything Steve posts”.

    With a a great blog, there is an implicit “call to action” every time you tweet a link. READ MY BLOG. You build trust and an audience and you can bet I will consider any other call-to-action you suggest.

  2. Thanks Kat. One difference (at least) between me and a brand (I work for many). I am not a business. I am simply sharing information to move social media forward. Full disclosure – Yes there is a soft hint of “if you ever need social media help, I head up a practice that can help you.” But a brand needs to sell. I have long stated that social is not strong at selling, but with business responsibilities, marketers need to move people closer to sales and once sold, create loyal customers and advocates. This is a bit more responsibility than I have as a blogger. So we do need to think about a little stronger call to action for them – BUT NEVER overload your social presence with calls to action. Maybe tweeting an article title and URL is a call to action. It helps build affinity for a brand, but brands need to drive even deeper relationships.

    Thanks for being a greater supporter and sharing your thoughts!

  3. Hello Steve, your work on social media marketing is truly impressive. I highly appreciate your knowledge. I’ve a blog howbusinesswork.wordpress.com which is dedicated to help aspiring entrepreneurs learn about the elements of business and help them build there own. If you’re interested in sharing your knowledge on this blog, just email me at shakti.7quotients@gmail.com or leave a comment on my blog.
    Shakti Pradhan

  4. One route is to offer solutions through social media venues. For example, on Facebook, you might ask people the worst experience they ever had because of a faulty widget – and you would then facilitate a (hopefully!) lively discussion about experiences. The next day, you might include a link to your website’s article library — specifically, to an article about widget solutions. There might be a sidebar containing links that lead to pages on your site that provide widget fixers or you might use an even softer sell, meaning that, now that people are on your widget-based website, you assume that they’ll go from your article to the widget fixers landing page next.

  5. Sure thing! Actually, I found your blog when someone retweeted your tweet about this post . . .

  6. I think there’s a misperception on using Social Media to drive sales. Whereas Television, Radio, Direct Mail, have worked with directional, strong call to action messages; there’s just too much competition in social media and a lack of trust. The first step I believe towards a company asking their social followers for something is when “trust” is built.

    I’ll give you an example. I am a long-time American Express card holder. For the past few years, I’ve received wonderful offers for vacations, special events and cooking seminars I HAVE NO INTEREST IN (Do I really have $5K to spend on a Thomas Keller dinner?). Overall, I like AMEX and are satisfied with the other elements of card benefits, but I believe they have yet to understand me as a customer. Last week, AMEX integrated their cards with Facebook (http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-20080690-93/facebook-amex-team-up-to-offer-cardmember-deals/) and I took advantage of their invitation to link my card with my Facebook profile. If AMEX can do a better job at giving me offers that are actually of interest, I will give them my business. I have a trusted relationship with AMEX, so I’m willing to listen to their messages in a social forum. HOWEVER, if their messages are not compelling/valid/or just plain suck, trust is broken and I will take my business elsewhere.

    It’s a slippery slope for businesses, but I believe if there’s an opportunity to solve that person’s need or desire, then businesses should take advantage of it. Otherwise someone else will.


    • Great real life example Derek. Thanks for sharing it with all.

      This is exactly what I hoped for from this particular blog post this week. That many share their experiences. The end result will be that so many of us (including me) start think beyond our “social media perceptions” and have a greater understanding of how social can work successfully.

      Appreciate the contribution and the personal scenario.


  7. Every week a gem Steve, my take has always been by building the trust and loyalty within a connected community sharing becomes second nature and a simple call to action others make not the provider.

    Developing such a network makes it easier to have a ‘call to action’ that is received well unlike blatant broadcasting and other forms of marketing and promotion. This is similar to what Kelly suggested and becomes part of natural communications and the building of the community by being informative about knowledge and adding benefit and value to those connected.

    One final thing, by engaging with you I have told many people about this space where you provide such depth of knowledge. Whether that brings sales doesn’t matter it does share thoughts with larger networks. We never know who we don’t today, tomorrow or the day after and more than anything i don’t know who yuou don’t know today, tomorrow and the day after. they are the most important people we will know in the future.

    • Thanks Mark – appreciate the comments.

      I think you make a very important point about “developing … a network makes it easier to have a ‘call to action’.” It is easier to ask a “friend” to do something versus a stranger.


  8. Excellent post Steve: You might find this interesting. The consumer decision journey – McKinsey Quarterly – Marketing & Sales – Strategy http://bit.ly/nJsFnV

  9. . . . and this: Marketing & Sales | Latest thinking | Winning the consumer decision journey | The consumer decision journey | McKinsey & Company http://bit.ly/n3DNsZ

    • Thanks Rodney – really good piece as well. Although I disagree that the a funnel is going away. It is still there and customers are still staged at various points. As suggested in the article you referenced, there are just more inputs to the decision (and funnel states) now.


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