Everyone wants more results from social media. You probably do, too.
So, how do we get there? Usually, we’ll post to our social media accounts more often. Or we’ll try to post more interesting content. We’ll study our analytics reports and maybe invest in better technology.
That can all help, for sure. But maybe there’s an easier way to do B2B social media marketing better.
If we want more engagement, maybe we just need to ask.
And by ask, I mean to include a call-to-action.
The “learn more” in that LinkedIn post is the call-to-action.
Calls to action appear – or should appear – anywhere we want people to take action. So they appear on landing pages, in emails, in apps, at the close of blog posts (“Like this post? Get our ebook on a very similar topic.”) and elsewhere.
Just including a call-to-action makes people more likely to take action. And as the chart below shows, if you use the right call-to-action, it can almost double the effectiveness of a post.
Facebook understands this very well. So much so that they’ve added a feature to posts and ads so marketers can add call-to-action buttons.
Those built-in CTAs can make a big difference – according to AdRoll research – like increasing click-through rates by 285 percent.
But despite the proof that adding a call-to-action can boost response, it appears many B2B companies are still publishing posts without a call-to-action. This happens on Facebook and off.
Even major, well-known B2B brands miss out on call-to-action opportunities all the time.
To find out just how prevalent this was, we analyzed the social media accounts of 10 B2B companies, across four social media platforms (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram). We looked specifically at the last 10 posts on each of those platforms. It gave us a total of 390 social media posts (one company did not have an Instagram presence).
How often do B2B marketers put a CTA in their social media posts?
At the end of our analysis, we found that it’s basically an even split – about half of all B2B social posts have a call-to-action.
That was interesting, but we decided to break it down further. So, we looked at all the different ways B2B marketers are using call-to-actions in their posts.
After some review, the call-to-actions broke out into distinct types. If we had chosen to count a call-to-action as only the strict, old-school definition (a short phrase at the end of a post that begins with a verb, like “Download now”), far fewer of the posts would have been classified as having a call-to-action.
Actually, only 14.3 percent of the posts from the companies we looked at had that classic clipped call-to-action format. Most of the call-to-actions used different formats.
Here’s the breakdown:
As you can see in the chart, the most common call-to-action format was the “sentence CTA”. This is just what it sounds like: A sentence-length prompt to do something. It always begins with a verb.
Something like this is what we considered to be a sentence CTA:
In that post, the entire last sentence (“Subscribe to our YouTube channel to make sure you catch our interview with Joshua March, founder and CEO of Conversocial. Youtube.com/GoDaddy”) is the call-to-action.
Compare it to a more traditional, direct marketing style call-to-action like this:
Questions as a Call-To-Action
We puzzled over how to categorize questions for a while. They don’t fit classic call-to-action format, but they directly prompt readers to do something – to answer the question. So, they’re a call-to-action.
Question posts are a standard type of social media post we’ve all seen many times before. They are expressly designed to try to get a social media audience to respond. Usually, if you ask an interesting question and you’ve got a good-sized audience, you’ll get some replies.
Here’s a question-style call-to-action as an example:
Note how nicely this particular question ties into the content SAP is trying to promote. It’s a smart way to use the question format to get people interested in the content you want them to see.
By asking for their response, you make the piece of content more about them. And if it’s more about them, they’ll be more interested. Adding the question connects them to the content far better than if the post had just said “See Björn Goerke explain what he’d build if he had a free week.”
A word about the “soft CTAs” shown in the pie chart. They only make up 2.6 percent of the call-to-actions we saw, but we wanted to break them out.
These were calls to action that were almost disguised. They didn’t appear to be CTAs at first, but they were subtle prompts to take action. We’d look at them and think, “well, it’s sort of a call-to-action, but…” Those type of CTAs were designated as soft CTAs. We could have also called them weak CTAs.
Here’s an example of one of these soft CTAs:
The call-to-action is there, but it’s buried. Closing the post with something like “Leave your comment now” or “Leave your comment below” would have been a more direct call-to-action.
But who knows? This weaker call-to-action may not have affected response. The only way to know is to test.
Also, if you had an audience that was extra-sensitive about being marketed to, a weaker CTA like this might sound less “salesy” to them. The weaker CTA might seem more authentic, and thus get you a better response.
Compound Calls-To-Action and Polls
There were also a few questions that morphed into sentence type CTAs. These could have been lumped into either the question or sentence CTA category, but instead we wanted to break them out for a more detailed view.
Here’s an example of a question post that morphs into a sentence CTA:
There were a couple of polls, too. We broke these out as separate from questions because they are quite different from just asking a text question.
Note how the poll elegantly slips in a veiled call-to-action to their related content. That’s an excellent way to get the interest of a broad group of people through the topic of motivation, and then to pull them back to your site for a new piece of content you’ve published… about motivation.
B2B Marketers Use Call-to-Actions Differently Depending on Social Media Platform
We didn’t stop at breaking out the types of calls-to-action that B2B marketers use. We also looked at how they used those CTAs on different platforms.
Here’s how that data broke out:
Notice the trend? The percentage of posts with no call-to-action is lowest for LinkedIn at 39 percent. It goes up to 44 percent for Facebook, and goes up again to 56 percent for Twitter. Instagram posts are least likely to have a call-to-action: 67.8 percent of them include no CTA.
This is an interesting view of how marketers treat the different platforms. LinkedIn has always been about leads, and so it’s not surprising that marketers push a bit more on this platform to get people to take specific actions.
But Instagram is interesting, too. Most posts don’t have CTAs here. Two of the nine of the companies we looked at on Instagram (nine because one company had no Instagram presence) almost exclusively post inspirational material from their customers.
Here’s an example of this type of post from Shopify:
About half of the posts on Shopify’s Instagram feed are one of these inspirational stories. The other posts are inspirational quotes from famous or semi-famous people, paired with a beautiful photo – a classic social media post format.
These posts are very successful – as you can see in the comments above, Shopify’s followers “love the inspiration and these Shopify posts”. It’s a format that appears to work, whether anyone is clicking through to the Shopify site or responding to a CTA.
So it may not be a problem that B2B marketers aren’t using call-to-actions everywhere on social media. Some social media content doesn’t demand a call-to-action as much as other types of content. And some social platforms – like Instagram – just aren’t suited to a hard B2B sell or promotional-sounding language.
You can really see the difference in how the different platforms are treated if you look at Shopify’s posts on LinkedIn. There, they post about job openings, branch openings and expansions, and new product features.
Their content on LinkedIn is completely different than their content on Instagram. As it should be (though we saw many B2B social media accounts that share mostly the same content across all platforms).
HP is another good example of how LinkedIn gets treated very differently than other social platforms. On Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, they post about new products – almost to the exclusion of everything else. Only 10 percent of their posts on those three platforms has a call-to-action, and if a CTA does exist, it’s a question or occasionally a long, sentence-format CTA.
But on LinkedIn, they’re all business. Complete with nice, crisp call-to-actions like this:
How should your business use call-to-actions on social?
It depends, of course. If you want to build brand awareness, that requires different tactics than making more sales. Or maybe you want to use social – at least one platform – partially for recruitment, like Shopify does.
But regardless of your goals, using more call-to-actions would be smart. Even if you are working toward better brand awareness, why not get people to click through to your site and see a piece of content… thanks to the clever hook you included in your post? Getting people to even click through to your site means you can nurture them with retargeting ads later.
Though we didn’t include them in the companies we studied, we couldn’t help noticing how ConversionXL includes a call-to-action on almost every one of their posts – complete with either an arrow or a pointing finger. Here are two examples:
Given that these are conversion rate experts, and they’re likely to test everything, you might want to try using arrows or pointers to focus more attention on a call-to-action.
And of course, you’ll want to test. That’s really the only way to know which post formats work best. And while it might cost a bit to find out, what would it be worth to you if you got, say, 50 percent… 75 percent more engagement from your social media posts?
So try it –> Use more call-to-actions in your social media posts. Share your social media CTA tips with us on Twitter.