31DBBB Day 23: Call Your Readers to Action

Call to actionThis is Day 23 of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, a group project 60+ of us bloggers are doing together in an effort to help each other become better bloggers.

I’m frequently reminded of the statistic that the average person is bombarded by as many as 3,000 marketing messages a day.  TV ads, radio ads, billboards, ads on websites, email messages, magazine ads, newspaper ads, direct mail, and more area all competing for our attention.

Most of these ads have been written by marketing professionals.  The pros know they’re competing for our attention, so they don’t beat around the bush.  They tell you exactly what they want you to do.  They include a clear call to action.

Even if you’re not selling anything through your blog, you are competing with these 3,000 marketing messages to get your readers to take action, even if that action is as simple as posting a comment.

7 Tips for Calling Your Readers to Action

Today’s lesson in the 31DBBB ebook has lots of great advice.  There’s also a link in it to a blog post titled 12 Tips To SNAP Readers Out of Passivity.  If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.  Here are my top seven suggestions for calling your blog readers to action.

  1. Make only one call to action. Asking readers to do more things will actually result in them doing less.
  2. Limit your big asks. Most of your calls to action should be small, requiring little time and effort and no money.  Occasionally you can make a big request, but pick and choose those “big asks” carefully.
  3. Make your call to action at the end of the post. It’s OK to include the call to action earlier in the post, but then repeat it again at the end otherwise it’s likely by the end of the post many readers will have forgotten your request.
  4. Make your call to action clear and specific. Asking readers to “Spread the word about X” is vague.  Asking readers to “Retweet this post and share it on Facebook” is clear and specific.
  5. Make most of your calls to action benefit someone other than you. If you’re always asking readers to do things for you, they will tire of it.  In some posts, call readers to do things for others.  Often the most effective calls to action are when you challenge readers to do something for their own benefit.  For example, every day in this series one of the calls to action is to do that day’s assignment, which is a call to do something to improve your blog.
  6. Serve your readers first. If you want your readers to do things for you, show them that you’re blogging to serve them.  Make your posts helpful, respond to comments, answer questions, promote their blogs, etc.
  7. Thank those who respond. Whenever possible, thank the people who respond by name, maybe even with a link to their blog or Twitter profile.  When that’s not possible a general thanks shows you appreciate those who followed the call to action and don’t take them for granted.

For big asks, be strategic, focused, and varied

If you have something important you want to accomplish, consider doing a series of posts on that theme.  End each post with a call to the same action but in a different way.  For example, if you want to raise money for an orphanage in Kenya you might do a one week fund raising series.  One post might feature a video and include a call to action to give money so the kids have a shot at a productive life.  One post might feature an interview with the founders, and the call to action might be to donate to support their efforts to raise the children to know Christ.  One post could focus on the various passages in the Bible that call God’s people to care for orphans, and the call to action could appeal to the readers desire to follow God.

The point is that your readers are all very different.  Even for small calls to action, like asking readers to comment or subscribe, you should try to vary your approach.

Discussion

  1. Can you give an example of a time when you were successful at calling your readers to action?  Why do you think it was successful?
  2. What other advice do you have for converting passive readers to active readers?

Take Action!

I’m going to break the “one call to action per post” rule, but I’m hoping to make up for it but varying my approach today. :)

  • Post a comment responding to the discussion questions above.
  • Write a call to action post and include a link to it in your comment.
  • Share this post on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Review Jon Reid’s blog, Blog One Another, and give him some feedback.

[image by theparadigmshifter]

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, elder of CypressMeadows.org, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.

44 Responses to “31DBBB Day 23: Call Your Readers to Action”

  1. I will get to these soon. I do some of these regularly. I usually

    always end a vlog or video teaching asking if we can pray for them

    through email or prayer page on our website.

    For now, I have posted a vlog that does have a call to acton at the end

    to join us as we minister at a church in our area.
    http://www.ronniespoon.blogspot.com

  2. Jon you have raise some salient pointsin your write up- call your readers to action. It is not easy to get and keep your readers in the midst of professional antics. However the points you have raised if properly implemented will keep the readers in ones blog. You can see in operation tomorrow in this blog
    http://www.christchosenambassadorsministry.com/ap

  3. Paul, this is valuable again. I do find though that advertisers have put us on the wrong foot. They overdo everything and they fail to understand that the new paradigm is pull not push. We must move to the user or customer's need, rather than making them come to our offerings. Its about identifying their needs and engaging rather than pushing a product. That is a lesson many churches need to learn, for we are still caught in the mindset of bringing people to our buildings instead of taking the vital heart and soul of the church, which is its people, into the marketplace. Marketers barely find a channel before they are pumping away with scant regard for the needs or sensitivities of their target audiences. We must be more subtle, more vital, more accessible, more relevant, more fulfilling and less pushy, else we will just become a variation of spam.

    • Pull not push! I like that. I've been trying to do that for years in ministry and in my other people oriented work. I find it much more satisfying to see people "discover" something or be surprised by a God-thing. And yes, I like to feel that excitement from time to time.

    • "we are still caught in the mindset of bringing people to our buildings instead of taking the vital heart and soul of the church, which is its people, into the marketplace"

      So true! Some of the consequences of this mindset is that it keeps us competing for people's attention and we end up with consumeristic programs. I think that when we are challenged to take our lives out into the rest of the world it keeps us more honest. At least it has for me–I'm more conscious now of the impact of my life since I've started focusing on living missionally rather than trying to get people to come to church.

  4. Many of my posts are meant to be thought provoking. In essence they are meant to move the reader to consider what I have written and do something with it. Today's post does this: http://larrywestfall.com/where-are-the-sources-of

    I gave the readers some insight and suggestions and I am hopeful that they will take the initiative from there. I agree with Peter, I am not concerned with getting people to do what I want them to do. I am prayerful that they will begin to do what God wants them to do. I just want to be a catalyst for that. Not sure if this is really what Darren has in mind but I don't run a "how to" blog or sell an "info product."

    • GREAT post Larry. I have been called to work with those in pain and done so all my life. People think I've had a pretty exotic life, but it all came from working where God calls me.

      As age has rushed up on me I have felt more and more lead to provide action challenges. I think that's what you in essence did in your post. Isn't that itself a form or call to action?

    • Larry, I understand what you're saying about not running a "how to" blog or selling an "info product" but I think even with the kind of posts you write on your blog, it and your readers could benefit from a clearer call to action.

      For example, in your post today you close with 2 questions: "What other things could you add to this list? What is your plan to get involved?"

      Are the questions intended to be rhetorical? Believe it or not, many readers will take them that way. If not, what specifically are you inviting your readers to do?

      - Take a moment and reflect on the sources of pain around them?
      - Post a comment listing the sources of pain around them?
      - Pray and ask God to show them where to get involved?

      If you state those calls to action specifically, I think your readers will be more likely to do them.

      • Paul, thanks for the input. Being contemplative by nature I guess it is hard for me to see from another perspective at times. I updated the post with a few changes at the end. Maybe you could look at it and let me know what you think.

        I do think by making a few minor changes I was able to more clearly define how the reader could respond.

        • Larry, I definitely think you're changes have made the call to action clear.

          Just to play devil's advocate with myself… While I do think a clear call to action is generally a good thing, one could definitely make the case that with a blog like yours that it's perfectly legit to not make a clear call to action and leave it up to the Holy Spirit to call people to action.

          So, don't feel like you have to have a call to action. I just wanted to you to know how it could be done and why.

  5. Like Larry my blog is designed to challenge people to a spiritual truth or a Biblical value. The action point is very personalized. Asking the right question will often generate a good response in the comments. I see that getting readers to leave comments is a good goal for my type of blog because if they comment, it may mean that they have really thought through the implications of the post for their own life.

    Today I asked people to comment by telling their "act of surrender." We'll see how that goes. (and in honor of Kevin W. it features cows!) http://junctionforjesus.blogspot.com/2010/06/disc

  6. So my post today is really geared towards one specific individual I know but hopefully will provoke them to action. http://justapen.wordpress.com/2010/06/02/simple-r
    But I really like this format. I'll have to remember to space out my asks/calls to action because I tend to enjoy doing stuff more than anything else.

  7. by call to action, you mean – to get readers to do something out of the ordinary and in unity?
    I couldn't possibly expect people to listen to a new call to action every day – although it feels like I am doing it.
    I suppose that the Poll I setup was a call to action – I wanted people's opinion on something that interests me and should interest my reader. So far it has gone well – I'll post the results next week. Here is is – if us want to add your click :) http://synapticlight.com/poll-what-do-you-think-o… anything to pawn a link to my blog – sorry.

    I think that a "Call to Action" should also me lead by example, whatever it is. You can't call and sit down, you need to call – get up and lead, whatever that may mean.

  8. This is one that will take a little getting used to for me. I totally recognize the importance, and will try to frame more posts with some sort of challenge at the end. Definitely asking people to comment a response to a question could be a simple way to get more engagement.

    For today's post, I put something together that I've had int the queue for a week or two now. It sorta breaks a couple of the rules (i'm asking for two things, and one of them involves spending money), but I wanted to give it a shot. Let me know what you think…
    http://bibledude.net/2010/06/the-shirt-that-says-

  9. My calls to action are usually calls to stop and think. However, in this weeks post my call is to provide an answer to three questions based on prophetic words from scripture. Through 31 DBBB I have been learning to call people to tell me about their responses.

    Why Don"t The Cows Get It! http://guidedreflections.blogspot.com/2010/06/why

  10. I'm not real sure how many times I've called my readers to do something. I've put questions at the end of posts, given good ideas on things, and encouraged them to do something a couple times, but nothing big. The times it's been successful is when my readers took action, I don't always know those times but sometimes you know it through the comments you get.

    Other advice would be to make it interesting, give a reason for why they would want to act, be creative, have fun with it, and maybe put it in steps rather than just the hard thing. Having a good title helps too. (mine isn't always very good)

    For today's post I had to consider my audience. I'm a volunteer at Lifechurch.tv Church Online and I decided that I'd call my readers to join the team. But then I realized that not all my readers have even been there so my message stayed mostly about joining the team but the call to action was to visit the website, check out an Experience/service, or if a regular attendee or interesting in joining the team to start volunteering.

    "Want to Help Make a Global Difference through Church Online?" http://tijuanabecky.wordpress.com/2010/06/02/want

  11. Hmm Something to consider. I have in the past included calls to action: requesting people to contact persecuted believers in prison, asking them to tell me what they think, encouraging them to go spend time with God. Sometimes they tell me what they think. As for the others, I really have no way of knowing whether they did or didn't do anything. God knows, and it's His business in any case.

  12. I try to do this all the time, I am an application type of guy. It doesn't matter if it's a sermon or a blog post, I always try to get people to do something.

    I need to be more specific though.

    Today's post that doesn't call anyone to action unfortunately: http://bit.ly/c4JSNX

  13. I guess I should have mentioned my call to action post from earlier:

    Get a free copy of Jesus Manifesto by @LenSweet @FrankViola
    http://www.liveintentionally.org/2010/06/01/get-a

    It's a book review, but it also asks people to comment and either Tweet the post or share it on Facebook. I'll be doing a drawing later this afternoon and one person who comments and shares will win a free copy of the book.

  14. I usually try to include a call to action at the end of my posts. Usually, what I mean is "leave a comment!" I don't always get comments, but I'm getting more since I started asking a question at the end of most of my posts. I think sometimes I should be more specific, and I'd love to have a "big ask" every once in a while, but I haven't felt led to really "plug" a specific ministry or anything like that on my blog. When the time is right, I know that God will bring it all together.

    Yesterday's post included a "small ask" at the end, and I got some good responses. Here's the link. http://jenniferjanes.wordpress.com/2010/06/01/sma

  15. Oh! Everyone, I am bogged down with trying to redesign my blog site. I have given up and emailed a friend's son who is a web designer. I'm drained from trying to figure out the HTML–I don't speak that language. I tried to narrow the hot-pink borders. No could do. I did make the text wider but couldn't center the texting format between the borders. It just looked yuck! So, until I get a new design, I have adopted one of bloggers new experimental templates–watermark-in pink, of course.
    I will try to do today's assignment tonight and get back on track with writing!!
    From my heart to yours,
    Janis

    • Janis… keep your head up! You'll get there! Over three years of blogging for me, I have literally been through over a dozen different templates. I think that it takes time sometimes finding the right fit that displays your personality AND the intent of your blog.

  16. This was a good post. It gave me lots of good things to think about when I write these kinds of posts.

    The last couple of days have been busy and my writing time has been spent writing some book reviews for TheFish.com. I didn't intend to blog today but something kept nagging at me.

    I ended up writing, "Christian Zionism and the Flotilla Fiasco." I guess it fits the spirit of the assignment in that I'm asking Christians to THINK and maybe do a little more Bible study if necessary. http://captainestes.blogspot.com/2010/06/christia

    Looking forward to going back now and reading other people's posts.

  17. I really like the idea of a call to action. I often do it in my mind but do not intentionally put it into every post. Another idea that needs to be put into place. Got to remember to make a list and start checking it off. ;-)

  18. I have not tried issuing a call to action in my blog, but it is a great idea. I appreciate the helpful hints you've included in this posting and look forward to putting them into action.

    As for helping spur people out of their passivity, prayer is my best advice. While the practical things are useful, there is nothing like the power of prayer to make things begin to happen. That is a principle I too easily forget and too infrequently put into practice. When I do, however, I am always amazed at the results.

  19. A challenge with a call to action:

    I ask a question. Few if any answer.
    I ask for a tweet . Few if any do.
    I offer to give something away, few if any take me up on it.
    I ask for an opinion. Few share.

    What might that mean, even though my analytics show that people at least load the pages in their browers?
    1. My non-techie readership doesn't know how. (What is a tweet?)
    2. I ask the wrong questions.
    3. My readership (via newsletter and via feeds) are not engaging the material (scary thought).

    It could possibly mean lots of other things.

    Paul and the series contributors are doing a great job here with the call to actions, but I'm also sure there is a lot of behind the scenes work with the various contributors to create that sense of community. I was part of the last series on Internet evangelism, and there were lots of off-blog community building call to actions to support the series.

    • Hey Chris, thanks for your comment. If I'm hearing you right, I sense a bit of frustration. If that's accurate, I can definitely relate. Check out this post I wrote almost exactly one year ago:

      The honest truth about blog comments http://blog.ourchurch.com/2009/06/18/honest-truth

      Even as recently as March we were only averaging 5 comments a post here despite hundreds of RSS subscribers and thousands of email subscribers. So, maybe there are some lessons to be learned from these two series we've done. And maybe it's more productive to try to connect with new people who actively engage elsewhere than to try to activate passive readers. I don't know. It's something I'm going to give some more thought to.

      Stay positive and keep experimenting.

      BTW, I really like the sliding "Featured Post" thingy at the top of your blog. What are you using to do that?

  20. The Featured post thingy is built into my theme. It's a little buggy as it loads it's own javascripts. I think that is one of the reasons I had to start using caches because the load time was getting to big. I just don't know enough to hack it and fix the code.

    As to the comments, I'd love to see more. When I teach in person, I get lots of feedback, more ideas, and love the interaction. . it's not translating into buildling a community around a blog. Could be also that much of my audience only know how to browse, not interact.

    Based on the customer service calls I get for my online book sales, about 10% strike me as entirely computer users that have learned how to move a mouse to click what they need and that's it. Just today, I had to show a person how to use the down arrow to scroll down a page.

    I hope to make it back to FL some day and give conference over there. Would love to have another great sandwich.

    Chris

    • I feel your pain regarding the low-tech audience. I think because we offer free websites at OurChurch.Com our members/clients are on average less tech-savvy as well. Only one or two of the participants in the last 2 series we did are clients of ours. We've essentially connected with a whole separate audience through Twitter and our blog, an audience that is more techy and more active online.

      Maybe that approach could work for you too. If you were to write and tweet more about social media, web stuff, and Internet evangelism you would engage more high tech, active readers. Not that you abandon discussion of offline, low-tech ways to share the gospel, of course. But evangelism, particularly for churches, is becoming much more of an online/offline hybrid these days.

      Yeah, let me know if you get to Florida. Would love to connect with you in person again.

  21. Playcing catchup after a week away!

    I sort of did this when I did my promote a reader post theother day – as the reader I promoted is also of on a misisons trip so mycall was to get folks to support him in prayer, etc …

    But good stuff and whilst I've done nothing concrete about it yet I am taking it all in and trying to use the info where I can.

  22. Its about identifying their needs and engaging rather than pushing a product. my calls to action at the end of my posts don't usually work, must be the wording.thanks

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