How to Use Calls to Action When Driving Viewer Engagement

You’ve got a successful video that people are watching. Now what?

That’s an important question that needs to be a part of your video planning. What do you want people to do after they’ve seen your video? Whether the answer is visiting your website, emailing for an invite to your next event, following you on Twitter, or anything else, use a call to action to encourage your viewers to take that next step.

A call to action is simply asking people to do what you want them to do. This might seem like a bad idea — telling people what to do — but you are still allowing them to make a choice. You are simply suggesting your call to action as their next step. If the viewer decides to take that next step, then you might just have a converted viewer: someone who shows interest in your company or product beyond one single video.

Here is an example of a call to action that we put into one of our client’s videos.

When the H Foundation, a nonprofit that raises funds for cancer research, was nominated for a CLASSY philanthropy award, Motion Source created a video to encourage supporters to vote for its entry. The video consists of a woman silently holding up large cards describing the awards — a surprisingly vibrant presentation due to her facial expressions and the drawings on the cards. The last 20 seconds of the 51-second video are dedicated to the call to action: “We need your help. Go to Go vote for us! So we can ALL win.”

As basic as the call to action concept is, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Make it simple. If the action is difficult, people are a lot less likely to do it. Be clear and concise in what you want the viewer to do. Tell them exactly how to do it.

“Fewer words with more robust meaning should be the goal when creating your copy,” Shannon Fuldauer, content creator for the marketing firm Kuno Creative. Ideally, make sure there is a clickable annotation or a convenient link on the video page to take your viewer to the next step.

One of the simplest ways to hold a viewer is to provide a “next up” video link taking them to another of your videos. Also, make it simple for the viewer to subscribe to your channel.

Limit options. It might seem like a good idea to let people know every possible action they could take. Telling them how to reach you by phone, email, web, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, and P.O. box shows that you’re willing to bend over backwards to make it easy for them to get in touch, right? In practice, not so much.

Too many choices overwhelm people. Consider the work of Sheena Lyengar, a researcher at Columbia University who studies how people make choices. She conducted a now famous study about buying jam. Her results found that reducing the number of choices, in this case varieties of jam, increased total purchases. When you limit the options in a call to action, you increase the chance the user will perform one of them.

Be creative. Inviting viewers to make a purchase, like you on Facebook, or download your catalog are perfectly valid calls to action, but you could also offer a unique discount or a free newsletter, encourage viewers to share the video with their friends, or ask them to call their senator about a bill that would have a serious impact on your business.

Also, be creative in how the viewer could complete the call to action. If you post a video to YouTube, for example, instead of showing a graphic saying “Follow us on Facebook,” add annotations with a Facebook button overlay. This will make your call to action more interactive.

Track responses. Your call to action must be measurable. Getting a large number of views is great, but you need to know whether or no the video is helping your business. If your call to action is “email us at for more details,” you will be able to measure the exact number of responses. This will help you understand what messages your target market responds to.

PepsiCallToActionRecently, Pepsi produced a video with Jeff Gordon test driving a car in disguise. The video ends with the unique Twitter hash tag: #GordonTestDrive. This tag lets Pepsi track viewership and encourages people to share the video. This technique lets companies search for tweets with the campaign hash tag and learn more about who their viewers are.

Remember, your viewers are busy and they appreciate simplicity. Use a clear call to action in your videos to help them take the next step.

Please leave a comment below so we can hear your thoughts and answer any questions you might have. (That was the call to action for this article.)

Guest post by Craig Bass, co-owner of Motion Source, a video production company based in Chicago, Illinois. Craig has over 14 years of experience behind the camera and in the studio. When he is not busy creating video solutions for clients, he is collaborating on indie film projects and immersing himself further in film culture.


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  1. Great post. This reminds me of a well-known mobile app designer, Luke Wroblewski’s advice… He always thinks of the user as having “one eye and one thumb.” The rest of the body might as well be in a different place entirely.

    Posted by Cass Sapir | December 27, 2013, 1:29 pm
    • Thanks Cass! I am not familiar with Luke’s work but it sounds like good advice.

      Posted by Craig Bass | December 27, 2013, 2:51 pm
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