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🤷 tell me what you want me to do

Sam Sycamore
Sam Sycamore
Your people will be happy to support you when you consistently offer them value and show up as your genuine, authentic self. But what are you telling them to do?

If you choose to study just one topic in the realm of marketing, let it be the call to action (CTA).
It’s easily the number one thing I see content creators get wrong.
I won’t pretend to be an expert, but I will say that I’ve sabotaged myself more times than I can remember by omitting a CTA because (ugh) “I don’t want to be pushy.”
What I failed to understand was:
My audience needs me to push them.
Why did you sign up for this newsletter?
I can almost guarantee it’s because you saw a CTA that I wrote on social media or on my blog, urging you to subscribe if you liked the content you’d just read.
Are you mad that I tricked you into signing up through the art of persuasion?
No! 😂 I mean, I hope not.
Assuming you like what I write about, you’re probably glad that I nudged you in this direction.
My output currently consists of my Twitter feed, my Hashnode blog, and this email newsletter here. My primary call to action at the end of most Twitter and blog content is to subscribe to my newsletter.
At the same time, I need people to engage with my content on those platforms. Engagement is how social media algorithms determine what gets promoted and what gets ignored—if your content doesn’t reach a minimum threshold within a certain timeframe, the platform will kill it.
So I’m usually hoping you will do two things: engage with the content to make the platform happy, and then come join the newsletter to make me happy.
There are a few different methods that I employ to persuade readers to engage with my content and sign up for my newsletter. Let’s look at the two most common.
Just ask for it
Why do YouTubers universally ask you to like & subscribe in every single video?
Because it works!!
And not only that, but also:
Because people won’t do it unless you tell them to!!
If you just put a ton of effort into a Twitter thread, and you’re hoping people will retweet it—guess what?
You should ask your readers to retweet it at the end of the thread!
If you’re providing value—especially if you’re doing it for free—the people you help will be eager to repay you any way they can.
From this perspective, when you give your audience a direct “call to engage” (like & subscribe, tag your friends, retweet for reach, etc.), you’re actually doing them a favor by clearly communicating exactly how they can pay you back.
This is definitely the most natural and least sales-y approach. No gimmicks, no manipulative tactics, just straight to the point:
“If you got some value out of this piece and you think other people would too, please like & retweet. Thank you!!”
I can guarantee your engagement will increase overnight if you’re not already asking for it directly.
Don't miss out
FOMO–Fear of Missing Out—is a potent motivator, but you need to be mindful about how you use it. Cheap FOMO tactics can cause an audience to quickly turn on you. And yet, FOMO is essential to most online marketing.
The truth is, all FOMO is artificial in the sense that the scarcity is pretty much always contrived.
Consider the most common FOMO scheme we see in sales:
“This weekend only! 50% off! Our biggest sale yet—time is running out!”
Why is there a sale this weekend?
Because we decided we wanted to increase sales this weekend. 🤷
It just works. You run a sale, you get a boost in sales.
This is a tactic that I avoided for years. I didn’t want to create artificial scarcity because it felt like cheap manipulation to me.
And yet, I would find myself acting on this-weekend-only sales that others would run all the time, and I’d think yeah but this is different, this is something I actually want/need so I’m glad I can get a good deal.
After the lukewarm initial release of my first ebook in 2018, I decided to run an experiment: despite my better judgement, I’d just try doing a this-weekend-only sale and see what happens.
I got more sales that weekend than I had in the first month after the release.
It’s silly, I know. But I’m telling you, it works.
Our brains are silly, and you have to poke them in the just right way to get them to act.
I’ve done these sales a few times a year ever since then, and the results are always the same.
FOMO can also take the form of exclusive content, exclusive membership in a community, access to a limited-capacity event, and so on.
Returning to the object lesson of my newsletter—
I want you to be afraid of missing out on the exclusive content that I only publish here.
So I state that pretty clearly in many of my CTAs at the ends of Twitter threads:
“If you enjoy my work, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter for exclusive content that I don’t share anywhere else!”
Knowing is half the battle
When spelled out like this, both of the aforementioned strategies seem kind of… obvious, right?
You’ll notice these very basic patterns everywhere now that they are primed at the top of your mind.
It will seem so silly and transparent at times that you might be inclined to think, who does this actually work on? Who falls for this stuff?
Well, you, for one.
Me, too.
But for most of us, this stuff only works if we know, like, and trust the source.
That’s another topic for another day. What I’m getting at is, a call to action is only effective if your audience is already on board.
Your people will be happy to support you when you consistently offer them value and show up as your genuine, authentic self.
You just need to tell them what to do.
Til next time,
Sam Sycamore
P.S.— Last month I published one of my most popular articles on Hashnode yet: This is Why Nobody Reads Your Blog. In it, I break down what makes an effective headline, and how to gain a reader’s attention without resorting to cheap clickbait tactics. I think you’ll dig it!
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Sam Sycamore
Sam Sycamore @tanoaksam

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