What can you create for your audience that provides value and solves their informational needs? This should be the focus of your content strategy, as opposed to purely promoting your business. This is where content pillars come in!
As the owner of a brand active on social media (that’s you!), you are essentially a media publisher, much like a newspaper or television channel. Now I know that might seem scary, but just as these organisations have areas of activity that dictate which topic and themes they post about, your social media output needs a similar guide at the heart of its content plan.
If you can start the month with a jam-packed social media content planner, full of engaging content ideas that re-enforce your brand message, you’re most of the way towards a successful marketing channel! However, its actually coming up with fresh ideas month-on-month which can, at times, feel like an impossible task. This is where content pillars come in!
The framework of content pillars should help you solidify your brand message, tailor your content and come up with new, fresh, ideas – let’s have a look at the breakdown of a content pillar:
This approach encourages you to structure your content at 4 levels, let’s go through them all! (oh, and feel free to screenshot this diagram for later)
Pillars – These are your top-level themes. Basically, list 3 or 4 subject areas where you’d like your brand to build authority
Topics – Next, split each of those pillars into 3 or 4 smaller subject areas to focus your content on (while also supporting your overarching themes). If you’re good at math, you’d have worked out that that gives us around 9-16 topic areas (depending on how many pillars you have)
Sub-topics – Split each of your topics into niche areas to develop your sub-topics. This should be the subject areas that help you focus on the specialist areas that interest your audience
Content – Now, pick your first sub-topic and start researching content ideas around this. List all the formats you could use to explore the area. Ask yourself: could it be an infographic? A reel? Or perhaps a podcast? Try to think of at least 3 or 4, then simply repeat this process for the rest of your sub-topics!
Once you’ve finished this process you should find yourself with a huge selection of content ideas that explores every angle of your subject area – awesome!
When planning your digital and social media content it is helpful to plan in terms of ‘pillars’ and ‘topics’. First, work out the top-level themes you will build authority on. This is your ‘pillar’. Next, split this into several topic clusters that help support your top-level theme. This is your ‘topic’. You can then split these into further sub-topics – make sense?
There is no perfect number of content pillars, however, we would recommend between 3 and 6 – this should keep your content proposition clear and focussed. I know what you’re thinking – ‘what’s the point of going through all this effort?’. Well, here’s why:
- A well-researched set of content pillars ensures you’re serving your audience with the content they genuinely want and will value
- Over time, by reinforcing these themes consistently, you communicate in a clear and sustained manner what your company stands for and who it is serving
- Ever been stuck planning content, your creative brain is no where to be seen and you get in a bit of a faff? Having an agreed content plan makes conceiving and planning individual pieces of content each so much easier. It solves the ‘blank sheet of paper’ problem and offers a variety of starting points for ideas and ways to engage your target audience
- By serving your audience’s informational needs in this organised and systematic way, you indicate to search engines and social algorithms which core topics you are a respected authority on. As a result, you will be more likely to appear at the top of search engines when users are seeking relevant information on these products
So, now I’ve convinced you that you need content pillars, how do you actually pick them out?
Defining your Content Pillars:
Picking out your top-level themes (pillars) will be largely intuitive – there’s no secret formula for this one! Most likely, you already have an idea about what you want your brand to be known for. Nonetheless, let’s not jump the gun – you should still do some basic research into what your audiences are looking for and consuming online. Approaching your content planning from these two angles will ensure a thorough approach.
Remember, each content pillar is the broad topic. The topic clusters are centred around the key topics people are seeking information about. Within those clusters are the key phrases and questions people ask. The 3 areas you should be asking yourself about when creating your pillars should be:
- Who are your audiences? What are their demographic profiles – age, gender, etc – what is their persona?
- What content do they consume and share? Where do they spend their time online, and where do they look for the most valuable content?
- What keywords and phrases are they interested in? What kind of questions are they asking, and where are their information need gaps?
So, hopefully this quick introduction to content pillars can help you get started with creating your own! As always, if you have any questions or enquiries you can fill in our contact form or email email@example.com – we will get back to you within 1 working day!
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