As technology and society continue to evolve, many businesses and brands have increasingly pivoted toward an increasing online presence. Social Media Marketing has become an important part of many marketing teams’ strategies. Many organisations are utilising social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok enable social media marketers to connect with vast audiences.
One important component of a successful social media marketing strategy is content creation. Content strategy can seem like an uphill challenge. Without a systematic method, creating relevant content and engaging social media posts might seem like a lofty goal. Still, with the right approach, you can take a systematic approach to your content creation and consistently deliver relevant content. One of the ways to do this is through the use of social media content pillars.
What are content pillars?
Content pillars are a framework you can use to deliberately create certain ‘types’ of content, such as educational content, for example, or entertaining content. Developing a set of pillars for your brand, persona, or business, is one of the ways you can systematise your approach to creating content. Pillars are like the roles that your content can play in.
By developing your pillars ahead of time, you can establish a framework to use later on. You can even set up a content calendar using your pillars. This can be extremely helpful when you’re creating content ideas.
That all might sound very straightforward, but you might be wondering what exactly pillars look like. The truth is, it depends on what your brand or online persona is, or what you want it to be. Pillars don’t need to correspond, specifically, to only your field of expertise or industry, though. Rather, they’re more like approaches to content that you could often take in any industry.
What are 4 content pillars in social media?
Some organisations’ pillars might be specific to their industry. For example, a bakery might choose 4 pillars: baking tips, showcasing products, reviews of novel baked goods, and weekly baking Q and A sessions. Yet, another organisation in an entirely different industry could adopt a similar approach.
Those pillars can also be thought of, respectively, as informational content (baking tips), promotional content (showcasing products), entertaining content (reviews of baked goods), and conversational or engaging content (weekly Q&A).
Other pillars might not translate as well across organisations and industries, but it might be helpful to isolate a few common pillars that can be adopted throughout many industries and across many audiences.
While each organisation or persona’s online presence and the way they sort out their content pillars might differ, these 4 pillars are widely applicable to many audiences, types of content, and content creators:
1. Educational or Informative Content
This is content that’s aimed at educating your audience. There are a range of reasons why creating educational content might be part of your strategy; it can help you come across as an expert in your field, it can drive traffic to your page, website, or account, and it can be a great way to start conversations.
Some examples of educational content might include a how-to guide, a blog about what it’s like behind the scenes in your industry, an overview of emergent technologies within your sector, an article explaining how different products or services work within your industry, or more.
2. Entertaining or Cultural Content
This is content that aims to entertain or amuse your audience, or make stronger human connections. In nearly any industry and in nearly any audience, there can be significant value in offering some entertainment or the human side of things.
Even if your audience is largely interested in your educational content, it can be helpful to introduce some comic relief or create an entertaining piece of content once in a while. Entertaining content might be music, art, comedy, or anything that people might find entertaining.
3. Engaging or Conversational Content
This is content that’s designed to start a conversation and get engagement from your audience. While most other forms of content can be followed up with requests to comment and engage, this type of content might be specifically geared toward engagement.
For example, this might be a weekly Q&A if applicable, blog or video content that you create based off of previous engagement (‘what should we talk about next week? Comment below’.) or even a livestream, during which you converse with your viewers.
4. Motivational or Inspirational or Aspirational Content
This is content that’s designed to get your audience excited about things. If that sounds vague, that’s because there are many potential applications for this type of content, and you could further split motivational, inspirational, and aspirational content into distinct pillars if need be.
For example, if you’re an Instagram influencer, you might post aspirational content designed to help your audience get excited about a certain lifestyle, while if you’re an engineering firm, you might discuss how emergent technologies are creating vast new markets and opportunities in your sector as inspirational content. Still, if you’re a personal trainer trying to expand your online presence, this might be motivational content that shows your audience what type of body they can have, how healthy they can feel if they start working out, or how they can get motivated to start.
For this type of content, you’ll likely want to think about what types of things drive your audience or get them excited to take action.
How many content pillars should you have?
There’s no hard and fast rule that defines how many pillars you need in order to start a new social media campaign or expand your business or brand’s online presence. But, if you have too many pillars to keep track of, you may find that you have difficulty staying focused on a small set of topics or content types that really connect you with your audience.
If you have too few, you might find that the scope of your content is too narrow to suit you. With between 3 and 5 pillars, you should be able to cover most of the content you might produce, and easily organise your content. So, the short answer is: it’s up to you, but–usually–a few, and rarely more than you could count on one hand.
How to choose content pillars?
When you’re looking at finding the best content pillars to use when you’re embarking to implement your brands social media strategy, there are a few things to consider–including how easily pillars will work with content you’re already creating if you are, what type of content you expect your target audience to connect with, and what you, your brand, or your business does. Different social media platforms also might work best with different content types, so consider where you’ll be engaging the most.
You’ll also want to think about your marketing strategy if applicable. For example, if your strategy is to position yourself as a trusted source of information, you might do less promotional content, and more educational content. But, if your marketing strategy is to continually update your audience on what your offerings are and showcase your products and services as much as possible, you’ll likely want to include and focus strongly on a promotional content pillar.
Importantly, consider what you want your brand voice to be like; if your focus is establishing yourself as an intellectual authority within your field, you’ll almost certainly want one of your pillars to be educational or informative content. You might find that your brand voice informs quite a lot of your content pillar strategy.
How to create content pillars?
Whatever pillars you choose, consider your audience and your offerings. One of the advantages of designing pillars ahead of time is that if you’re ever running low on ideas, you’ll always have somewhere to begin. Your pillars can serve as criteria for your content, and give you guidelines to operate within. As you create content pillars, you may find that they guide how you engage with your audience and how you create content.
So, it’s important to consider, as you’re creating content pillars, how the pillars you choose will fit in with the presence you want to create for your brand or business. Think about content that you already create, if you do. Consider creating pillars that give you plenty of variety as well–if one of your pillars is purely educational, you might be able to win over additional audiences by also incorporating funny or amusing content into your strategy.
If you’re unsure how well you’ll be able to adhere to your initially outlined pillars, you may choose to keep them tentative as you start off and make adjustments according to how well they’re working for you.
Your pillars can be as specific or as broad as you’d like. More specific pillars might help you come up with ideas easier, while broader pillars may be easier to fit existing content into. Take the example of two potential pillars you could use as a baking business with an online presence: promotional content, or a regular bakery showcase.
In application, those two pillars might look identical if you’re promoting your bakery’s goods. What’s more, if a regular bakery showcase is a pillar, you don’t need to think of what content to create. Still, if you decided to talk about baking classes that you’re going to start offering, that content would more surely fall under the promotional pillar, while it wouldn’t fit as well under a specific pillar like a bakery showcase.
Creating social media content pillars is all about helping you better organise your strategy, so your top priority when creating your own set of pillars might be ensuring that whatever you choose makes sense to you and your team.
Examples of content pillars
In order to get a better understanding of how social media content pillars might look in different situations, here are some examples of pillars one might use as they expand their online presence, as well as some examples of what each one might look like in application:
- Informative content: This might look different for each organisation, but think about the topics you might have insider knowledge of or unique insights into. If you’re a health and beauty influencer, this might be tips for glowing skin, an explanation of how different minerals and nutrients affect our health, or a breakdown of different skincare routines. If you’re a baker, this might be tips for better baking, explanations of how rising and kneading work, or an exploration of different baking techniques.
- Cultural content: Again, what cultural content means to you might not be identical to what it means to others, but this might be an opportunity for you to create strong connections with your audience. This might be you sharing personal stories, introducing the members of your team, showing your audience what your typical day looks like, or getting vulnerable with your audience about your organisation’s struggles.
- Trust Building Content: This might look similar to cultural content, but the goal is to build trust with your audience. If you’re a baker, this might be behind the scenes footage of how you check your flour for freshness, or how you clean up the kitchen at the end of a long day. If you’re an engineering firm, this might be content that shows our audience how your team adheres to rigorous safety standards. If you’re a landscaping business, this might be before and after media showing what you can do, or client testimonials.
Building an online presence is important for many organisations, figures, brands, and businesses. One of the ways you can build your online presence is through the utilisation of social media as a marketing channel. We’ve discussed how in order to do that, it can be helpful to develop your own social media content pillars.
Those pillars can be anything you’d like, but it’s useful to remember that some common pillars include informative content, entertaining content, conversation starting content, and cultural content. Depending on how you slice it, some pillars might overlap, and different pillars might work differently for different entities. The bottom line is that developing content pillars can help you organise your thoughts, come up with new content ideas, and keep your team on the right track.
If you’re interested in increasing your brand’s online presence, or creating one in the first place, remember that you don’t need to do it all by yourself. If you want to expand your online presence and grow traffic to your site, be sure to reach out and book your free strategy session, and see how with over ten years of experience in digital marketing, we can help you change the way you look at search engine optimisation.