In an ideal world we’d always know what to say.
We’d open up our social platforms of choice (or better yet, a single platform that handles all of them) and the words would spill out of us. Words that resonate with our target audience, that drive action, that build the brand we want to build.
But for most of us it doesn’t work like that. At least not for long.
Publishing content with no structure is like pin the tail on the donkey. And by the time you win, your ass is sore.
When we look back on our content, we find it's disjointed. The messages aren’t clear, the subject matter is wishy washy and it’s not building the cohesive brand that you envisioned.
So much time wasted.
Thankfully there’s a very simple way to make sure that when you look back at your socials you see the building blocks of the brand you want to see.
What are content pillars?
A content pillar is a way of categorising your content to make the task of getting the right mix or balance of content right. You can create all sorts of content within those pillars, they shouldn't be restrictive, but they're a great way to make sure you're producing content that serves a purpose and to guarantee you don't neglect key messages.
Once you have your content pillars you can start looking at the sorts of content you can produce. You'll be amazed how a little structure actually makes the creative process so much easier, but that's another post.
Why are content pillars useful?
Easier to sense check if your content is relevant.
Simplifies planning your social media content calendar
Focuses your thinking, speeding up the creative process
Consistency and coherency in brand message and identity
Easier for your audience to understand what you offer on social, so they're more likely to follow you.
Content pillars: One size fits all?
Some like to use the same pillars for every brand, the most common advice given is to follow these five:
They’re a great starting point, but we’re not convinced they're enough. For a start, entertainment and engagement should be baked into all our content as much as possible anyway. You wouldn’t want to be educational and unengaging.
More importantly, for content pillars to be as useful as possible, they should also be specific to your brand and needs.
Tailoring your content pillars to your brand
It’s essential to tailor your content pillars to your business needs, your audience interests and the platforms used. For example, one professional services company, whose focus is on client perceptions and hiring the best talent, focuses on five main pillars.
Sales & Promotional
Internal Community & Hiring
Authority & Educational
These came from research into the business objectives, audience interests and platform best practice. As did the decision to focus on LinkedIn. And they're paying off in a big way.
Do your research
Start by identifying your audience. What do they engage with most already? Who do they follow and who do they engage with most? There's a lot to be learned from looking outside your own industry.
Look at your competitors, what do they do that works well, that you can replicate? What do they do badly, that you can do better? What's missing?
Look at your own socials. What's worked well in the past that you would like to keep? No need to throw the baby out with the bath water.
Look at your business, what needs do you have? Is it all about followers? Sales? Perception among a small group of clients? When coming up with your content pillars, think 'What's the point'? Is it going to have an impact on the future of your business? Don't just follow the crowd.
Think bigger. Define your role. What role can you authentically play in the lives of your audience. Something bigger than your business, but related to it. Something you and your audience cares about, and that reinforces your brand. For example, you might be a fashion retail business, but the role you might want to play is to help people express who they really are. It's not a big leap, but elevating your role opens up a world of possibilities in the types of content you can create while still building your brand.
Make a list
List out all the different things you've thought of. All the types of posts you could make. All the things you want to achieve. And start to organise them. Some types of posts will be similar. Some serve a similar purpose. Some serve no purpose (or at least none that is relevant to your business goals), and should be eliminated.
Keep going until you have four or five categories that most of your ideas fit within. All of which contribute to your business needs.
It's a process. It requires proper research, honesty and a little brain power. But you'll get there.
The most important thing is to test it out. Do your content pillars keep you on track? Do they help with the process of coming up with ideas? If yes, great. If no, it's worth taking another look.
And if you need a hand, you know where we are.