Brent Barnhart
September 30, 2018

Social Media Basics: What Are Content Pillars?

Need some structure for your social media strategy? You should be using content pillars to structure your social media posts into a clearly categorised, and targeted calendar. We take you through the process of creating audience personas, and categorising your content in this basics guide.

Big and small, brands today are expected to produce an insane amount of content.
From snapping the perfect Insta photo to blogging and fine-tuning your social captions, there’s plenty of work to be done on a day-to-day basis.
This is especially true if you’re creating content for multiple audiences, which 85% of Aussie brands are.
As a result, it’s only natural for“who” and “why” of their content strategies to get lost in the shuffle.
That is, who you’re trying to target
And why you’re creating content in the first place.
Want to keep your content strategy focused and on-point? Looking for your efforts to pay off?
Good! That’s exactly why you need to organise your content pillars to ensure that you’re ticking the boxes of your target audience with each and every post.
And in this guide, we’ll break down how to reign in your content calendar once and for all.

What is a Content Pillar, Anyway?

A content pillar is a subset of topics or themes which create the foundation for your overall content strategy.
Also known as buckets, pillars represent relevant topics for your target audiences. Each of your pillars could be comprised of different types of content such as blog posts, videos, images or even something as simple as your tweets.
Take Hello Social for example. Our content pillars include branding advice, social advertising tools and influencer tips, just to name a few. You can clearly see our content buckets categorised via the Hello Social blog.
For example in the above four posts we cover content to interest influencers, a piece targeted at brands and community managers, an interview for brands looking to work with influencers and finally a more technical article on a new Facebook ad format for advertisers.
That said, blog posts are only the piece of the puzzle for each of our content pillars. In addition to written content, we also pride ourselves in a strong meme game because our lovely, witty followers absolutely eat ‘em up.
Through various types of content covering a relevant range of topics, no subset of your audience goes unnoticed.
See how that works?

Why Brands Need Content Pillars

The benefits of coming up specific content pillars are three-fold for brands.
  • Organisation - Instead of just creating content on-the-fly, distinct content buckets help you create a calendar that covers the necessary topics for your brand.
  • Targeting - Defined pillars serve as a guide for crafting specific content for specific people (hint: so you don’t ignore part of your target audience).
  • Ideation - Coming up with fresh ideas is often cited as a huge pain for brands: content pillars automatically hone in on relevant topics for you.

How to Define Your Content Pillars

If this seems like a complicated, in-depth exercise, don’t freak out.
Chances are you already have your pillars figured out: you just haven’t put them on paper yet.
With the help of the quick run-down below, we’ll go step-by-step into how to define your content pillars to guarantee that your content strategy is on the up and up.

Pin Down Your Audience Personas

First thing’s first: before you can define your pillars, you need to define your customer personas and profiles.
Why? Consider the difference between marketing to boomers versus the millennial crowd. From how they consume content to pain points and desires, the difference is almost night and day.
When your personas are crystal clear, you know exactly what to craft in terms of topics, formatting and everything in-between.
And so not only do you know what to create, but what sort of message to send to each subset of your audience.
What are their day-to-day experiences like? What social networks are they on? What’s going to speak to them?
If this seems like a huge question mark, consider looking into free tools like Xtensio which allow you create your own customer personas and templates.
Source: Xtensio
Highlighting goals, pain points and motivators, you can paint a literal picture of your audience to help you zero in on appropriate content pillars.

Repurpose and Retarget Your Brand’s Content

As part of creating your content pillars for your personas, consider how different formats appeal to different people.
Repurposing and fine-tuning your content for individual networks and audience members is a brilliant move. This does double-duty of squeezing more out of an individual piece of content and sticking with the best practices of every social network.
Hello Fresh Australia is actually a great example of repurposing for different content pillars.
For example, they have their #foodporn photos to appeal to their dedicated foodie fanbase and casual Instagram users alike.
Meanwhile, their food hacks and quick, one-minute tutorials are ideal for YouTube searches and social shares. Perfect for those who just need a quick dose of inspiration, these bite-size pieces content serve as an awesome introduction to the brand. 
Finally, their company blog includes more in-depth recipes, listicles and how-to’s which borrow from the awesome photos posted on their Instagram. These pieces are great for savvier foodies with a bit more time on their hands and could likewise be search engine gold.
Each of these types of content appeals to different pillars, but all piggyback on each other.
Nice, right?

Organize Your Audience via Hashtags

Another smart move for defining your content categories is to organize how you address your audience.
Ask yourself: are you shouting out specific personas or treating your followers as one-size-fits-all?
As part of your hashtag strategy, consider how specific tags can speak to your followers to highlight a stronger sense of community.
For example, brands like Billabong use their #aBikiniKindaLife tag to show some love to the ladies across their social channels...
...and boast the unisex #LifesBetterinBoardShorts tag for their followers in action.
This is a small but significant touch to ensure that you’re regularly interacting with the various audience members propping up your content pillars.

Come Up with a Content Calendar

Perhaps the most important aspect of social media content pillars is coming up with a calendar.
In short, your content calendar serves as a sort of week-to-week outline of…
  • What content you’re posting

  • Which audiences you’re targeting

  • Which social channels you’re hitting
This ensures that your content and frequency are both optimised so your appropriate audience members see your content at the proper times.
For example, you might have a persona that’s super busy and can only take in bite-sized content during their lunch break.
And on the flip side, you may have audience members who spend forever checking out your blog post and videos.
To break down your pillars even further, take a deep dive into your social media campaign analytics to see a data-driven “who’s who.”Looking at when and how people are consuming content content, you can fine-tune your calendar accordingly to make sure those personas are always in the loop based on their behaviour.

A Fictional Example of Content Pillars in Action

To recap, here’s a quick example of what content pillars look like in action.
Let’s say you’re a fitness brand that’s primarily targeting millennial women on Instagram. Your content categories might be composed of…
  • Motivational content (image macros, inspirational text overlay photos)

  • Workout tutorials (videos and Stories)

  • Recipes (photos, videos and Stories)

  • “Action” content (photos or videos of your brand or followers “in the wild”)
And within these categories you have personas such as…
  • Total newbies to fitness

  • New moms looking to get back into a routine

  • People trying to achieve or maintain a weight loss goal

  • Seasoned gym-goers and fitness enthusiasts
For each of these personas, different subsets of content is relevant.
Newbies and new moms are likely going to be interested in quicker, time-sensitive content for the sake of their schedules. On the flip side, your already-fit fans and goal-setters could always use new recipe ideas and motivation to keep them going.
There’s plenty of opportunity for overlap with your pillars (and that’s a good thing), but there’s also chances to get specific with different audiences. Also, there’s room to experiment with new types of content to learn what your top-performing pieces are per audience via analytics.
And with that, we wrap things up!

Are You Using Content Pillars?

If you want to keep your content campaigns focused while speaking to your target audience, defining your content pillars is a must-do.
For the sake of squeezing the most out of your content creation and covering as much ground as possible, the initial effort is totally worth it.
And as we said earlier, you’ve probably already got your content buckets figured out to an extent already.
So why not go all the way?

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