We all know the feeling when you sit down to write a post for Instagram but realise you have no idea what to say. And even if you do, you’re not sure if it’s on brand, or if it’s going to resonate with your audience.

So you scroll through other people’s posts for a while, type and re-type a caption, and then decide to just post something, anything!

But imagine this instead: your social media content is planned out and scheduled in advance, with high-quality, intentional posts that you know are aligned with your branding and everything your customers want to see from you.

They send a clear message, communicate what you’re all about, and attract your ideal customers, all without that daily post-time panic.

Sound like a dream?

Well, it can be your reality when you have clear content pillars.

What are content pillars?

Content pillars, otherwise known as content categories or buckets, are 3 to 5 topics or themes that you consistently discuss online to establish your niche, attract your audience, and build your brand.

They are the key things that you want to be known for, and your audience wants to see.

For example, as a brand strategist for creatives, my content pillars are:

  • Brand Strategy
  • Brand Identity
  • Creative Business.

As a handmade, cold-pressed soap business like Soap Cult Australia, your content pillars could be:

  • Self-care
  • Soaps
  • Spooky stories.

Or maybe as an illustrator like Melanie Johnsson, your content pillars might be:

  • Inspiration and motivation
  • Process and Behind-the-scenes
  • Finished work.
You can see the different themes in Melanie Johnsson’s Instagram feed.

These pillars can be used across any content platforms that your brand uses and you can create content on various platforms for each pillar. These could include:

  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • TikTok
  • YouTube
  • Podcast
  • Blogs
  • Newsletters.

Why do brands need content pillars?

Content pillars are incredible tools for both you and your audience. Here's the different ways it can help your brand.

They clarify your niche

Firstly, having a few select themes that you regularly discuss, share, and create content around is an incredibly powerful way to clarify your niche. It makes it clear to anybody consuming your content what you do, what you’re passionate about, and what differentiates your brand. Instead of discussing random, unrelated topics and confusing your message, creating content within your pillars makes it clear what your brand is all about.

They attract your ideal customers

When you are creating consistent content around a select few topics, you will attract your ideal customers who are interested in those topics. For example, my content will attract people to my brand who are interested in brand strategy, brand design, and creative business. Those people are my ideal clients and my content will be valuable to them. When you understand your audience, you can craft content that provides value and attracts them to your brand.

They transform the content creation process

Lastly, defining your content pillars helps to transform the content creation process for you or your team. Whether you are crafting your own content or have someone else to help you with your online presence, creating content will be easier than ever when you know exactly what to talk about. With content pillars, you can confidently curate a calendar of content that is clear, consistent, and cohesive.

How do I define my content pillars?

To define your content pillars, you need to answer the following questions:

  • What do your audience want to know?
    It’s important to think about what your audience is interested in. If they’re creatives who want to build their brand, those are the topics I should cover. If your audience are Mums who need help getting their kids to sleep, what would they want to know? Or if they’re millennial artists, what do they care about?
  • What do you want your audience to know?
    This is all about what you want to be known for. I want people to know that I’m a brand strategist who specifically works with creatives, so my pillars communicate that. Soap Cult Australia makes badass hand-made soaps that are all about self-care, so their pillars cover those topics. Knowing your mission and your unique brand voice will help you answer this question by uncovering:
  • What does my business do?
  • What is my business an expert on?
  • What value does my business add?
  • What makes my business unique?

When you’ve answered these questions, you can identify the common themes and choose 3 to 5 as your content pillars!

How to use your pillars to plan your content

Outline your pillars

Firstly, list out your newly defined pillars on a piece of paper or in a digital tool of your choice.

Brainstorm ideas for each pillar

Underneath each of these pillars, brainstorm related ideas for content you could create. To do this, you can:

  • Do SEO and social media research
    Look up your pillars on Google, YouTube, Quora, Pinterest and other search platforms, as well as social media, to see what people are looking for, asking, and discussing online in relation to the products or service you offer.
  • Use existing content
    Look at the existing content you have created in the past and see what ideas it inspires. Could you expand on topics that got great engagement? Answer questions people commented on your blog post? Restructure a post that did well?
  • Use what your customers have told you
    Think about what your customers have told or asked you in the past. Check your DMs, feedback forms, reviews, and other correspondence with your clients and customers to see what topics they mention.

Determine macro vs. micro content

When you’ve got a list of content ideas under each pillar, you can determine how to create and share that content with your audience through macro and micro content.

Macro content

Macro content is high-quality, long-form content that can be created once but shared in multiple ways. Because it’s detailed and comprehensive, you can split it up into smaller (micro) pieces and repurpose it across your various platforms. Macro content establishes you as an expert or reliable source on a topic and increases your brand loyalty. Macro content could include:

  • Blog posts
  • Podcasts
  • YouTube videos
  • Email newsletters
  • Live videos.

Micro content

Micro content is smaller, easily-consumable content that is released quickly and regularly. Because it’s shared quickly and often, Micro content helps you stay in front of your audience and reach new audiences, increasing your visibility and engagement. It breaks up your Macro content and delivers it to your audience in bite-sized pieces. Micro content could include:

  • Videos
  • Infographics
  • Graphics
  • Audio clips
  • Cartoons
  • GIFs or memes
  • Photos.

For each topic, plan your macro content pieces, and then break that down into micro pieces that can be shared with your audience.

For example, under the content pillar of Brand Strategy, I might want to talk about writing a mission statement. I decide to write a blog post all about what mission statements are and why they’re important. Then, could I break that blog post down into three Instagram posts to be shared across the week, and a series of Pinterest infographics.

Create a content calendar

Now you have your content pillars, topics, and content pieces planned, it’s time to put them into your calendar. You can plan the next week, month, or quarter with this structure:

  1. Put in any key dates.
    It’s important to make sure you don’t miss any important dates for your business, such as launch dates, collection releases, public holidays, or anything other key moments. Put these in first so you can work backwards and create any content you need for these events.
  2. Put in your macro content.
    Then, put in your macro content. This content is usually regularly released, so you might plan to publish one blog post every Wednesday, or two videos a month. Schedule these in advance, and pop in the plans for what those will be about.
  3. And lastly, put in your micro content.
    Think about how often you want to be posting on each platform, and put the micro content in those slots. First, you will put in any micro content that’s related to your macro pieces, and then you can fill in any gaps with any other micro content you want to share.

Creating content doesn’t have to be a stressful, uncertain or last-minute process.

Instead, it can be an intentional, strategic, and scheduled process that’s designed to build your brand and attract your ideal customers. It all starts with content pillars, and it’s time for you to define yours!

Enjoyed this story? Check out the other articles in our Building a Brand series.