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How to Create Social Media Content Pillars: An In-Depth Guide

  • 15 Minutes
Social pillars hold up your entire social strategy - here's how to create yours.

If you’ve been in the social media marketing game for a while now (or you’ve been reading our blogs for long enough), you will have heard us harping on about social media content pillars time and time again. That’s because content pillars are super important. They should form a key part of your social media strategy, and if they don’t – well, you might want to start reviewing that strategy!

Trying to achieve success on social without a solidified social media strategy can be tricky. Having a comprehensive strategy that incorporates social content pillars can guide your efforts and serve as inspiration when it comes time to create your content.

All in all, content pillars will make your life a whole lot easier!

If you’re just starting out, want to shake things up or you’re feeling a little lost when it comes to creating your content, it might be worth creating (or revising) your social media content pillars.

What is a Content Pillar?

A social media content pillar is a number of pillars, themes, or topics that have been decided upon in your strategy phase.

You may have heard of content pillars in relation to content marketing, and if so, they relate to social media marketing in much the same way.

Your content pillars or “content buckets” should relate closely to your brand and work towards helping you achieve your brand objectives. They’re not necessarily the same as brand pillars, because social media content pillars are exclusively for your use on social media. And, let’s face it, your audiences can vary slightly based on which platform you’re using, so your content pillars will change accordingly. Your content pillars for your blog may be different from those that you’re using for social.

In fact, if you’re creating content but you haven’t come up with a formal content strategy yet, you’re probably subconsciously creating content within different pillars already. Now all you need to do is define them.

Different content pillars can speak to different audience groups, brand objectives, or just different products. It’s hard to define what your content pillars will look like, as they can vary drastically according to each business, the social media platforms they are using and the objectives they have for social media.

Here are some content pillar examples for different businesses:

  • A baby food brand might focus on pillars like nutritional tips, recipes, and entertaining content about parenting.
  • A makeup brand might focus on makeup tips, makeup tutorials, product testimonials, and “before and afters”.
  • Non-profit organizations might focus on social justice issues, tips for helping people, donation call-outs and, event promotion posts.

Of course, this can vary according to your business and what you are trying to achieve. You may even develop slightly different content pillars or subtopics according to different social channels, or one channel may focus more on one content pillar than another. That’s fine, too! Not all social media channels are the same and they shouldn’t be treated as such.

Why are Social Media Content Pillars So Important?

A brand’s social media content pillars should guide its social media marketing efforts, ensuring that its brand goals are being filtered through its social strategy. It also provides structure and authenticity to your social media marketing content and keeps your brand honest.

It helps you to challenge each piece of content that your team creates, ensuring that it actually serves your wider objectives and you’re not creating posts just to copy a competitor or jump on a trend. That’s not to say you can’t jump on trends – in fact, you should! But any content you create needs to be on-brand for your business and serve your business goals in some way.

Content pillars can also help with consistency. If you’ve got multiple team members, teams, or agencies working on your social content, pillars can help them collaborate. It can guide your efforts and maintain consistency, even across different platforms. When it comes time to plan your calendar, content pillars can also help structure your calendar and strategically build your monthly content, post by post – but more on this later!

When you’re stuck for ideas, your content pillars can be a valuable resource. Content planning can be tricky, but your content pillars can act as a starting point for developing or refining your content ideas. They’re also a great point of reference to ensure your content is still on point.

You can even add social media templates for each pillar to make social content creation super easy. Each content pillar might have different topic clusters which help you and your team formulate a constant stream of new content ideas.

Like the rest of your social strategy, your social media content pillars are all about trial and error. Your content pillars aren’t set in stone! Try them for a couple of months and then tweak them according to what’s resonating with your target audience. You may also need to review them if there has been a recent algorithm change.

How to Define Your Social Media Content Pillars

Social media content pillars are crucial when it comes to implementing your social strategy correctly, organizing your content, and aligning your messaging.

But it’s not as intimidating as it sounds – nor does it involve a huge amount of work! In fact, there’s a good chance you already know what your social media content pillars are – you just haven’t written them down yet.

So, ready to start creating your social media content pillars? Let’s begin.

1.  Revisit Your Target Audience

Like anything in the world of content marketing, you’ll always miss the mark if you don’t understand who your target audience is, what they like, and what they need.

You need to continually serve up relevant, quality content in order to capture and hold your audience’s attention, and, eventually, convert them to customers.

To speak to your target audience meaningfully in ways that resonate with them, you need to speak their language. If you have a bunch of different target audiences, you need to understand how to speak to them all – in different ways, if necessary.

You may have several audience groups in mind. For each group, you need to consider:

  • What they like – and what they don’t!
  • What products or services you’re selling them
  • Their pain points
  • Which content resonates with them

You may even have different digital channels or social media channels to speak to each group. For instance, you might use TikTok to speak to a younger subgroup in your target audience. Meanwhile, you might use Instagram content and your website blog to speak to older millennials.

So, how do you get in-depth information about your target audience? Well, start with the below:

  • Conduct surveys or use features like Instagram Polls to ask your audience directly and gauge feedback
  • Review your past social media marketing analytics (more on that next!)
  • Experiment with new types of content and record the response
  • Review competitors’ content and see what is working
  • Look at your sales data and see which content influenced time spent on the page or generated leads and conversions

If you need to switch your strategy or content pillars up a little to suit your platform or audience, do it! Ongoing optimization is just part of the game when it comes to social media – paid or otherwise! Or, you might just choose to have a different split of content for different platforms.

Your content pillars don’t need to change drastically for each channel. For example, the beauty brand mentioned above might do more makeup tutorials on TikTok, while their Instagram content strategy might be more about influencer reposts and product testimonials. Perhaps on TikTok, their content split is 40% of content pillar 1, 30% of content pillar 2, and 30% of content pillar 3, while on Instagram they have different splits and are using a slightly different tone of voice. They may even repurpose relevant content on different channels, and tweak it to suit the platform.

2.  Review Your Analytics

If you haven’t yet, review your analytics! This info can provide some handy clues about what is working in your content strategy, and what’s not. If you want to make the most of your social media marketing, it’s important to review your analytics in detail.

Don’t just look at the numbers. Follow ongoing trends and look closely at your best (and worst) performing social media posts. Be honest with yourself. Not everything is going to work, but you’ll never know if you never try new things!

Digital marketing can be tricky, and it can take time to gain a strong foothold on social. But, with each new social media marketing campaign, you’ll establish new insights and be able to refine your content marketing strategy accordingly.

You might want to review different metrics according to your overarching business goals as well as your social media marketing goals. For instance, if the goal of your social media marketing activity is to increase brand awareness, you might review metrics such as reach and engagement.

On the other hand, if your primary goal for social media (particularly paid social) is conversions, you might want to review a handful of metrics including engagement, clicks, and, of course, conversions from social media activity.

Here’s where to start when it comes to reviewing your social media marketing analytics:

  • Carry out competitor research. You can do this by manually checking your competitor’s content to see what’s resonating with their target audience. You can also use tools like Sked Social to see how you stack up against the competition.
  • Monitor social media performance. Some social media platforms, like Facebook and Instagram, have their own in-built social media insights that can help you understand your overall page performance and track progress on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
  • Monitor post performance. If you really want to improve your content quickly, producing relevant, high-quality content is crucial. Check each of your content pieces to review performance. This can help you to understand which content you should create more of – and which you should probably never attempt again!
  • Compare your social media channels. There’s no point sinking thousands of dollars into, say, Facebook, when Instagram is performing better. See which channel works best for your brand and focus your efforts on the channels with the best social media ROI.

Make sure to actually check your comments on posts, too! You might have strong engagement on a post, but if it’s for a negative reason then this could be detrimental to your brand and you could lose followers, customers, or even damage your brand’s reputation.

As your social media presence grows, so will your responsibilities when it comes to managing your social media profiles. For now, ensure your team has adequate resources to cope with any queries and comments.

3.  Create Your Content Pillar Strategy

This is where we get to the good stuff! Creating your content pillar strategy can be tricky but once it’s done and dusted, you’ll love seeing the results.

So, how do you come up with your content pillars? Well, from doing the research above, you should have already established:

  • What content your audience wants to see and what information they’re looking for
  • How your products and services can solve a need for your different audiences
  • What kind of content performs well within your competitive set
  • Which types of content resonate best with different target audiences, and on different social media platforms
  • Which content is relevant to your target audience, either in relation to their interests, where they live, what their hobbies are, or what they have in common
  • What your audience pain points are

Once you have this information, consider how you can create content that solves their needs. For example, Airbnb has (presumably) identified that its audience wants to find unique accommodation quickly. Their recent social media posts advertise the updated format of the Airbnb website and app, by introducing unique categories, such as off-the-grid homes and boats. And, while we don’t know what their social content pillars are specifically, we know that “categories” looks like a recent content pillar that’s been added to their content mix, whether temporarily or permanently.

@ aribnb instagram profile of carousels
@ airbnb Instagram boat picture

So, how many content pillars do you need? Well, while there are no set rules on how many content pillars you should have, we think three to six content pillars can create a nice balance. Within that, your content pillars might vary by channel. Your content pillar may not even be a topic. It might be a content type, for example, explainer videos, influencer reposts, and UGC or blog articles.

Or, your content pillar might include a topic and the types of content that this topic might involve. Such as “workout tips” – videos and podcast links. Or something like “recipes” – blog links and carousels. Structure your content pillars however you like – the choice is yours! It just needs to be defined clearly and in a way that makes sense to you and your team – or anyone else who is collaborating with you.

4.  Find Inspo for Your Content Pillars

Now that you’ve defined your social media content pillars, the fun really begins! But how can you come up with fabulous content for your social media channels week in, week out? It can be tricky, but it’s crucial to keep things fresh.

We’ve got plenty of ways you can come up with content, such as:

  • Reviewing what’s worked in the past and repeating it or creating a longer or more detailed content series about it
  • Appropriating (not copying!) ideas from your competitors or just other brands or influencers on social media
  • Using recent events on social media as a theme or topic to play on
  • Doing keyword research and assessing what trending topics your audience are interested in
  • Checking your search engine optimization (SEO) stats and seeing what your audience are searching for
  • Reviewing what your audience is asking you and trying to answer their questions and pain points with content

A brand with very clearly defined content pillars is Pizza Hut. The Pizza Hut Instagram page is filled with product promotions, funny content relating to pizza, branded collaboration posts, and engagement posts, where the audience is provoked to respond. These pillars come across quite clearly when reviewing the brand’s social media content.

Pizza hut Instagram

5.  Create Your Content Calendar

Once you’ve decided on your social media content pillars and what the content for each pillar will look like, you can start creating your social media content calendar! How exciting.

If you’ve already been in the game for a while, you’ll know that creating a content calendar is essential. Most of the algorithms for social media platforms these days reward accounts that post regularly. It makes sense – the platforms probably don’t see much value in their users following a bunch of accounts that only post once a month.

In a nutshell, posting regular content is a must.

But it’s so easy to neglect your brand’s social media content calendar, especially when you’re under-resourced, you’re just starting out, or your own calendar is so full!

That’s where social media scheduling comes in. Scheduling can ensure that you never miss a post, even if you’re busy, you forget, or you don’t have the right assets ready at the right time.

It also ensures that your efforts are more strategic. Sure, it’s easy to post funny memes. But are they actually serving your brand objectives? Instead of just posting ad hoc social media posts every now and then, you can post your social media content pillars equally – or using whichever content split you like! Either way, it will be strategic.

Say goodbye to posting three times in a day and then not posting for 2 weeks! Social media scheduling tools like Sked Social can ensure your content is posted regularly, and you can please the social media algorithm gods at the same time!

Ready to Take Your Social Media Content Pillars to The Next Level?

If you’re serious about growing your business and getting more from your marketing efforts, you need to ensure you have a clearly defined social media strategy and crystal-clear social content pillars!

Content pillars are your golden ticket to creating amazing content, boosting engagement, and hitting your business goals more quickly than ever. But they’re only one piece of the puzzle. To execute a fabulous content calendar, you need to have a high-performance social media scheduling tool. You also need to test, report on, and refine your results using a specialized reporting tool like Sked Social.

Sked Social is an all-in-one social media tool with powerful advanced reporting functionality which can help you identify high-performing content pillars faster. This will help you grow faster and build your social media presence by utilizing the content that works – and ditching the content that doesn’t!

Get started by signing up for Sked’s 7-day trial. Our all-in-one social media scheduler allows you to automatically post images, tweets, carousels, Instagram Stories, videos, and more. But it doesn’t just work with Instagram. It also works with LinkedIn, Twitter, your Facebook page, and plenty of other social networks! Our smart scheduler enables you to save hours every week and turn your social media marketing strategy from ad-hoc to amazing.

Get a Sked start with a free trial

Try our amped up all-in-one platform free for 7 days. Get full access and see how absolutely easy it is to rock your visual marketing plans from here on out!