Today, we’re going to talk about the one thing that, when done correctly, can mean the difference between good social media marketing and, well, not bad, but misguided social media marketing. I’m referring to social media content pillars: the what, why’s, the how’s, and everything in between.
What are content pillars?
In social media marketing, a content pillar refers to a predetermined theme, topic, or core value that the content you post revolves around. These “themes” (also known as “buckets”) capture the essence of your brand and indirectly evoke your mission and values.
Wait, haven’t you already talked about this stuff in the past?
Kinda, but no — the article I like to imagine you recollected covered brand pillars.
Although some articles are using these two concepts interchangeably, they’re not the same thing:
- Content pillars represent the structural skeleton of your social media content strategy
- Brand pillars are the touch points of a business, the personality and values that a brand communicates, and how the public perceives it.
Of course, the way a brand is perceived can be influenced by the content it puts out. And that content’s effectiveness can be, in turn, decided by how sturdy the content pillars are. But let’s not go down that rabbit hole.
So, to summarise — content pillars are a set of brand-specific themes and topics sustaining a brand’s social media content strategy. Sounds pretty straightforward, but there’s more to this than meets the eye.
Why are social media content pillars important?
Its name should be pretty evocative of its importance by itself. Basically, content pillars ensure that your social media content strategy doesn’t collapse under its own weight. Content pillars are what confers a social media page with that air of authenticity that’s imperceptible when done right but sticks out like a sore thumb when not.
Moving on, leaning (get it?) on a few specific content pillars makes creating relevant content much more effortless. Instead of taking shots in the dark, you can go back to those pillars and create social media content related to them. As you may already know, social media is all about consistency. And there’s no better way to build a strong identity on social media than by maintaining thematic consistency.
Also, content pillars make planning your social media content calendar (look at that, Planable has one of those!) much easier. But we’ll circle back to this later.
Types of content pillars & how to create content pillars
Content pillars can’t be classified, at least in the traditional sense — it all depends on the specificities of your business, and especially the brand built around it. Ideally, brands should strive to create themed, serialized content that closely aligns with their values and mission and tells a story. And if there’s a dissonance between brand and content, that nigh on impossible to do.
Here are a few hypothetical examples of dissonance between brand and content:
- A business that sells affordable furniture pieces posting content related to luxury furnishings.
- A neighborhood bar flooding its pages with pictures of artisanal coffee varieties.
- An indie bookstore focusing on high-profile releases instead of indie authors and local upstarts.
- A social media collaboration tool such as Planable rattling on about the power of planning social media campaigns on spreadsheets.
But what should I do?
Of course, these are some fringe content pillar examples. What social media teams want to avoid are those subtle but noticeable to the trained eye brand-content misalignments that could quickly become habitual if they’re not nipped in the bud.
This can happen for a variety of reasons. Chief among them is creating content around faulty assumptions based on previous experiences — say, a slightly off-brand, high-performing piece of content. Lots of people engaged with it => this is exactly what people want => we should clearly create more.
This logic is the metaphorical crack that can cause even the sturdiest of content pillars to fall. Sure, nobody is saying you shouldn’t experiment. But even when trying new things out, you shouldn’t lose focus on what makes a brand, well, that brand. Think of your content pillars as a straight road and your content experiments as side roads branching out of the main one.
There’s a lot of value to be gained from occasionally straying off the beaten path content-wise, and it can help you recontextualize your previous initiatives. But stray too far away from the main road, and you can quickly lose focus. You create content for social media, but forget why you’re doing it. So, as long as those side roads loop back to the main road, you’re good. Creating content pillars is all about having your eye on the prize.
Content pillars for Instagram & Instagram content pillar examples
I think it’s not too controversial to say that content is the heart of Instagram. However, as the platform strayed farther and farther away from its photo-sharing origins and introduced new functionalities (stories, reels, etc.), so have the marketing strategies.
Again, these content pillars can vary depending on your industry. Still, generally speaking, most Instagram pages focus on a couple (or all) of the following:
- Behind the scenes
- Employee takeover
- Product news
- User-generated content
- Customer feedback
Here’s an example of Instagram content pillars done right: Saturday Night Live. Their content mainly revolves around intimate closeups of their stars and exclusive behind-the-scenes photos and clips. With just a glance, you can immediately figure out what they’re about — and their feed oozes authenticity as a result.
Though, if I’m completely honest, they could experiment a bit more with grids. Do you know the easiest way to plan visually enticing Instagram grids? Planable’s Grid View, of course. Anyway, enough with content pillars examples, let’s move on.
Do I need a social media content pillars template?
I’ll go out on a limb here and say “no.” Why? You’re not gonna believe this. It’s pretty wild. So, there’s this thing called Planable, right…
Content pillar strategy — reinforce your pillar content with Planable
… a social media collaboration tool made by marketers for social media marketers. As you probably figured out by now, content pillars are some of the most essential elements of social media marketing. But no matter how much care and attention teams invests into sticking to these pillars, losing focus is still pretty easy. The odd post — say, a cat meme that you thought was totally on-brand — could still slip through the cracks.
Then there’s the issue of the types of content to post. There’s a fine line between iteration and repetition, and hitting that sweet spot is your social media marketing campaign’s actual test of strength.
How does one do that, you ask? With Planable’s labels.
Stick some labels on your Pillars
Post-its. Highlighters. Color-coded binders. Improvised bookmarks.
As weird as that may sound, there’s an almost child-like pleasure in organizing things by your own (creative and highly-personalized) rules.
We applied the same philosophy to Planable’s labeling system.
Labels can be created in a workspace and added to each post. You can use these labels to categorize posts by campaign, product, topic, theme, and whatever strikes your fancy. Later, you can look up posts based on these labels.
See where I’m going with this? If not, let me gently spell it out for you. Planable’s labeling system is the perfect tool to ensure that your content, no matter how outlandish and experimental it may be, is always on brand and in line with your content pillars.
That’s because labels offer a historical overview of your social media campaigns with just a glance. Wondering if sharing that topical meme deviates from your content pillars? Just sort by labels and get an idea of what has been posted in the past.
Don’t believe us? Here’s a totally-not-hypothetical use case
Remember the whole “iteration vs. repetition” dilemma? Labels can also turn that thing from a dilemma into a, well, non-dilemma. Simply filtering by labels will go a long way toward helping you spot gaps in your content strategy and adapt accordingly.
Let’s circle back to the indie bookstore example I mentioned earlier. Say you run social media for it. You’ve flooded your social pages with upcoming releases, local author spotlights and even threw in a few small vinyl stores for good measure. Because hey, you’re all about pushing people to buy local, and what do you know, your audiences kinda overlap.
Since there are only so many book announcements and vinyl shops to shout out in a given week, you suddenly find yourself out of content ideas. But because you made sure to categorize your posts with Planable’s labels, you quickly discover that you haven’t recommended a book in a while. And you’re an indie book store. A place that sells books. That people read. What’s that? You don’t have any books to recommend? Why not repurpose a high-performing old post from 2019? You’ve labeled it accordingly, so I’m absolutely sure it’ll be easy to find.
And that’s the gist of Planable’s labels. They help you keep track of your social media activity and give you a historical overview of your initiatives while ensuring that you stick to your social media content pillars simultaneously. Pretty cool.
Here are some other cool things about labels before we move on:
- You can create a set of labels for each workspace you own.
- Each post can have one or more labels assigned to it.
- Labels are visible in calendar view (more on that in a bit)
- You can easily visualize your labels by sorting by last created, scheduled, and other criteria.
How do you create content pillars for social media? Plan your pillars posts in Planable’s social media calendar
Do you know what also makes sticking to your content pillars a breeze? Planning your content in a social media calendar. In Planable’s social media calendar, to be more specific.
Here’s how it works:
- Sign up to Planable. It costs absolutely nothing, and it’s hassle-free.
- Create a workspace.
- Connect your social accounts.
- Click on “calendar view.”
From there, you can do all sorts of cool stuff. For example, you can click on one of the time slots, create a post and schedule it later. Change your mind about the slot? Drag and drop it to a new one. It’s that simple.
FYI: labels are not only visible from the calendar, you can also assign them right there on the spot via the composer.
Social media pillars — fine-tune your pillar content strategy with the help of your team
Social media work is inherently team-based. There’s no way around that. And when it comes to nebulous concepts such as content pillars and “being on brand,” teamwork is all the more important.
Planable is a tool built from the ground up to encourage and sustain efficient social media team collaboration.
How does this work? Again, pretty simple. Create a post in Planable and tag your team members to pitch in. They can do so by leaving comments and replying to each other right next to the post.
Is that funny gif in line with your content pillars? Should graphic design brush it up a little, so it’s aesthetically consistent with the brand? Wait a second — didn’t we post a similar one in Q2 2020? Good thing you labelled that bad boy, ‘cause guess who’s not gonna spend 25 minutes of their precious time sifting through dozens of posts to find it.
What are the 4 pillars of social media?
Before we move on, let’s talk briefly about the 4 pillars of social media. Understanding these core concepts will help you shape up and maintain your social media content pillars.
Some say that influence is the most important currency on social media. Basically, influence is the ability to persuade people in one direction or another. It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean “manipulate” or “trick.” It’s a status that you gain over time by actively engaging with followers and providing value with your insights and advice.
This notion is easy to grasp, so it doesn’t need any explaining. Trust is crucial for everything, whether a business or an individual. But here’s the catch — the only way to build trust is by sticking to the core values of that brand and, by extension, the content pillars which by themselves should evoke them.
I think it’s safe to say that the social media space is crowded with millions of years worth of content, which makes it even harder to stand out.
For this reason, we have to redefine what exactly it means to be “unique.” In this context, “uniqueness” doesn’t involve creating content that literally nobody has ever seen before (that’s impossible), rather the ability to stand out. This is where the article’s topic comes on — it’s not the novel nature of the content that makes it unique, but rather the way it’s molded to evoke the values and the mission of the brand. And most importantly, the impact it has on the audience. So the content doesn’t have to be “unique” — “transformative” is the more accurate term.
Relevance on social media is fleeting. That’s an indisputable fact, and nobody can’t do anything about it.
But that’s not entirely true, though. If you judge relevance by one’s ability to exploit trends (which is a viable strategy, don’t get me wrong), then yes, that relevance can be ephemeral. The best factor to measure a page’s relevance on social media is its ability to constantly provide value to its audience.
What that “value” means depends on the niche and industry. Still, generally speaking, it can fall in the realm of opinion pieces, actionable advice, and tutorials. Basically, anything that could help their audience better understand their industry and become more efficient, both personally and professionally.
Social media content pillars — final thoughts
And that’s a wrap on our piece about social media content pillars. Main takeaway: plan your content pillars ahead of time and stick to them as much as possible. Authenticity is the most valuable currency on social media, and the best way to stay real is by molding your content pillars around your brand’s values and mission.
Oh, and as for the publishing logistics part — Planable, you know the dril. Your pillars of social media content will never be sturdier. Because of that “Labels” feature we talked about earlier. Which really help when creating content pillars for social media.Anyway, Planable’s free, go check it out
Content marketer and aspiring YouTuber, in no particular order. Expertise in content writing, social media copywriting, and neo-noir graphic novels. Used to run a music webzine in the 2 seconds in the early 2010s when blogs were hot. I tweet very badly on Twitter.