Being a small business owner means you probably don’t initially have a marketing team to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to creating content. Instead, it all falls on your shoulders. There’s the stress of consistently putting out content to stay relevant and playing algorithm games to keep your readers engaged so your platforms stay trending. Oof, it’s a lot! I’ve got good news for you though… it doesn’t have to be stressful! This is where content pillars come into play!
Utilizing content pillars helps you consistently publish relevant content, which in turn will drive more traffic to your business and strengthen your SEO.
The best way to understand content pillars is to think of them as the foundations for your business. They are used to build your content strategy, determine what information to post, and are overall the basis for all the content you create. You will use these content pillars in your blog posts, email marketing, podcasts, YouTube videos, social media posts, etc.
I am not about fluff, and most readers aren’t either! We’re all busy! There is no reason to push out content just for the sake of meeting arbitrary content goals. Instead, your content needs to be authentic and relatable to resonate with your target audience. This keeps your customers active and engaged with your products and/or services, which is a key way for your business to grow and thrive.
I recommend five basic content pillars to all small business owners to establish a solid foundation for building content.
These five pillars are designed to help your customers understand your brand mission and values, as well as gain an understanding of your brand’s identity (which in most cases will be of you, the small business owner!).
If you write about multiple different subjects, you’ll want to create content pillars for each of those. For example, your top level categories might be Literacy, Math, and Classroom Management. You’ll want to create Literacy posts that hit each of the content pillars you selected.
All of the content you create should directly link to a content pillar or support pillar. Support pillars take the main pillar and break it down into more actionable sub-topics. Let’s look at some examples.
Community Content Pillar
Content developed upon the community pillar is all about connecting. You want your customers to trust you and the product or services you provide, which happens more easily when customers feel like they know you.
To connect with your audience, you need to introduce them to your brand and what your business offers. You need to offer people a way to feel like they know you and what you stand for– your mission and your values.
- Behind the Scenes – invite your customers into your day-to-day life. This is a really large part of my social media presence. I want other moms with young families to know that their own dreams and passions are valuable! Those passions are actually gifts that can be shared with others, oftentimes through a small business (like a blog or Etsy shop).
- Get to Know You – share stories with your clients about how you got to where you are, what made you start your business, what inspires you, and how things like family impact what you do and why.
- Customer Reviews/Testimonials – the best way to get people to trust your business is for them to hear how you’ve helped others, straight from the source.
- Before/Afters – a picture is worth 1,000 words, right? Customers want to see real results and picture their own potential outcomes.
Education Content Pillar
When you create content to educate your target audience, it has a two-fold purpose. It helps your customers feel supported after buying your products/services and it helps them trust you know your stuff so they can feel confident buying from you in the first place. Both of these improve brand awareness!
- How-to Guides or Tutorials – explain in detail how to do or achieve something. This can also be a selling point. People are short on time, so sometimes they prefer to just purchase a service from you instead of following a tutorial. You can provide a basic tutorial and then upsell to a related advanced offer.
- Tips & Tricks – you are good at what you do! Share your knowledge with your audience so they can take advantage of your hacks too.
- FAQs – if you’re repeatedly getting asked the same question by your consumers, take the time to address and answer it thoroughly.
- Address Specific Challenges – a good marketing strategy takes into account the pain points of your target audience, creates content to address these problems, and gives your clients solutions to them. Share your own relatable problems along the way and how you solved them.
Inspiration Content Pillar
When you create content, it won’t always fall onto one single pillar. Sometimes you might find the content you create links to multiple pillars. I find inspirational content easily links well with other pillars.
You can make any content inspirational by connecting to the internal struggles your consumers may have and bringing emotion into your content pieces, such as talking about struggles you overcame in a ‘Get to Know You’ piece. Here are some more ideas:
- Quotes – as you go throughout your day, you are bound to have thoughts that will resonate with your audience. Share them! For example, “Binders, the lifeblood of a well-oiled classroom” (coupled with a photo of your classroom binders).
- Memes – you can create your own or share from others in your industry with appropriate credit.
- Encouragement – share a few sentences or a couple of paragraphs from your life to encourage your customers to keep moving forward.
Engagement Content Pillar
The best way to keep your target audience coming back is to keep them engaged with your brand. Give them opportunities to feel like they matter to you and that their trust in you matters too.
Engaging content offers them a way to share what’s on their minds and may even offer insight into future products and services for you to offer.
- Quizzes – learn more about your audience so you can determine better ways to help them
- Polls – get your audience involved in your creative process and find out what needs they have that you aren’t meeting yet.
- Live Q&A – create community and engagement by meeting with your audience virtually and answering questions they have about specific products or services.
Promotion Content Pillar
Promotional content is a reminder to choose your products and services. It shows what you offer and why it’s beneficial to potential customers.
About 30% of your content should fall into this pillar. You want your audience to always be up to date and see how what you offer is unique from the competition.
- New Releases – be sure to share each new offer. You can also build momentum by giving sneak peeks.
- Product Demo – show off what you do
- Seasonal Promotions – create content specific to different times of the year and utilize them for sales and promotions. A great example is Black Friday– customers frequently stop buying around this time in anticipation of a promo. A win-win offer is a great way to close a sale.
- Sales – I am a big believer in value-based, fair pricing so I don’t frequently promote sales. However, everyone loves feeling like they scored a great deal from time to time! Consider introductory sales when you release a new product or service. Sales at unusual times can also help you stand out from the crowd, like throwing a birthday sale!
- CTAs – calls to action are not unique to promotion content, but can be utilized in all of your content pieces. Frequently tell your readers exactly what you’d like them to do next to plant the seed for next steps to take.
Content pillars, along with their support pillars, provide small business owners with a framework for creating content. It takes out the guesswork of trying to figure out what to post about, but where do you go from here? Consider these actionable tips after you’ve defined your pillars.
1. Make a Content Scheduling Plan
A monthly content scheduling plan is usually the easiest and can be reused from month to month. Diversify your content though, so your posting varies between pillars/support pillars each day, and vary the format of your content as well.
An example of one week could look like this:
Monday: Tutorial video on YouTube
Tuesday: Quiz on social media
Wednesday: Answer a FAQ in a blog post
Thursday: Behind-the-scenes reel
Friday: Quote (maybe reference the weekend) on social media
Saturday: Product demo video in stories
Sunday: Meme on social media
Remember to mix up the formats of your content. Experiment with different media on different platforms and determine what your audience responds best to. Do you use email marketing? Write a blog? Splice a video? Create an infographic? Publish an e-book? Do a webinar? Record a podcast? Check out my guide on social media post ideas for more ideas.
There are countless formats for your content, so be sure to spend time figuring out what works best for you and also engaging your audience.
2. Create Your Content using Keywords
SEO, or search engine optimization, determines how well your content will be ranked by platforms like Google and where you’ll place on the search result pages.
When you’re creating content, your SEO will be determined by your keywords and how well you use them throughout the content, so be sure to choose them carefully. This course can help.
Mini course: SOS… SEO!
How To Help Your Website Show Up In Search Results
Take this DIY entry-level SEO course to start your website off on the right foot.
3. Repurpose Your Content
Finally, make your content go the extra mile. If you spent the time to write a detailed blog post answering one of your audience’s most asked questions, repurpose that content so it can be used on other platforms. Turn it into an infographic or Instagram carousel, record a podcast, or splice a video. Fill up your content calendar wisely to reach your target audience wherever they may be.
Putting It All Together
After reading this, you might be looking at the content you’ve put out in the past and thinking, “oh no my content is everywhere!” Maybe you even have this overwhelming desire to go back and try to fix it all. Take a moment and pause.
Make creating content based on your pillars a step moving forward not backward. Sit down and determine what your content pillars are going to be, remembering to focus on your brand mission, your values, and your audience when considering the examples above. Then make the change moving forward.
Take it one step at a time, and your content pillars will help you publish clear, consistent content that pulls people towards your business by meeting their needs… all while building trust in your brand.