Conventional marketing advice will often tell you that you need to split your content into ‘content pillars’.
These pillars help you organise your content and are useful to have when you’re lacking inspiration or trying to plan out your weekly or monthly calendar.
But are these pillars stifling your creativity? And could they be sabotaging your content marketing strategy?
In short, no. But we do have an issue with the word ‘pillar’.
Your content should never be concrete, and ‘pillar’ strikes up far too rigid connotations for our liking.
Instead, we prefer to think of them as ‘content buckets’ — something you can add to, take from and easily move around. These buckets are designed to be used as prompts, not set-in-stone rules, to ensure you create a good mix of content across your online marketing.
Here are the six we tend to use…
Why so serious? Sometimes, you just want to have a little fun. From jumping on topical news and national days to trending memes, gifs and other highly ‘shareable’ content, the entertain bucket is designed to show a bit of personality and break up the business aspect.
The inspire bucket is all about… well, inspiring people. Whether it’s a testimonial, interview, case study or customer story, the aim is to highlight success in one form or another — demonstrating why your product or service is key to that success.
Content that lends itself to a conversation is more likely to make the audience engage; they want to be listened to, not just talked at. So, think polls, questions — anything that gets them thinking and elicits a response. It sometimes pays to be a little provocative or controversial here but tread with caution; how far you take it very much depends on your audience and business.
Also known as your ‘thought-leadership content’, this is your opportunity to demonstrate your authority and share your wisdom. Thought leadership is all about building knowledge, adding value or taking a stand (sometimes a mix of all three at once).
This type of content can include anything from how-to guides, whitepapers and blog articles sharing top tips to podcasts, webinars and live question-and-answer sessions.
People buy from people, so it’s also worth getting some content in that engages with your audience on a more personal level. From behind-the-scenes videos and employee features like meet-the-team posts to stories about your charity or community work, the aim is to show the people and personalities behind your business.
Then we’ve got the promotional stuff: your testimonials, case studies, information about your products or services, webinars and special-offer emails.
If you’re eagle-eyed, you’ll notice we’ve already mentioned case studies, testimonials and webinars under some of the other content buckets. That was deliberate. As we said, you can dip in and out, so there may be some crossover between the buckets.
Mixing and matching your content marketing strategy
How you split out the buckets will depend on your business, audience and industry. B2B companies are more likely to use the educate, connect and promote buckets with a drop of entertain, inspire and converse, for example — whilst B2Cs will probably do the opposite.
But if one of these buckets really doesn’t fit with your audience, messaging or goals, don’t force it. Remember: flexible, not rigid.
That being said, we do have one hard-and-fast rule: only 20% (max) of your content should be promotional. No one wants to be around someone who’s constantly bragging about themselves, and the same applies to your content.
You may also use the content buckets differently across your channels depending on the audience and messaging. For instance, LinkedIn lends itself well to educational content, whereas Instagram is better suited to the entertain bucket.
Keep in mind your content themes, too (not the same as content buckets). As an example, online marketing themes could include social media, content marketing, PR, email marketing, search engine optimisation and pay-per-click advertising. These themes go into each bucket, and voilà — suddenly, you’ve got a whole load of content inspiration to work with…