How to Develop Instagram Content Pillars and Why You Need Them

Mar 15, 2022

Content pillars are key to creating better content and making it easier to do. Whether you’re posting last-minute and scrambling to come up with an idea, or sitting down to plan a week or two in advance, but you don’t know where to start, your content pillars will help. 

If you've never heard of these, keep reading because they will make your life much easier and help your content better resonate with ideal clients and customers. Here’s what you need to know about what content pillars are, how to create your own, and what to do once you’ve created some.

Keep Reading: How to Master Social Media Content Creation with a Busy Schedule

What Are Content Pillars?

Your content pillars are the 3 to 5 topics that you want to be known for and speak about. They are the core of what you share on Instagram and throughout the rest of your business. 

These often develop organically over time, but defining them, even if they change or evolve later, can help you be more strategic and intentional in your content. When determining your content pillars, remember that they should:

  • Relate to what you want to be known for. 
  • Be relevant to your expertise. 
  • Excite you—if you don’t want to talk about those things, your content will fall flat.

Creating these pillars, which are essentially topic categories, will allow you to build credibility with your audience. It will also help new potential clients know exactly what they can expect from you. Finally, this clear focus will help you plan better because you have a focus for each of your posts. 

How to Create Your Content Pillars

While your content pillars should be relevant to your expertise and passion, they also need to be relevant to your ideal clients and customers. Your content needs to answer their questions and speak to their challenges. You need to give them something to connect with. 

As Ann Handley says: “When we create something, we think, ‘Will our customers thank us for this?’ I think it’s important for all of us to be thinking about whatever marketing we’re creating; is it really useful to our customers? Will they thank us for it? I think if you think of things through that lens, it just clarifies what you’re doing in such a simple, elegant way.”

Content Pillar Examples

For example, as a wedding photographer, one of your content pillars might be Wedding Photo Planning. This can lead you to create content like:

  • A reel showing the most popular posts
  • A carousel on pros and cons of a first look 
  • A reel showing the planning process and then the final photos

Here’s a full list of potential pillars for a wedding photo photographer:

  1. Wedding Photo Planning
  2. Choosing a Photographer
  3. Wedding Vendors Spotlight
  4. Client Spotlight

These content pillars allow you to answer a common question clients and potential clients may have while also showcasing your knowledge as a wedding professional. Meg Marie, a brand photographer, does a great job of this.

 If you sell products, the idea is still the same. Consider the example of selling healing crystal jewelry. One of your content pillars might be Crystals 101. As such, you could create:

  • A carousel explaining the meaning of various crystals 
  • A reel about the healing capacity of different crystals
  • A video highlighting your top products and how they help customers

Here’s a full list of potential pillars for a healing crystal jewelry maker:

  1. Creative Ways to Use Crystal Products
  2. Crystals 101
  3. Spiritual Practices

Each of these showcases your knowledge of the product while also providing value to potential customers who are likely curious about those things. The brand Energy Muse is a great example of this. 

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A post shared by Energy Muse (@energymuse)

As you dig into what your pillars should be, here are a few other places to look for inspiration:

  • Existing content: You can find content pillars hidden in your best content. Which topics get the most engagement from your audience? Those might represent some of your pillars. 
  • Personal life: Not all of your content pillars need to be directly related to your business. If you have a lifestyle brand where you post about your life and business on the same Instagram account, you may want to add 1 to 2 pillars about your own life.
  • Competitors: What topics are your competitors consistently talking about? Which topics drive engagement on their top posts? These topics may also make sense for your brand.

How to Use Your Content Pillars

The idea is simple: rotate through all of your pillars every week. For example, if you 3 to 5 days a week, and have three content pillars, you’ll tie one content pillar to each post and repeat two of the pillars. Having this clear direction for each post makes it easier to create content faster while creating consistency for your audience.

You can also apply this strategy with other types of content too. You might practice this on your blog or even create downloadable free resources around each of your main pillars.

Having these pillars doesn't mean you can only ever post about those topics. If there is a special event or promotion, build the content for that promotion or launch around your pillars to make sure you’re talking about this new topic with the same lens. In this case, you’re talking about something different but with the same overarching theme that you know your clients care about.

Refresh Your Content Pillars

Your content pillars will evolve with your brand. As your business grows, your focus can shift—and that’s okay. It just means you need to make sure your messaging follows that same trajectory. That’s why it’s important to check back in with your content pillars at least twice each year. 

When you do, ask yourself the following questions and then make changes as necessary:

  • Do these still make sense for my brand?
  • Am I still speaking to the same audience?
  • Are these still allowing me to serve my Instagram community in the best way possible?

Don’t Ignore the Value of Content Pillars

Now is the time to create content pillars for your Instagram content. With these pillars as guides, it will be easier to create content because you don’t have to think of ideas from scratch—your pillars act as a prompt for coming up with fresh content. What’s more, having these in place ensures that your message is consistent and also provides value to your ideal clients and community. If you don’t have content pillars yet, now is the time to create them!

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