Use content pillars to generate content for your blog, social media posts, and newsletters. Stop struggling with what to write about in your blog and your author newsletter and your social posts!
I feel like what stops most authors from getting started on a newsletter or being consistent is a lack of ideas.
Where do you find ideas? How do you know your ideas will interest your readers? What topics will work? How do you niche down? If your fans don’t want to read about the craft of writing, what can you write about?
Content pillars are the solution, and if you keep them in mind for every post and newsletter, you will discover an endless supply of topics to write about that will interest your readers.
Seriously, wouldn’t it be great to have a limitless well of content ideas?
What are content pillars?
“Content pillars” is a marketing term; if you Google it, you will find many articles about the concept. Stick with me, and you will understand the concept well enough to get started.
Think of a content pillar as a silo or a well, basically a cylinder to hold stuff. Famers use silos to store grain and fermented feed called silage. The silos store bulk products separately. I also like the mental image of a deep well to draw ideas from.
How do you identify your content pillars?
Each of your content pillars supports your brand. Your brand needs three to five pillars. If you choose five, then you automatically have buckets for Monday through Friday. Convenient, eh?
If you are a non-fiction author, you should choose your pillars based on your area of expertise.
Let’s take an imaginary tennis pro, Andy Love, for our example. He might identify the following content pillars:
- Tournaments and Events
- Fitness Tips
Fill each content pillar with ideas.
All you need is an hour to brainstorm and a means to capture your ideas.
After you pick your “content pillars” and then fill them with related ideas. Once you have your list, more ideas will come.
Keeping your content pillars full is a never-ending process; as you draw out ideas, put more ideas in.
Be sure to capture your ideas in a permanent place where you can access them from now on. I keep mine in a Google sheet that’s accessible on my computer and my phone.
Let’s go back to our non-fiction example.
Andy Love should brainstorm as many potential topics as possible for each of his content pillar. He might add “Tennis Elbow Prevention” and “Best Hydration Drinks” and “Workout Tips” to the Fitness Tips content pillar.
The topics he lists will serve his community of readers with important information they can use. His topics will also support his credibility as an expert.
When he is creating social media posts each week, he can choose ideas from his content pillars. He can even designate themes like Mindset Monday and Technique Tuesday and Fitness Friday. It is okay to repeat topics, just approach it from a different angle to keep things fresh.
What about content pillars for fiction authors?
You are free to think of your own content pillars.
For the sake of this discussion, I will suggest these five content pillars for fiction authors:
- Mindset, which is about author life;
- Creative Process, which would include quotes, art, and your brand;
- Marketing, which encompasses all necessary communications between an author and their fans;
- Interests, which is all the common ground you have with your readers; and
- Genre, which is news about movies, books, and fandoms that are related to your genre.
Let’s take the Mindset content pillar. The ideas in this silo would include your inspirations, your favorite music, self-improvement (because fans love to follow their author on their life journey), striking a healthy balance between art and life, appreciation, and gratitude.
In the Creative Process pillar, you could include quotes, fan art, journaling humor, bad lines, relevant poems, and scribbles.
Every author needs a Marketing column; just make sure it isn’t your only column. This column would include street team news, covers, back cover copy, polls, giveaways, and events. Make sure your newsletters are not simply an excuse to say “Buy my book.”
Let’s skip Interests for now and consider the Genre content pillar. This is an easy one to fill because you can discuss movies, old and new books in your genre, favorite characters, fandoms, and lore.
Blend your content pillars with your avatar’s interests.
All of the pillars above are strong contenders to connect with your reader, but you can go deeper if you know your ideal reader avatar.
In a nutshell, Marissa is a socially-conscious, hard-working, single millennial who loves clean romance and cats.
If you are a romance author who writes for Marissa, then you could tap into the following sub-topics for your Interests content pillar:
- Clean romance genre recommendations,
- Funny cat stories and photos, and
- Fun date Ideas.
You can write about serious topics for Marissa too:
- Social consciousness and
- Single lady issues and concerns.
The main point is to connect with your reader.
Do you see the cross-section between the content pillars of your author brand and your avatar’s interests?
Content pillars are a means of serving your current and future customers.
Let’s say you write military fiction. Your Creative Process pillar could include posts about military bases as possible settings for your next book. Past heroes could serve as models for your story characters. Your ideal reader avatar, who loves all things military, is going to tune in for more.
What are your content pillars? Leave your answer in the comments below.
Download the Content Pillar Exercise
Download my Content Pillar exercise. On the front, there are pillars with room for ideas. On the back, I am lending you an abbreviated example.
Set aside an hour and do this exercise today. This is only a start; I expect you will have so many ideas, your pillars will each grow to fill a page. Keep the information in a place for reference whenever you communicate with your readers.
- “How to Use Content Pillars for Your Social Media Strategy” by Monique Thomas for Later blog.
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