In school, math was never really my thing (still isn’t!). I’ve always been the left-brained, creative type, which is how I got into content marketing. So don’t look to me to help you with the quadratic formula.
But one thing I did absorb about mathematical formulas is that they help you land on a desired outcome every time. They are tried and true, effective, proven. Formulas provide structure so you can plug and play until you get the right answer.
Creative endeavors, on the other hand, are not always black and white. When you’re writing, designing, or creating content for an audience, it’s subjective. There is no perfect formula.
Or is there?
Taking the Guesswork out of Content Marketing
In grade school, we’re taught that when we don’t know the answer, guess. I opted for that route countless times on standardized tests, but this didn’t add up for me in the real world.
As a content creator, I got tired of “guessing” what types of content would work. That’s a good way to waste time and money.
So, I looked for common denominators — things that I knew were 100% true when it comes to content marketing. What were the shared truths for both brands and their audiences?
Brands want awareness, recognition, and engagement.
Audiences want value.
That’s it. That’s all we know for certain, but it’s enough to apply a formula that results in content themes that are a win-win for both groups.
The Content Theme Formula
Content themes are the best way to add consistency to your content calendar. When you establish themes that reflect your brand, resonate with your audience, and align with your goals, all you have to do is post, and repeat. The repetitive theme, paired with tailored design elements, make your brand recognizable over time and keeps your audience coming back for more.
To create content themes on any marketing channel, follow this formula:
Content Bucket + Content Type + Brand POV = Content Theme
Content Bucket – This is the first part of the formula because your audience comes first. Your content bucket is how you will add value and ensure your content has a purpose that serves your fans.
As you develop content ideas, start by categorizing them into content buckets. When you approach your content with one of these buckets in mind, there’s always something in it for your audience.
- Educational – teach me
- Conversational – engage me
- Promotional – entice me
- Entertainment – captivate me
- Inspirational – influence me
- Connection – unite me with others
Content Type – What exactly will you be posting? Your content type speaks to the physical media you plan to publish.
- Blog or Article
- Short-form text post
- Short-form Video
- Long-form Video
- Ebook, Template, or Document
Brand Point of View: This part of the formula is the trickiest, but it’s also your secret ingredient. What special flare will you add to your content to differentiate it? This can speak to the visual aesthetic of the content, its story angle, how it sounds, how it’s structured, etc.
Your brand’s point of view is where you add an essential design rule or element that makes your content yours. And when it’s unique and repeated over time, you become unmistakable to your audience. You can implement this point of view as part of a seasonal campaign, or an everlasting brand staple.
The Content Marketing Formula in Action!
Of course, the best way to learn and retain something is to see it in practice. I’m sharing some examples from a brand that I think gets the content formula — SoulCycle. As shown by the content types I shared above, you can apply the content formula beyond social media, but I’m primarily focusing on SoulCycle’s Instagram posts.
Before we dive in, let’s establish SoulCycle’s color palette. They use white and yellow with touches of black and gray. They also use the timeless typeface, Helvetica, for all of their branding. You’ll notice how they extend these colors and font treatments to create refreshing content that still feels connected.
Inspirational + Images + Instructor Quotes / White Background / Yellow Highlights
I love SoulCycle’s twist on inspirational posts with this content theme. Instead of posting overdone, motivational platitudes, they build community by sharing original quotes from their own instructors.
Entertaining + Images + Screenshot Phone Notifications
With this theme, SoulCycle found a refreshing way to inject humor and motivation into their feed. Rather than putting static text on a plain background, they delight their follows with eye-catching iPhone notification simulations.
Conversational + Tweet Images + Relatable Rider Thoughts
There’s no better way to connect with your audience than to share content that is relatable. SoulCycle taps into this by leaning on authentic tweets and comments from their own members. Here is a content theme based on user-generated content (UGC).
Connection + Images + Heartfelt Letters from the CEO
SoulCycle has implemented many campaigns to unify their audience — I always look forward to their annual Pride campaign which champions diversity as one of their values. But SoulCycle also humanizes their brand by frequently sharing letters from their CEO, Melanie Whelan, on Instagram, their website, via email, etc. She writes to introduce campaigns, express gratitude for company milestones, celebrate holidays, and even address controversy.
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It’s officially #Pride2019! 🏳️🌈 All month we’re celebrating the radiant, proud, queer Souls who make our community brighter—and so full of color. Want to get involved? Start with a Pride Pack, on sale today! 10% of each Pride Pack sold, up to $100,000,* will go to @TrevorProject to support their mission to support LGBTQ youth in crisis. We’re proud to be a part of your community. 💛 Ride as you are. Love as you are. 💛 – * Thanks to you, we met our $100,000 donation goal to The Trevor Project (way to go!). Keep riding with Pride—all June long. Continue to give back to @trevorproject at thetrevorproject.org.
Educational + Long-Form Blog Posts + 360 Degree Style
While you can definitely develop educational content on social media, a blog on your website is one of the most powerful ways to add value for your audience. SoulCycle’s blog is multi-dimensional with categories focused on inspiration, food, wellness, art, and style.
The SoulStyle section is my favorite, as they do not solely focus on promoting SoulCycle’s retail line. Rather than shouting promotions or push the hard sell, SoulCycle chooses to serve their audience. This blog category offers helpful advice on everything from seasonal fashion, skincare products, haircare, travel, and gift ideas.
- How to Wash Your Workout Clothes
- 14 Stylish Gym Backpacks for All Day Comfort
- 7 Cleansers That Make Your Skin Glow
Promotional + Short-Form Video + Animated New Studio Teasers
As SoulCycle expands, they build excitement on Instagram with animated teasers announcing their new studios coming soon. While they promote a new studio, they also serve as special shout-outs to cities and their residents and future members. These posts create camaraderie before they even open their doors.
Your Content Solution
A content marketing strategy is much easier to execute when you have a plan. Once you take the time to develop these themes using the content formula, they will become the gifts that keep on giving! They lay a foundation that fosters connection, brand awareness, and value, while also lending themselves to reinvention over time.
Start looking at brands you follow to see if you can identify their own application of the content formula. Then, try implementing it yourself!
To learn more about how to create content themes, check out my upcoming course!
READ MORE: Before you can add value for your audience, you need to know what is valuable to them. Use my empathy map template to learn more about your target!