Author’s note: Tip of the hat to one of my favorite speeches, Neil Gaiman’s iconic commencement speech, which was also immortalized as a Zen Pencils Comic.

Last month, Social Media Specialist Ryan Collins and I attended a Cleveland Press Club event with speaker Jonathon Colman of Facebook. We didn’t know what to expect, so we came with our own questions about the social media giant and its latest updates, changes and tweaks. As it turned out, the order of the night was not to discuss Facebook, its algorithm, its dwindling organic reach or its ad platform. Instead, the topic of the night was great content and a great content strategy.

Colman’s presentation discussed the ins and outs of content strategy, content management systems (mostly that they tend to suck), and how to better approach content for your business or brand. But of all these topics, one stood out more than the rest: Colman said, “We shouldn’t be creating great content by accident.”

Obviously, not all content will spread like wildfire, nor can we truly forecast what will be a home run and what will be a third strike. I mean, who expected that dumping ice on our heads would raise so much money?

What we can do, and what Colman talked a lot about, is put ourselves in the best possible situation to succeed with our content. By being thorough and thoughtful concerning our audience, our delivery/management system, our metadata, our tone and our overall message, we can give our content a fighting chance. By organizing, thinking and planning, we can make great art.

Colman’s speech echoed words I’d heard before: “Start with ‘why.’” Our message and our words mean a lot more when we start with why we’re doing something, why we’ve created it and why it matters. When we put “why something is” before “what something is,” our message means a hell of a lot more. Apple® focuses its ads on “why,” and that’s why they’re some of my favorites.

Apple makes good art
In their Christmas 2013 ad, Apple showed what appeared to be an anti-social member of “Generation ME.” He was quiet, distant and always on his iPhone® as his family came together to enjoy a winter holiday. Apple makes you wonder why he’s the focus of the ad. Why is he so distant? Why is he so quiet? That’s when the magic happens.

Near the end of the ad, the boy and his family are in the living room together when he turns on the TV and begins to play a video from his iPhone. The video plays and it turns out (SPOILER ALERT) that he was present the whole time. He was there filming something for his family. He was there making great art. Their entire ad made you wonder why, and then in the end, the ad revealed itself as just another reason why their products are what they are. That’s why the iPhone matters. Without mentioning a single product feature, they made great art and made you understand what an iPhone can mean. Start with “why” and your art, your content and your business will be better for it.

As an artist, I truly appreciate the sentiment of putting “why” first in the struggle to create great art. Asking an artist “What is that?” is never as meaningful as “What does it mean?” or “Why did you make it?” As a marketer, putting “why” first is just as important. In our campaigns, in our websites and in our content, it is paramount to look beyond what something is to see why it is and why it matters.

Facebook wants you to make good art
To bring this all full circle, as a social media marketer, I frequently get asked about the latest, the greatest and what’s next in social media. I get one question more than any other: “What’s the deal with Facebook?” I can say, without a doubt, that making great art and great content is first and foremost on Facebook’s to-do list. They’re trying to make great products like Hyperlapse (from their Instagram team). They’re trying to give brands and advertisers a great platform to drive business and marketing results. They’re trying to give users the best possible user experience by curating content for them and allowing them to hold the keys to what they want to see more or less of. Facebook is trying to make it easy for you to make good art and content. They’ll reward you if you make something that people love by showing it to even more people.

In that same vein, Facebook has made other moves that look to ensure content quality. They created and evolved their algorithm and their advertising policies while also removing fan-gates. By embracing the algorithm, Facebook has forced users and brands alike to focus on the quality of their content. Gone are the days of the sequential newsfeed (think Twitter), and Facebook has made it harder than ever to get your content viewed. You’ve got to find the right audience without forcing them to like your page since fan-gates are no longer allowed, and then you’ve got to create great content to keep them interested. The algorithm rewards fan engagement on your content by extending your reach, so you’ll want to make sure you’re hitting the right audience with the right content. That sounds like marketing to me! If your message is missing the mark or if you’re having trouble finding your target audience, then you can always buy Facebook ads to extend your fan base and your reach!

It’s never been more important to put “why” first in social media marketing. We’re constantly trying to outdo our past performances and those of our competitors. Facebook’s asking us to create good art to cut through the noise, and we as marketers have to rise to the challenge. We’re up for it, are you?

Zach Thoren is Social Media Project Manager at AKHIA