Reactions to decreased organic reach on Facebook have from the gamut from outrage to joy to resignation.

Social agencies — digital agencies that focus on advertising on the social Web — are arguably the most affected by these changes. When your business model is predicated on delivering results via social platforms, and the largest social platform changes how it treats ads, the only option is to adapt. Specifically, social agencies are being forced to mature into shops that combine research, media buying and higher quality creative work.

“This is social media graduating beyond word-of-mouth advertising,” Ian Schafer, founder of digital agency Deep Focus, said.

The end of organic reach on social has increased the level of scrutiny on social agencies, Schafer said. Now that brands are having to pay to achieve the level of reach they once enjoyed for free, their expectations of the quality of social ads has increased.

“Mediocre creative is not going to pass through media budgets,” he said.

Schafer see this as a positive. More rigorous standards will improve not only the creative on social, but the ROI measurement.

To those ends, Schafer has spent the last two years building up the agency’s creative production and data analytics capabilities. Deep Focus’s Moment Studio is a production arm that aims to make brand creative at the speed of the social Web. The team is composed of people who specialize in short-form video. He’s also hired 15 people to the agency’s consumer analytics team over the past two years and established partnerships with Datalogix, a firm the aggregates consumers’ offline data, to prove the worth of social media advertising.

The agency has also slightly throttled its production schedule, opting for a more “quality over quantity” approach.

“Facebook is telling people ‘don’t post once a day.’” Schafer said. “We’re starting to produce fewer, better pieces of content designed to have greater targeted reach.”

Razorfish’s senior director of social Matt Heindl said Razorfish has also changed when his brands post to Facebook, trying to find times when users’ news feeds are less congested. The agency used to publish its clients’ posts between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. during the week. It recently started publishing them on nights and weekends to avoid having to pay for premium placement.

Jeff Melton, chief analytics and media officer at social agency MRY, said more-precise targeting has been one of the more significant changes in strategy since organic reach has declined.

“Now able to hit our target consumers much more efficiently,” Melton said.

When brands post to their pages, they are only broadcasting to those who have liked or followed that page. Many times, this group isn’t representative of that brand’s actual fan base or the target demographic for a specific campaign, he added. By paying for an ad, however, agencies can target exactly whom they want to reach, regardless if they have liked that brand’s page or not.

MRY has also started using Facebook’s ads to test different pieces of creative on small demographics and optimize them based on those results. Facebook’s ads allow brands to publish pieces of content to a small number of users without posting them on their brand pages, allowing their agencies to test and refine different ad copy and images before distributing it to a wider audience.

Not everyone is feeling the pressure to adapt, though. Gary Vaynerchuk said “it’s business as usual” at Vaynermedia. Because the agency has been coupling creative and buying on social since the beginning, transitioning away from decreased organic reach has not changed the agency’s strategy much. And he, like Schafer, agrees that this will place more emphasis on creative quality.

“The truth is the creative is still the variable of execution,” Vaynerchuk said. “We really, really haven’t had a significant need to adjust because the creative still matters.”

Image via TK

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