Virality and engagement can be bought: Samar Verma, Founder & CEO, Fork Media

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New Delhi | Published: January 11, 2019 1:36:03 AM

Brands have display campaigns launching every fortnight, month or quarter. There is consistency in the conversation they are having with consumers, but that can’t be said about content marketing

Samar Verma. (Express Photo: Amit Chakravarty)

Advocating the need for stronger content marketing strategies, Samar Verma of Fork Media tells Shinmin Bali about the importance of measuring sentiment in conversations, using data and intelligence for content creation, and more. Edited excerpts:

What are the key focus areas for Fork Media this year?
The business has evolved dramatically and we look at ourselves as both platform and media. The platform side has gone through a fair bit of evolution, wherein distribution is secondary and the lesser of the problems. On the media side, we have had an interesting journey since we started incubating/licensing media brands. Today, we run five media brands. We have gone from a topline of Rs 2.5 crore in 2013 to Rs 100 crore this fiscal.

We are launching a video intelligence unit, called Video Genie, for automated video creation. There is a big gap in the market because a lot of brands look at native as a one-off, as compared to display.

Today, content creation is largely driven by agencies; we are trying to bring data and intelligence into it to help brands scale up the number of ideas.

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What are the stumbling blocks in content marketing?
Customised large-scale video production pieces that you need to do, as a brand, are significant because they drive the brand ethos. But to be able to use your native strategy in the most effective fashion, it is important to do these consistently. Brands have display campaigns launching every fortnight, month or quarter. There is consistency in the conversation they are having with consumers, but that can’t be said about content marketing. There are two challenges in content. Brands do not know what to create, as they rely on the creative agency; and that is a non-scalable model. The second challenge is the scale of creation itself. To bring content marketing to the forefront of the marketing mix, it is important to address these points.

How have digital spends evolved in your view?
Till about two-three years back, there was a clear spray-and-pray strategy. Every marketing vehicle within digital was being sampled with little convergence at a macro level. Today, marketers not only seek efficiency, but also want every bit of their marketing effort tied into the larger goal, and a clear measurement for the same.

The rate of growth in digital spends was a lot higher earlier since the base was smaller. Today, we are talking about Rs 12,000 crore worth of ad spends on digital, growing at about 25-30%. I think the more important statistic to look at is the growth of individual buckets within this Rs 12,000 crore. We believe that the content bucket is the fastest growing with a 45% growth rate, approximately.

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Does video have the highest potential?
A year ago, I would have said that I put all my money on video. That is changing now. No matter how much you try and focus on video, the volume of written content will surpass that of video — 10-15 written stories per day, versus two to three videos in the same day, whether syndicated, self-curated or created. The written content gives us a lot of data and insight into how the audiences are responding to different kinds of content. And we then use that data to turn the story into video for better organic reach. It is a little premature to dismiss written content.

How do you plan to grow the platform side of the business?
The ecosystem is fragmented today with influencer marketing companies, multiple distribution channels, and so on. Unfortunately, we have not been able to devise a measurement yardstick for brands to really know what the content has done for them. If you are using data to create content, the probability of it resonating is much higher as against employing only your creative guts to create content.

Brands may look at page views or virality or engagement, etc, as metrics. The reality is, virality and engagement can be bought today. Our single unified metric called Social Uplift measures the volume of conversation around a brand/product/service and the sentiment of the conversation, whether positive, negative or neutral, to judge if the content has resonated. Brands are still wary of putting big dollars into content marketing and distribution, because they don’t know if the movement is in brand voice, search volume or uplift.

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