Jeff Carson, Gizmo Pictures (SUBMITTED)

Online videos run the gamut from funny to sad to shocking, and businesses are tapping into that wide range of emotions to reach larger audiences.

Chris Martin, vice president of sales at Logan Business Machines, recently saw the effect a video can have on sales and creating community relationships. He and vice president Chad Logan donned smoking jackets and worked with Motovike Films to make a video.

“It started out as just a funny idea, and we had done some work with ActionCoach and Motovike Films, and they said, ‘Why don’t we shoot this thing? I think we could make this a really good spot for you guys,’ ” Martin said. “And we did, and we’ve had great success with it.”

The company hasn’t put the video anywhere except its Facebook page, YouTube channel and website, he said, but within six hours, it had netted more than 10,000 views. The goal wasn’t necessarily to make direct sales — although Martin said that has happened — but rather to build personal connections with customers.

“We wanted people to understand that we’re not just a copy company,” he said. “We wanted to let the public know our personality, and that’s kind of our personality. We’re really fun to work with.”

The video wasn’t expensive by marketing standards, he said, costing in the range of $4,500 to $6,000, including props and paying for Motovike’s time. It has been so successful that they have already booked time to film a second one.

Does video make financial sense?

Return on investment of social media efforts has been a challenge for businesses, which can spend significant portions of marketing funds to hire social media managers, create websites and videos and take care of the daily tasks of being active online.

For Martin, this video was about bringing Logan business machines to the forefront of consumer’s minds.

“If I’d have known it was going to have this kind of response, I’d have done it years ago,” he said. “It opened up some doors. It started to create some conversations that may lead to a sale, not right now but they may, because people really saw us as not a company anymore. They saw us as two individuals trying to have some fun. People will walk up to us now and start a conversation, whereas before we were just a copy company.”

Vern Oakley, author of “Leadership in Focus: Bringing Out Your Best on Camera,” said measuring ROI is tricky.

“There are so many ways to measure it,” he said. “It’s become a bit of a science because you can measure click-through rates, but ROI can come in a lot of different ways. It can come because everybody in your company knows where you’re going. If you have a motivated workforce, which is how you build high-performance cultures, those kinds of companies do a lot better in terms of recruiting and a lot better in terms of stock-price performance.”

A click-through rate is the number of people who click on a particular online element, such as videos or advertisements.

Increasing video use

Companies of all sizes are increasingly using video to share their messages, whether that be to customers, investors or internally, to employees.

Oakley said some data indicate that within three years, 84 percent of all internet traffic is expected to be video.

“It’s the way that people like to communicate now,” he said. “I don’t care whether it’s a pizza guy down the street talking about his new thing or somebody starting a home business, video is what you click on.”

“We are using video more now than we ever have before,” said Gina Penzig, spokeswoman for Westar Energy. “We use it in social media, and we also are using it some in our internal communications to reach employees. Sometimes it’s just supporting a story that is in our biweekly newsletter. We had a customer care story recently that when we presented it with video we saw the click rate on that story quadruple.”

Tracey Stratton, spokeswoman for Advisors Excel, agreed video use has increased in the past decade, partly because the firm’s client base has grown.

“Video is so engaging. When people can see and hear the message, whatever it is, the connection and retention is just that much more profound for the viewer,” she said.

AE produces numerous videos for the financial services professionals it works with, helping them disseminate their message and create connections with clients, Stratton said.

“Focus and message all depend on the type of video we’re creating, and for whom,” she said. “In all instances, we want to create videos that have an impact, that leave the viewer feeling something or looking at something in a new way.”

Evoking emotion

“Video tends to be most effective if you’re trying to demonstrate a process or if you have a story that commands emotion,” Penzig said. “Just recently, we posted a video to social media that demonstrates how a wind turbine is built. It has outperformed all other utility videos on social media.”

That video has more than 350,000 views on the company’s Facebook page. Once Westar’s social media manager saw the organic growth the turbine video received when it was posted, she made sure she didn’t put other content on the page that would compete with it.

“She just let it grow,” Penzig said.

Stratton said AE saw success with a video the company did this past holiday season.

“We did a really fun video that we sent out to our advisers. It was a spoof on the popular Christmas movies ‘The Grinch that Stole Christmas’ and ‘A Christmas Story,’ featuring AE employees and the founders,” she said. “We shared that video on our Facebook page and we had over 13,000 views, 120 shares and got 191 reactions. That is our best-performing post on Facebook so far. Not exactly a viral video, but it had some traction.”

Don Gruenbacher heads up the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Kansas State University, which recently asked Motovike Films to create two undergraduate recruitment videos that weren’t the norm.

“There’s been a lot of recruitment videos out there that do the traditional thing, they show students working on their projects in a department,” he said. “A lot of high school students don’t know what their career or their life after college will look like. We wanted to focus on that because there are a growing number of students in the demographics that we’re looking for who want to give back to society.”

A video of one ECE graduate, Kaitlyn Jerome, follows her at her job at Hallmark but also as she volunteers with a high-school robotics team.

Josiah Engstrom, Motovike Films owner, said it is exciting to see companies willing to stretch outside of their traditional concepts.

“An interesting thing that’s been changing in the industry in the past five or six years is corporate entities want to really make people feel a certain way,” he said. “They want to do videos that are emotional and pull a viewer’s heartstrings. Previously, video in corporate entitites was used specifically for sales or training that was mandated by the government.”

Pushing boundaries

The opportunity to push the K-State’s ECE department beyond the usual was such an example.

“They weren’t necessarily thinking that way,” he said of the videos that went into the students’ years after graduation. “What’s different now is they’re open to that. They’re open to listening to someone like me pitch an idea like that. I think what’s happening is the bar is getting raised. They’re seeing other people do this great work, and they want the same thing.”

Jeff Carson, co-founder of Gizmo Pictures, said it is critical to interview the client to understand what they want their video to do.

“Sometimes they don’t have a very specific slant, and we have to create one for them that’s watchable,” he said. “One of the things we battle most is that the viewers of all video are nowadays very sophisticated. They have all sorts of very highly polished media at their fingertips, so if you deliver something that doesn’t look as good as what they’re expecting, it’s not going to have the credibility.”

Many clients aren’t quite sure what they want when they sit down with video companies, Engstrom said.

“They’re seeing other people do work that is emotionally driven and reaching an audience and demanding their attention,” he said. “They don’t know how the filmmaker does that, but they feel like if they don’t do that, they’re going to be left behind.”

Going viral

Going viral — which means getting a rapid online reaction with numerous views and shares — isn’t the goal of most corporate videos.

“I think you always hope that your video reaches a wide audience,” Penzig said.

But it is really more about messaging, Penzig and Stratton agreed.

“I think something that’s important in PR (public relations) and social media is people aren’t engaging with you necessarily just to hear your story,” Penzig said. “There has to be a broader context. There has to be a broad common ground, and it has to be something that’s interesting to them at the end of the day.”

“We try to be their eyes and ears and develop something that articulates their mission as best we can,” Carson said.