What’s In A Viral Video: The Magic Behind WestJet’s Latest Holiday Video

WestJet has truly done it again.

Last year the Canadian airline had me alternately reaching for tissues, hitting the video share button and patting the seat next to me as I forced people to sit with me and watch as they (and Santa) surprised their passengers with the gifts of their heart at carousel eight. (Sure, go ahead and tell me I’ve seen it too many times since I can actually QUOTE IT).

West Jet Spirit of Giving Viral Video

This year, they’ve gone international. And I’m still crying. With a blue sleigh parked in the center of a small Dominican Republic village, Santa hears the holiday wishes from both children and adults. And once again, the WestJetters hit the local stores to make dreams and wishes come true….a doll, a washing machine, and for two men working to feed their families: a new motorcycle engine and a horse! The gifts are delivered amidst under the beauty of a warm sun, manufactured snow and so many smiles I had to watch it three times to make sure I absorbed all of the goodness. As if that wasn’t enough, they built a playground in the middle of the village for ALL of the children to enjoy.


You guessed it: still crying.

But what makes this video viral? And is it possible for WestJet to guarantee virality?

Well, as to the guarantee, I’d hedge a ‘no’…but if you pay attention to enough videos like this one, you can certainly pinpoint a few keys to their success.

Here are five to keep in mind.

5 Tips to Increase Your Viral Video Potential

Aim for Emotion - WestJet offers emotion in spades. You’re smiling, you’re laughing, you’re crying. You are reaching out to grab the person next to you to make sure they JUST SAW THAT: (Santa brought him a horse! And it’s so he can work TO FEED HIS FAMILY.) Double whammy. When we feel something – whether it’s tears of joy, inspiration, a jawdropper or something that tickles our funny bone, we can’t help but feel moved. And compelled to share.

Think Shareability:  But what do you do if no one is sitting in the chair next to you? You click share. You copy and paste the link. You put it on Facebook. On Twitter. On Google+ and say, ‘you simply must see this’.  And then we talk about in person – we say, ‘did you see….??’. We share when a video moves us in some way. It has a ‘share factor’ of 10 if your first inclination is to look around to see who can watch with you, to think my husband/wife/mom/best friend/kids simply must see this. My kids and I have a few moments every day when they come home from school and I share the videos I know they’d want to see. Everything from the accidental and funny – our favorite has to be ‘Worry About Yourself’  (over 5 million views), to the cool – 11 year old Taylor is a crazy amazing dancer with her choreographer Lawrence – (10 Million views) to the sweet – this 10 month old cries from emotion as he listens to his mom sing (more than 11 million views) to the inspirational – TD Canada created the Automatic Thank You Machine (nearly 19 million views).

TD Canada Automatic Thanking Machine

Stay True to Your Brand: Your videos should showcase your brand’s core values… you know the ones you try to live even when the camera is off. Here’s the thing about the WestJet videos - you get a feel for the brand, for how they feel not only about their own customers (last year) but how they aim to spread good in the world (this year). And even better – they are involving their employees. Sure, I’ve seen some of the comments – so I know the cynics call it a publicity stunt, but the positive response the brand receives far outweighs the other. If you’re wondering ‘why they did it’ – watch their video and know this isn’t the first time WestJet has sent employees to do good in the Dominican Republic (yes, they’ve gone without ‘viral video camera crews) I’ve found that the most successful ‘viral’ brand videos are the ones that make YOU, the viewer want to use the service or product. Heaven knows I’d fly WestJet or look in to banking at TD Canada if I could. I get the ‘feeling’ these brands care about their customers – and that’s a good thing. Does that make them perfect? No. But it gives their videos legs and opens the minds of potential customers. That’s a win. Just like I expect adrenaline from RedBull and some type of comedy from the Old Spice Man. Gosh, I miss him.

Consistency and Committment – Of course there are ‘one-hit-wonders’ – those videos that happen spontaneously – Charlie biting his big brother’s finger (805 MILLION views) or Ted Williams, a homeless man with an extraordinary voice getting national attention (and jobs!), but for a brand to create videos with viral capacity, it requires committment not only to their brand image, but to engaging in the video space. Showing up on YouTube one day and *hoping* for an audience isn’t exactly smart planning. Developing an audience and engaging with them by creating content that represents you gives you an audience base for the moments when you want to make a big splash.

WestJet Twitter Engagement

Market Yourself - Once you upload that video on to YouTube and share it with the world, you have to have a plan in place to make sure that people see it so THEY have the opportunity to be moved by it (laugh, cry, feel inspired) and then share it. In WestJet’s case, they released the video on November 30th and in less than three days, it has more than 700K views. They shared initially on Twitter, and on Facebook, but their YouTube is also connected to Google+ and they have continued to engage with their audience on all of the platforms as people see and respond. Additionally, they are sharing snippets on Facebook to keep the conversation going.

WestJet FB Engagement


So there you have it… a few suggestions I hope will get you on your way.

What are some tips you’d offer? And what brands are doing it right. Share in the comments.

Country Music Artist Tracy Lawrence: A Live Interview for #CMChat

Go ahead and add this to the ‘things I love’ category – in so many ways.

Combine Country Music, Artist Tracy Lawrence who I have loved for nearly two decades, the opportunity to interview him LIVE via G+ Hangout, and the beautiful and talented Jessica Northey – responsible for bringing you #CMChat Live every week – and you have this video right here.

We had the pleasure of talking about Tracy’s new video: Lies, his current tour, how he uses social media to stay connected with his fans, what motivates him to write and even heard the stories behind a few of his songs.


And be sure to join Jessica every week for #CmChat Live on Twitter beginning at 9pmEST/6pmPST

The Power of Spoken Words: Why Video Works For News Anchor Jennifer Livingston

WKBT-TV Anchor Jennifer Livingston received an incredibly hurtful email from a viewer…one who actually claims it is ‘unusual’ that they watch her on the show.  And yet, he felt compelled to write her, not about the stories she reports, not about an actual mistake she had made on air that needed correcting, but about her personally – specifically her weight and how this viewer believes her ‘outside’, what he refers to as ‘obesity’, effects her job as a role model for the community, especially young girls.

He said, in part, “Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain….I leave you this note hoping that you’ll reconsider your responsibility as a local public personality to present and promote a healthy lifestyle.”

As someone who used to have a job like Jennifer Livingston, I know how hurtful those emails and letters can be.  And I am delighted she responded as she has….using her experience as a lesson for greater good.

Livingston could have simply written this viewer a return note, or continued a conversation with viewers on Facebook, but instead, she chose to use her voice and the power of video and media to reply. You can see her brilliant reply here and below. When I first saw her video yesterday it had just over 300 views.  As of this writing, it is just shy of 2 MILLION. Here is why I think it works:

Here is Jennifer Livingston’s actual reply:

This story has touched a nerve with many people. While I am clear on my support of what Livingston had to say, I will say, I did see on my Facebook page, some disagreement.  There were comments that fell into the ‘what’s the big deal’ category and those that believed the email wasn’t actually ‘bullying’.

I would love to know what you think. Share away.  And what do you think about the use of video as a means to communicate a point, an emotion or story?

My National TV Debut: Red Carpet ACM Correspondent

We are just going to go right ahead and call this a ‘PINCH-ME-LIFE-MOMENT’.  I shared with you a few months ago that I experienced what amounts to a ‘dream come true’ when I was given the opportunity to work as a correspondent on the Red Carpet at the Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas.

It was everything I imagined it would be.  I was both giddy and awestruck.  I wasn’t merely thrilled because I was stepping my four-inch heels onto an actual red carpet.  It wasn’t that I was given the opportunity to play ‘dress-up’, chose a dress I wish I could wear every day, or that I would love to take those hair and make up stylists home to live with me (I do).  It wasn’t that I would be surrounded by ‘celebrities’.

And while I adore country music deep in my soul, it wasn’t just that. (I *may* have told Clay Walker that he was the reason I fell in love with country music 20 years ago… and he *may* have told me that was the best thing anyone has ever said to him).

I was petrified, I was a ball of nerves and energy.  I was positive it would be obvious this was my first time here. But, I took a deep breath and forced myself to believe.  I refused to think I had found myself here, in this moment, based on luck.

This is what I have always felt in my soul I was supposed to do…. the interviewing, the video work, the story-telling. I was in my element.  And topping it off – the beauty of an amazing cause – Child Hunger Ends Here.  Each interview I did was better than the last.  With each artist, I found the tension easing… I fell into the skill set I know I possess. I wanted to hear the story.  So, I asked the questions.  And, they answered.

I love this work.

Why am I sharing this with you today, months after the fact?  Today, I was given a gift: the copy of the video here in this post.  It is a copy of a segment that aired on Better TV.  A similar one aired on The Daily Buzz and another on Daytime TV.  All three shows are nationally syndicated.  This is the first time I have seen them.  And this is the first time I have ever appeared on a national show as a correspondent.

I’ve been interviewed as a guest. I’ve done many segments as portions of newscasts. And I’ve reported and anchored on a local level. But this is the first time I’ve appeared in this capacity. And I am proud of it.

Thank you for sharing this small bit of joy with me.

Social Media Engagement For Dummies: A New Book Deal

I’m delighted to say I’m doing it again: teaming up with the person who has proven to be the other half of my brain when it comes to authoring a book.

Aliza Sherman and I have committed to write the latest in the series of the ever-popular Dummies’ books:

Social Media Engagement for Dummies 

Because the Dummies Books are so comprehensive in so many arenas, it is important to us (and naturally to our publisher, Wiley) that we don’t duplicate content.  Certainly, books covering and explaining social media and also  ’engagement’ have been popular, but we know we will give this book a unique spin.

We are following in the ‘Dummies’ footsteps of many people we admire, many whom we have long considered friends and
colleagues, including Wendy Piersall, Deb Ng, Melanie Nelson and Kelby Carr.

Aliza and I will write separately and collectively as we did with Mom, Incorporated.  I have the privilege of being guided by Aliza – someone with nearly a dozen books to her name.  The second time around, I feel stronger, slightly more skilled (she says with a smile), with greater knowledge about the editing process (less fear about said process) and even more enthusiasm.

We have already jumped from the diving board, turned in our Table of Contents and have begun work on our first chapters.  I consider it kismet that half the book is due on Christmas Eve and the 75% due date falls on my 40th birthday.

I have much to be thankful for.  Social Media Engagement for Dummies will be out in June 2013.

Video & Vlogging Tips: How To Frame Your Shot

Let’s talk about one of the basics of video: Knowing how to frame your shot.  This sounds simple, I know, but it is a question I am often asked: Where should I stand or sit?  Many also wonder, just how close should they be to the camera and should they be off-center?  All great questions – I have the easy answers for you.

Watch the video below.

As always, let me know if you have any specific questions.  I would be happy to tackle them via video.

iPhone Photography: The Visual Guide – Making Your iPhone Photography Dreams Come True

I would like to say I fancy myself some kind of professional iPhone photographer.  You’d think with the number of pictures I take, I would be, yes?  But, alas, that is not the case.

Despite the nearly 1,700 pictures sitting on my iPhone as we speak, I am but an amateur. Yes, I am addicted to taking pictures.  Yes, I want desperately for them to be stunning and moving and to capture snapshots of my life as I live it – of my small people, of the travel, of the experiences – and yet, I’m average.

I am aware that clutched in my hand throughout the day, I have this amazing photographic tool that will allow me to take those moments and memories and make them magical.

Fortunately, I love to surround myself by people better, faster, and smarter than I. And they are the ones who can help.

What are the best apps to use?  The best ways to store photos? How to you maximize your creativity and stay organized?

I know where you and I can both find the answers and take our amateur passion to the next level.

iPhone Photography: The Visual Guide by Alli Worthington

My friend, Alli Worthington has written a fabulous ebook – IT IS ONLY $5 – and it is PACKED full of the tips and tricks we need to create iPhone photo works of art. iPhone Photography: The Visual Guide is more than 160 pages of step-by-step visual goodness highlighting apps, angles, tips and ideas to get you going if you are just getting started or to push you forward into a new level of creativity if you are looking for inspiration.

Get there.  Seriously, $5, people.

Also… if you get the book and decide you love it (you will), Become an Affiliate.


An Interview With Country Music Artist Hunter Hayes About Song ‘Here’s Hope’

He is young and clearly at the beginning of what will be a brilliant career.

Just when Country Music artist Hunter Hayes finishes knocking you over with his musical talents – he sings, he writes and plays every instrument on his self-titled album, you learn he is also a well-spoken advocate for causes like Child Hunger Ends Here, a campaign that motivated him to write Here’s Hope, a song performed at the Academy of Country Music Awards by Little Big Town.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Hunter at the ACM awards in Las Vegas, the day before his song was first heard by millions of people.

The song is part of Con Agra Food’s initiative to fight Child Hunger right here in the United States and can be downloaded from the Child Hunger Ends Here website with the purchase of participating Con Agra Food items.  You have the option to choose versions by Jewel, Owl City and Jay Sean. Each download donates the equivalent of one meal to Feeding America.

Academy of Country Music Awards: Interview with Gwen Sebastian (The Voice

Three weeks ago, I received a phone call: How would I feel about covering the Red Carpet at the Academy of Country Music Awards on behalf of Con Agra Foods and their Child Hunger Ends Here program?

A song, “Here’s Hope”, written just for the campaign was going to be performed at the ACMs, spreading the message: Child Hunger is an epidemic, but there is Hope.

I might have said ‘YES!” before the question was done being asked.

This opportunity was extraordinary for a few reasons:

  • Covering a Red Carpet event has been a dream of mine for years (since I was in traditional TV)
  • I would be covering it on behalf of Child Hunger Ends Here – a cause I care deeply about
  • I LOVE Country Music.

So, for me?  A perfect fit.  I have the opportunity to do something I have always dreamed about and for a good cause.

On the Red Carpet, I interviewed more than a dozen Country Artists….one of them was Gwen Sebastian, who recently left The Voice, but has some BIG news to share:

Isn’t she phenomenal? There is so much more video to come…. interviews with Hunter Hays, Coy Bowles from the Zac Brown Band…. and SO MUCH Red Carpet Coverage.  I cannot wait to share.


Interviewing Joe Jonas At BlissDom

Four days straight of interviews, of video… of pure BLISS.  My head is still swirling from the high of dragging stories from so many amazing people at the BlissDom Conference in Nashville.

Photo Credit: Casey Mullins

This picture, taken by the delightful Casey Mullins, caputures one of the highlights of the weekend.  We sat backstage with Joe Jonas for about 10 minutes, chatting with him about performing at BlissDom and how he uses Social Media to connect with his fans (constantly). He was so incredibly gracious and simply overwhelmed the crowed when he took the stage.

We are still working on all the video and will be putting together a fabulous interview – can’t wait to share it.