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.

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.

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.


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.

An adventure with the Motorola XOOM

I used to be afraid of new technology.  Now?  It feels like an adventure.  Because  I recognize within every trial, the potential for my life to be better, faster, stronger and yes…easier.  As a business owner, as a mother…. these are important to me.

A few weeks ago, I was given the Motorola XOOM tablet to see if it would fit into my life.  I began by playing with it in my home and then took it with me on a ten day trip to San Diego and Los Angeles.  I used it for work and play.  I adored its portability….  I was able to work on it in the car and carry it easily in my purse.  Because I am a video girl – the dual facing video made me giddy.  And knowing that I will be able to use Google Chat to connect with my family when I am away?  You had me at XOOM.

if you are thinking a XOOM is in your future: — Motorola XOOM price has dropped. The XOOM is now available for $499 with a 2 year contract. That makes it the lowest priced tablet on the market.

Disclosure: I partnered with Motorola XOOM for BlogHer11 and my trip to San Diego.


Social Media Makes a Difference for Victims of Joplin Tornado

When you jump online during times of disaster, you never know just how much (if at all) you are helping.

When that wretched tornado hit Joplin a few weeks ago, I was glued to Twitter, to Facebook and to the traditional media.  I spread whatever news, avenues of assistence and cries for missing people I possible could.  I even wrote about the beauty of playing a small role in helping to locate a missing family .

I cried about it then.

And today, I felt my heart swell again.

I received this email:

Ms. Smith:

Thank you for recognizing the contributions social media played and
continues to play in the Joplin rebuilding process. I am one of the
the Social Media Specialists for the Greater Ozarks Red Cross
(regional chapter for Joplin office) as well as an administrator for
several of the larger Joplin response SM venues. I was on scene in
Joplin the day after the tornado and worked the shelter Safe & Well
table while sending out content on Facebook. It is important to
recognize that social media worked when cell phones failed there. It
is indeed the new frontier of disaster response and I only see the
fantastic contributions it can make in saving lives and assisting in

Again, thank you for your interest.

Bill Benson
American Red Cross Volunteer

I didn’t save any lives.  I didn’t raise thousands of dollars, but in some small way, I helped.  And this letter from the Red Cross ensures that I will spend dozens of hours in future on disasters just like this one – helping in any small way I can.

Social Media is powerful.

Thank you, Bill Benson, for acknowleding the power of good that comes from Social Media and the people like me who recognize and embrace its power for good.

For Bill’s first hand account of arriving in Joplin to help, read here.


Social Media Spreads Messages of Devastating Joplin, Missouri Tornado

My heart hurts.

But YOU, my social media friends?  You are just the salve I need.  You give me hope and remind me that this new frontier – this crazy space we are creating moment by moment, tweet by tweet, post by post – is, in fact powerful AND, even better – moved by GOOD.

By now you have to know, Joplin, Missouri – a small town in the SouthWest corner of the state was absolutely devastated by a tornado late this afternoon.  I’ve been mesmerized by the coverage and the ability of the people in this social media world to respond, to help, to share.

Photo Credit - AP Mark Schiefelbein

As I began to write this last night, 24 people were confirmed dead.  The pictures are apocalyptic.  The city’s main hospital looks like it belongs in a war zone.  The high school suffered ‘catastropic damage’.  Debris from Joplin is landing more than 80 miles away in the towns surrounding Springfield, Missouri.

I called Springfield home for 4 years…. so this story particularly makes me ache.  As I ached, I did what I normally do – I tweeted.  I listened.  I watched. I shared information. And you, in turn, shared it again and again.

Every time you sent it out, you potentially put the information in front of someone else who needed it.  And never was that more clear for me than when I tweeted about a woman named Tami Roderick.  I learned about Tami on one of many Facebook pages that popped up to provide updates, to reunite family and friends and to provide ways for people to help.  On this particular page, Joplin, MO Tornado Recovery, I learned via @HealthByMom, Tami was looking for her mom and brother, Terri and Joel Stim.  So I tweeted about it.

And because you are amazing and fabulous? And like me  - so many of you are moved by good, you simply couldn’t bear the thought of this woman sitting in her home, unable to reach her family, devastated as she watched the video on the news. So you re-tweeted it and re-tweeted it.

My stream was a beautiful mess of Re-tweets.  And it reminded me just how much I love what I do…. how happy I am to be a part of something so big, so strong, with the ability to reach out and touch people in minutes, in hours.

The Tornado hit shortly before 6pm Sunday night.  The first Facebook page of the Recovery was available, I believe, within an hour and a half.  As I lay in my bed writing this, nearly 5.5 hours later…. that Facebook page had over 33-thousand ‘likes’.  Now, the next morning – it is up over 44-thousand. While that may not solve the problems Joplin is experiencing, and while the daylight is bringing more heartache, it is comforting to me to know there are thousands of people who care enough to share a message.

And this morning…  though I cried as I watched the news – hearing the death toll had reached 89 and was still climbing….  witnessing the loss, I also cried as I read this in my twitter stream.

Thank you to the many, many people who shared this message…. who helped to get the word out.  The Red Cross has services set up to help families and friends find each other, but I truly believe all of the extra word of mouth helps.  And, just knowing that you are *maybe* helping in some small way?  That is priceless.

If you can help, please donate to the Red Cross of the Ozarks.

Thank you for keeping the power of good strong in my heart and mind and in those of the people of Joplin.

Fashion140 Conference in New York City, Lincoln Center

It is no surprise that Social Media is effecting the way we communicate and the way we do business, but to see how it is intersecting with individual industries, the 140Conferences were born…. created by mastermind, Jeff Pulver. But realizing the conversation now needs to go a step further…. exploring the connection between individual industries and social media, Pulver partnered with Itay Arad and Lilly Berelovich of Fashion Snoops to explore how social media is working specifically with the Fashion Industry. The result was a day long event at the Lincoln Center in the heart of New York City – attended by one thousand people – all eager to share and learn. These are the highlights…

GMC gifts Mark Horvath, InvisiblePeople.TV a car at SOBCon

It is one of those moments that makes you grateful to be a member of this online space. This past weekend, I witnessed an act of recognition and one of giving. At SOBCon, GMC gave Mark Horvath of InvisiblePeople.TV a GMC Terrain… a way of saying, ‘thank you’ for the work Mark does with the homeless AND, a way of saying, ‘we see you’ to Mark and the hundreds of homeless men, women and children Mark helps every day around the country. The gift provides Mark with a ‘mobile office’ – equipping him with everything he needs to continue doing his work, including a year’s worth of gas from Murphy USA. Watch….