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I frequently comment on social media, the personal, social and political implications of technology adoption, entrepreneurship, and other topics.

Editors or reporters on a deadline can reach me via cel (604.726.5445). You can reach me via e-mail as alex[at]alexandrasamuel[dot]com or by using the contact form on this site.

Selected clippings


The Globe and Mail

Study highlights gap between social media’s likers and ‘lurkers’ for brands by Omar El Akkad
December 9, 2014

As more companies turn to social media to learn about their customers and what they like, a new study warns they may not be getting the full picture.

Research from Vancouver-based customer intelligence software firm Vision Critical, released Tuesday, found that of a company’s customers who use social media, roughly 85 per cent of all posts about the brand are generated by only about 30 per cent of the people. Of that group, an even smaller subset – the 8 per cent of users who are most active on social media – is responsible for more than half of all posts on social media.

The result is a major disconnect between what a company hears on social media and what its customers actually think.

“It’s one thing to think about social media [as a means of] customer relations and another to think about it as [a means of] customer intelligence,” said Alexandra Samuel, one of the authors of the report.

“You really can’t treat social media analytics as a source of customer intelligence, except in very specific cases.”


Fast Company

How to make email better, faster and more fun by Stephanie Vozza
November 18, 2014

Draft prefab replies to common emails you receive, such as client requests ormedia inquiries, says Alexandra ­Samuel, author of Work Smarter, Rule Your Email.Then save them as signatures in your email client. “It will take seconds to draft a reply instead of minutes to type it from scratch,” she says.


The Globe and Mail

How Ello aims to capitalize on discontent over privacy in social media by Omar El Akkad
September 28, 2014

“It’s unfortunate for them that they took off at this point,” said Alexandra Samuel, vice-president of social media at Vision Critical, a Vancouver-based market-research technology provider. “It’s like planning a New Year’s eve party and … you accidentally invite everyone on December 30 – they’re just not ready yet.

“Issues like privacy and ads might be wedge issues, but [users are ultimately] only going to relocate if they think their new home is going to be better than their old home.”


Fast Company

When and how you should delegate e-mail to an assistant, by Lindsay Lavine
July 28, 2014

How much of your day is spent reviewing emails? You know: reading, deleting, responding, flagging . . . rinse, repeat. Not all emails are created equal, and not all of them require your undivided attention.

Alexandra Samuel, vice president of social media for Vision Critical, a Vancouver-based market research technology provider, recently explored the issue in a blog post for Harvard Business Review.


National Post

Angry ‘hashtag activists’ can get people behind a cause, but are they stifling public debate? by Sarah Boesveld
April 4, 2014

“That outrage impulse is kind of like when you’re hungry and you walk into the kitchen and there’s this big plate of cookies sitting right there and it’s so easy to [indulge],” said Alexandra Samuel, vice-president of social media for Vision Critical, a North American communications company based in Vancouver. “Or you could take five minutes and go into the fridge and make yourself a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread. … You know what’s going to make you feel better in 20 minutes, but it’s that easy, instant, tempting fix.”

It’s far easier to send out an angry tweet pegged with the outrage hashtag of the hour, and, as Ms. Samuel points out, the human condition is to obsess about the negative, to be defensive. There has been so much acceleration in terms of how media spread, she said, that there is no longer time for a person to stop and assess whether they care enough about a cause to hop on the bandwagon.


Fast Company

5 (relatively painless) ways to make friends with your email inbox, by Stephanie Vozza
March 18, 2014

Is it possible that email is just a misunderstood workplace toolAlexandra Samuel, author of Work Smarter, Rule Your Email, says yes and believes when it’s used properly, email can change your life for the good.

“If you want to have control over time and workday, you’re going to have to set limits on your email,” says Samuel. “By defining filters and using some tools, you can achieve a dramatic gain on your time and control what you should read and when.”

Controlling your email is like losing weight; you can add exercise into your lifestyle, but if you’re still eating doughnuts, the results won’t be long term, says Samuel. “At a certain point, you can only slim down your inbox if you’re willing to give up some degree of awareness,” she says.



When romance and social media mix, it’s complicated (radio interview)
February 10, 2013

SAMUEL: “…I’m always skeptical of any broad statements about technology does this or technology does that. I mean, technology isn’t neutral, but people can also use technology to make things very messy, very dramatic. And, you know, you really do see that full spectrum online the same way you see a full spectrum offline.

I don’t think it really creates distance for us. I think, if anything, it brings us closer together. But that’s, again, because part of the reason we connected is ’cause we’re both huge geeks.”



Let’s nix the phrase “In Real Life” by Torie Bosch
January 9, 2012

At a TEDx event in Victoria, Canada, a social media researcher calls for everyone to take the “virtual” world seriously and stop apologizing for it. Too often, says Alexandra Samuel, we consider online speech, shopping, and other experiences as “something else that is less than reality.


USA Today
Social media aid Vancouver police in identifying rioters by Donna Leinwand Leger
June 22, 2011

Alexandra Samuel, director of the Social + Interactive Media Centre at Emily Carr University in Vancouver, praised the police department’s handling of social media evidence. But she said she was alarmed by residents “who have taken it into their own hands to crowd source.”

What started as people wanting to do something constructive evolved into a call to “round these people up,” she said.

“Their level of hostility, aggressiveness and mob mentality — it’s a mob, ” Samuel said. “It’s just unfolding online.”

As somebody who lives in B.C., if I don’t want to know what happened on Grey’s Anatomy, I don’t go on Twitter until I have watched it Thursday night. Twitter is a spoiler-fest and I feel if Elections Canada doesn’t realize that, they’re the only people who haven’t figured out that Twitter makes it hard to keep secrets. The best thing that could possibly come out of this is that more people will vote so they can go home and tweet how they voted. I think if this increases people’s interest, that’s fabulous.


The National Post 

Q&A Creators of tweettheresults.ca by Sarah Boesveld
May 2, 2011

As somebody who lives in B.C., if I don’t want to know what happened on Grey’s Anatomy, I don’t go on Twitter until I have watched it Thursday night. Twitter is a spoiler-fest and I feel if Elections Canada doesn’t realize that, they’re the only people who haven’t figured out that Twitter makes it hard to keep secrets. The best thing that could possibly come out of this is that more people will vote so they can go home and tweet how they voted. I think if this increases people’s interest, that’s fabulous.


The Globe and Mail

2010: The year of the hacker by Omar el Akkad
Dec. 10, 2010

“For most of us, the Internet is just a means to an end,” says Alexandra Samuel, director of the Social and Interactive Media Centre at Emily Carr University of Art and Design “But for a certain community of people, the Internet is an end in of itself. On an issue like [WikiLeaks], they’re not identifying with the U.S. or the U.K. or Sweden – they’re citizens of the Internet.”


CNN Tech logo
SXSW a battleground for mobile ‘location war’ by Doug Gross
March 17, 2010

It was billed as the “location wars” — a fight for the affections of the smartphone-wielding techie elite that converged on Austin this week for the South by Southwest Interactive festival.

On one side was frontrunner Foursquare, whose mobile app blends social networking with a location-based game. On the other: upstart Gowalla, a mobile networking service that offers … well, pretty much the same thing.


“If Facebook enters into this, and I don’t think there’s any reason to think they won’t, they’ll just slaughter everybody,” said Alexandra Samuel, director of the Social and Interactive Media Center at Emily Carr University in Vancouver and a panelist at South by Southwest.



Network World logo
Open source business practices: The next step in the revolution by Amy Vernon
March 16, 2010

The natural next step in the Open Source revolution is for businesses to open source their processes.

That’s what Social Signal, a small social media shop in Vancouver, B.C., has done as ever-so-slightly nervous pioneers.

A lively conversation on the subject was hosted by Social Signal’s CEO Alexandra Samuel at the South By Southwest Interactive Festival, with developers and coders offering insight from the trenches to many consultants who wondered why they’d want to give away the store.

Gee, that question’s never been asked in the Open Source discussion before.


The Globe & Mail

Let’s do lunch – send me a msg by Burt Archer
March 9, 2010

Alexandra Samuel is still casting her social-media net a little more widely. The director of the Social and Interactive Media Centre at Emily Carr University in B.C. has fairly broad tastes. Samuel says she uses social media to help pack all her meetings and appointments into one trip a month. “There are three main ways that I use social media as part of my travel routine,” she says. “One is planning travel, [the second] is making the most of it when I’m on the road, and the third is to make travel easier in terms of logistics.”

In addition to keeping in touch through Twitter, Samuel uses TripIt and SeatGuru. She feeds her online flight booking into TripIt, which is accessible online or through her phone, and it gives her a direct link to online check-in, as well as SeatGuru, a crowd-sourced guide to the best seats on planes from about 100 fleets. TripIt also alerts you when you’re planning on being in the vicinity of other people in your social networks. Samuel does the same on LinkedIn, despite recent findings that it may be in decline.

“When I’m going to a city…I’ll do a search on LinkedIn for first- and second-degree connections,” she says, explaining one of her primary ways of drumming up business through LinkedIn’s degree-of-separation networking system. “I’ll do it in a focused way: If I figure my sales are linked to vice-presidents of marketing, then I’ll just search for ‘VP marketing’ in, say, Chicago.”

She points out that the geographic search on LinkedIn seems to be underused, but she finds it very useful. She suggests that tools such as this will be part of every corporate traveller’s vocabulary. “Social media is going to stop being a [trend] in about five minutes. It’s just going to become the air. The medium is only interesting to talk about because it’s new, but soon we’re going to stop talking about it as a thing and start talking about strategy for making it more effective.”



Talking while driving a tough habit to break by Joe Hoover
January 18, 2010

Twenty or thirty years ago, people couldn’t see the problem with having a few drinks then driving.  Now, that’s socially unacceptable in most circles.

Alexandra Samuel says phasing out phones behind the wheel might take some time as well.

“It’s a tough behaviour to change because for so many people, the cellular phone is at it’s most usefull when you’re on the move, whether that be on foot, or in the car.”

Samuel is the Director of the Social and Interactive Media Centre at Emily Carr University in BC.

She says many of us suffer from a fear of missing out, and we need to disconnect, at least while driving.


The Washington Post
Story Lab
Bra colors & cancer: Putting the social in social networking by Brigid Schulte
January 11, 2010

Was posting your bra color on Facebook a joke? Was it an attempt to raise breast cancer awareness?….What did this all mean? On Friday, I tried calling a couple of “social media experts” to ask that question. Alexandra Samuel had this to say:

This is a great illustration of the value of asking for low-threshold participation. Too often, organizations and businesses seeking social media engagement ask their supporters to do something relatively big, like submitting a video or blog post. But creating mechanisms that invite micro-participation is incredibly powerful, because it makes it easy for so many people to get involved — and form there, to move them towards more substantive involvement. The real challenge for [The Susan G. Komen Foundation] now is to take those 134,000 new followers and turn at least some of them into engaged supporters and contributors.



iPhone apps emerge as newest electronic pacifier by Charlene Sadler
December 31, 2009

When Alexandra Samuel’s two-year-old first sat down to play a video game on her iPhone, the Vancouver mom was more worried about his impact on the device than the effect it could have on him.

Samuel was surprised by what happened next.

“What blew my mind was that within four days of us first handing him the iPhone, if you gave him the phone while it was off, he knew to hit the power button, slide to unlock, navigate to the iPod apps, navigate to the videos and then start Diego play,” said Samuel, director of social and interactive media at Emily Carr University.

“Nobody taught him, he just figured it out, and I’d love to tell you he’s a genius,” said Samuel, who with her husband also runs the social marketing website socialsignal.com.

For Samuel, she sets over all time limits on the amount of time the kids can spend in front of a computer screen.

“But you know, we really struggle with that whole question of how wired to be, but I sort of feel like, live by the sword, die by the sword,” she said.

“My husband and I are professional techies, we are total screen junkies ourselves, we have five computers in the house, we are constantly on our phones and it’s just who we are. And I don’t think it’s any worse for the kids than it is for us.”


The Edmonton Journal


Users, not creators, define Web 2.0 by Richard Warnica
December 31, 2009

What will happen when today’s youth are no longer so young? Will they regret having bared so much of themselves at so vulnerable a time? Will they try to scrub their pasts from the web?

Alexandra Samuel doesn’t think so.

Samuel is the director of the Social & Interactive Media Centre at Emily Carr University in Vancouver. To her, the big generational disconnect from the last decade is around the idea that people should have a “professional” appearance online.

“It think it’s because us old people, in our thirties, came of age when the Internet really was a work tool,” she said. “And in the last decade it’s become hugely social and entertaining.

“Anyone under 25, pretty much, is going to have a picture of themselves puking, or in their bra, or whatever. And for now, there are still more old people to be shocked than young people to find it normal.”

The thing is, most of the things young people are putting online don’t show them doing things college-age kids weren’t doing 10 years ago or 10 years before that. And Samuel thinks all the worry about employers finding these pictures or reading these blogs as these people get older will mostly disappear.

“I mean, it’s one thing if you’re shooting heroin,” she said. “But if you’re doing stuff that is well within the bounds of normal adolescent behaviour? They’re just missing the opportunity to make good hires.”


The Globe and Mail
An iPhone in every crib, an app for every toddler by Dakshana Bascaramurty
December 20, 2009

Ms. Samuel recalls Apple telling her that her warranty was void when she tried to get her iPhone repaired.

“My little drooly two-year-old had drooled into the moisture detector,” she said. He hasn’t dropped it yet, but there have been many close calls.

“I will often find him in the bathroom, peeing with the iPhone held over the toilet,” she said.


The Vancouver Sun

Social media pioneer hired for Emily Carr technology post by Gillian Shaw
December 10, 2009

Alexandra Samuel has chalked up some impressive firsts.

With her husband Rob Cottingham she launched Vancouver’s first social media firm back when Twitter was something birds did, not humans.

More recently, she and Cottingham astounded traditional knowledge-based businesses by giving away the keys to the shop — open sourcing all their trade secrets and lucrative and long-built consulting tools.

…And this week Samuel announced she is taking up a post as director of the new Centre for Moving Interaction at Emily Carr University of the Emily Carr University of Art+Design.

…”The hope is that connecting ECUAD students and faculty will foster that kind of break-out creative thinking.”

It was creative, out-of-the-box thinking that led to the decision by Samuel and Cottingham to open source their company’s intellectual property.

The company has been what Samuel describes as an “outsourced innovation shop” for companies and organizations that wanted to create social media projects and online communities. She said now it would like to help organizations take that expertise and build their own social media skills and teams.

“Open sourcing our IP and focusing our consulting work on training, workshops and content, is a way of building skills and capacity within these emergent social media teams and in the large and growing community of social media vendors and practitioners, teaching people how to fish, so to speak, rather than fishing for them.”

Samuel said the decision to open source the very tools the consulting business was built around runs counter to ideas of how a business should run.

“We had a hunch this would happen,” she said of the positive reaction to the company’s shift in focus and its IP sharing. “We got four times as many inquiries after we announced we were open sourcing as we did before.”


The Vancouver Sun

Big ideas: More offers — and more distractions by Gillian Shaw
December 7, 2009

As Alexandra Samuel, co-founder of Social Signal and director of Emily Carr University’s Centre for Moving Interaction, aptly describes it, we’re suffering from FOMO — fear of missing out.

“It’s Friday night, you’ve just come home and you’re super tired but hey, there’s a party on and you’re afraid if you don’t go you’ll miss this awesome event,” she said.

“We all make decisions because we are afraid of missing something.”

The pain of missing out is only growing as technology lets us juggle more and more.

“Maybe five years ago it finally occurred to me that just because I wrote something on my to-do list I might not have time to do it,” she said. “In this task-oriented culture where we are all trying to get stuff done, it’s easy to lose sight of that fact. We all have to come to terms with the pain of missing out on a lot.”

There’s no running fast enough to escape that pain, Samuel says.

“If you step back and recognize that if you go out party-hopping, or Facebooking, Twittering, working 18 hours a day — you’re multi-tasking your guts out and instead of missing 99.9 per cent of what’s going on, you’ll only be missing 99.8 per cent.

“The flip side of multi-tasking is learning to prioritize and deciding what’s really important to you.

“It’s saying that ‘If I’m going to miss out on a lot, the things that I am doing must be the ones that are the most valuable and the most meaningful for me’.”


Politicians Use Social Media to Bypass the Press Corps by Stephen Davy
November 2, 2009

“Mostly what you read in newspapers feels like press releases,” Samuel said. “So can that be replaced? Yeah, that can totally be replaced. Why should I as a politician or political organization rely on some respectable news organization to essentially rewrite my press release and print it in their newspaper when I can send that same information directly to my constituents? There is not really much value added.”


The Toronto Star
Companies seek cyber social butterflies by Tamsyn Burgmann, Canadian Press
October 19, 2009

“What younger people bring to the table is that they understand social media culture, because it’s actually the culture they live in,” said Alexandra Samuel, who teaches a continuing education course on social media at the University of British Columbia.

Samuel, 38, and her husband Rob Cottingham, 46, are Vancouver-based social media gurus who founded one of the world’s earliest social media companies, Social Signal, in 2005.

…”What makes it a really good career choice for people is that, in a lot of fields, if you’re in your 20s people don’t take you seriously and there’s a sense you haven’t paid your dues,” she said. “This is one of the few fields where you can come in as a 23-year-old and be seen as an authority.”


The Vancouver Sun
Successful Web strategy is in enticing visitors to stay awhile by Gillian Shaw
October 7, 2009

Alexandra Samuel, chief executive of Social Signal, who recently wrote an online post, Six Tips for Scoring with Social Media for Harvard Business Publishing, would agree.

“If you have an ad on TV and the phones start ringing then you know your ROI [return on investment],” she said.

It is not as straightforward when it comes to the Web. Instead, companies should be looking for qualitative measures, not quantitative, she said.

“Companies looking for ROI want to know how many more products did we sell this week because of an ad we put on Facebook,” she said. “It is not about that.

“You are trying to get your customers to love you, but your customers are not going to love a number like how many site visits you get or how many followers you have.

“You can’t put a price on that loyalty but it can transform the way you work.”

First posted on January 16,2010