Alexandra Samuel

How can we thrive in an online world—digital distraction and all—without hitting the off switch?

Harvard Business Review Contributor & Former VP Social Media, Vision Critical

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Alexandra Samuel | Harvard Business Review Contributor & Former VP Social Media, Vision Critical
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

Alexandra Samuel helps leading companies get insight into online behavior by gathering intelligence from thousands of customers: what we buy, how we share, and even what we’re most likely to do next. In her talks, she distills this fascinating new information to lay out what your company—and society at large—can learn from how we live online. 

Alexandra Samuel is an independent technology researcher, strategist, and writer, and the former VP Social at Vancouver-based research and tech company Vision Critical, where she lead projects such as From Social to Sale, a recent groundbreaking study of the online buying habits of 80,000 social media users. She commanded the company’s efforts at integrating social media into the development of customer intelligence and worked with top brands to provide and interpret data that increase business success. She is the author of Work Smarter with Social Media, a series of practical books from Harvard Business Review Press that offer guidance on how to make effective use of social tools like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Evernote. Formerly the director of the Social + Interactive Media Centre at Emily Carr University, Samuel also co-founded Social Signal, one of the world’s first social media agencies. A regular blogger for the Harvard Business Review, she has also been a regular contributor to publications like the Wall Street Journal, and


An articulate voice on new social technologies, Samuel has an infectious passion for the Internet’s potential as a tool for community-building and civic participation. She has mapped the effect of technology for both the non-profit sector (through her work on projects like NetSquared) as well as with governments (as Research Director for Digital 4Sight’s Governance in the Digital Economy, where, along with Don Tapscott, she researched the future of democracy). She also works with a long list of corporations, giving talks, running workshops, and talking to them—on whatever level they are comfortable with—about how they can best use social technology tools for their specific business.   

Speech Topics

Big Data
What Big Data Can’t Tell You

Organizations have embraced the analytic power of big data, drawing from large datasets extracted from the digital footprints of citizens and consumers. But this quick embrace has led to organizations overlooking—or, worse, even obscuring—crucial aspects of consumer behaviour and attitudes. In this talk, Alexandra Samuel illustrates the limitations of big data by taking a second look at one of the most compelling forms of data to emerge in recent years: social media analytics. Drawing on her groundbreaking work at research tech leader Vision Critical, Samuel shows how the combination of social media and survey data challenges the conventional wisdom on what social media analytics can tell you, and offers a new framework for thinking about what questions big data can and can’t answer.

Digital Parenting The Myth of the Family Tech Market

If you’re selling to the ‘family’ tech market, you have a problem: it’s actually three markets. How we handle our kids’ tech and screen time is an enormous parenting divide—and both businesses and parents need to navigate the profound differences in how kids are raised.

Drawing upon original survey research conducted with over 10,000 North American parents, Alexandra Samuel has mapped three parenting styles that produce radically different kinds of citizens and employees. There are tech enablers (those who take a laissez-fair approach, raising digital orphans who use the web without inherited wisdom), tech limiters (those who set strict limits on technology use, creating digital exiles barred from the digital world because of parent-erected barriers), and tech mentors (those parents who embrace and guide their kids’ use of digital tools, raising digital heirs who will inherit a wealth of knowledge).

So what do limiters, enablers, and mentors buy, and what do they want from apps and gadgets? This talk will help marketers re-think the differences between these three markets and parenting styles. For educators, Samuel’s talk introduces a new typology of kids mingling in the same classes and workplaces. As today’s battles are fought over the introduction of tech in the classroom, tomorrow’s clashes will show up in companies and communities that must reconcile different styles of work and engagement.

From Social to Sale How Social Media Drives Purchasing
Today’s social media users love to tweet about the latest gadget, Facebook the deals they’ve turned up, and use Pinterest to catalog the design objects they're lusting after. But how does all that social media activity translate into actual purchasing? In this data-driven talk, Alexandra Samuel shares the results of a ground-breaking study that shows how social media users go from pinning, Facebook, or tweeting to online or in-store buying. As featured in The Harvard Business Review, this research provides unprecedented insight into key factors like the way consumers say social sharing influences their purchase decisions, the length of time between sharing and purchase, and where social networks diverge in how they drive spending. These insights come from a series of seven surveys conducted over 18 months, including a study of 80,000 social media users (the world’s largest to date.) Drawing on her own experience as a social media marketer, Samuel shows you how these insights can drive your own social media strategies and increase the ROI on your marketing efforts.  
Telling Stories with Data

The advent of big data has challenged organizations to gather and analyze tremendous volumes of data on the people and communities they serve, as well as on the members and donors that support that work. But whether we’re dealing with big data or “little data”—smaller, more manageable datasets that can nonetheless provide deep insight—we need to develop the capacity to not only understand and learn from it, but to tell effective stories with it. In this talk, Alexandra Samuel will help you work more effectively with data in your organization by mapping out the steps to developing an effecting data strategy. We’ll look at what data you need to gather, and which competencies you’ll need on your team in order to read and understand the data you collect. We’ll examine the opportunities to turn that data into compelling content that builds your audience and tells your story. Finally, we’ll look at what’s at stake for your organization and your industry as a whole.

Sharing is the New Buying Profiting from the Collaborative Economy
As more and more sharing startups like Airbnb, Etsy and Kickstarter crowd into the space of the collaborative economy, big brands are starting to get in on the action, too. Staples sells products developed on Quirky; Avis has acquired Zipcar; Walgreens has partnered with TaskRabbit for delivery. And those ventures are likely to be just the beginning, given how many people are already participating in the collaborative economy, and how much that’s likely to grow. In this talk, Alexandra Samuel draws on her groundbreaking report conducted by Vision Critical and Jeremiah Owyang’s Crowd Companies, Sharing is the New Buying. Based on data from more than 90,000 people in three countries, it’s the first study that shows who is sharing and why—and what brands can do to join in this disruption of traditional business models and revenue streams. Engaging with this nascent market must go beyond latching onto a few hot sharing startups by buying them or partnering with them. Established companies must grasp the core drivers behind this new economy—units used instead of units sold; less consuming, more producing; less full-time employment, more freelancing; less regulation, more risk—and understand how those drivers fit into their already established models. Only then will they be able to address, and accelerate to meet, the competitive pressures of the collaborative economy.