Social Media’s Influence on Film and TV Audiences: An Interview with Alexandra Samuel

Photo of Alexandra Samuel

Alexandra Samuel is the Director of the Social + Interactive Media Centre at Emily Carr University and co-founder of Social Signal, one of the world’s first social media agencies. Earlier this week, she spoke at the Women in Film and Television (WIFT) luncheon in Toronto about strategies and tools for online branding, and reaching broadcasting audiences through social media.

Samuel explained to the WIFT luncheon attendees that “the audience dictates the success of a film or television show—even before it is made.” She gave the example of a Finnish-German-Australian sci-fi comedy called Iron Sky, which raised roughly one million Euros via crowd funding from internet audiences. Because the film was promoted heavily online to seek audience funding, it generated so much buzz that it sold out at the Berlin International Film Festival premiere.

During her presentation, Samuel held a mini workshop with the WIFT attendees to brainstorm ways to market film and TV projects to target audiences online by thinking like a publisher.

“Everyone is now in the publishing industry and in the business of creating content,” says Samuel. She argues that “the traditional film and TV business model is under pressure and we have to re-think the role of professional content creators versus amateur content creators.”

Samuel asked one audience member, Heidi Tao Yang, Associate Producer of the TV show Rescue Mediums to describe the show she was working on, the hosts and characters, and to outline the story, and key marketing goals. She then presented paradigm models and key points to each model, and asked the audience for social media and digital marketing ideas on how to apply what she just taught into a show like Rescue Mediums.

“The audience gave me creative ideas on how to ‘engage’ audiences, and ‘expand reach,'” says Yang. “There were many wonderfully creative ideas—ranging from things we can do now (i.e. hosting live Twitter events with hosts), and things we can think about in the future (e.g. an iPhone app similar to a ‘Ghost Tracker,’ using an interactive tuning test, etc.).”

Samuel says that she has always been fascinated in how to get people to participate online.

“I don’t consider myself a storyteller. I’m more of a participation designer,” she says. She currently blogs for and the Harvard Business Review—writing about how social media is transforming our politics, our work and our personal lives. You can check out her personal blog here.