FT Innovate Liveblog

I’m at the FT Innovate 2011 Conference at the Andaz hotel here in Liverpool Street, London, and we are starting shortly with a keynote from Martha Lane Fox.  I’ll be liveblogging various segments during the day and am happy to pose questions on your behalf so please tweet me @joannejacobs, or comment here and I’ll raise any issues I can with those present.  And keep refreshing this page for updates…

We’re being encouraged to post about social media and the FT.  However, the organisers seem to have missed the fact that people need power to cover the event.  Only through sheer geek determination have I found a powerpoint for my netbook.

9:05 Martha Lane Fox is introduced.

Fox begins by noting that we should not believe in technology experts because things change so quickly.

[JJ rolls eyes… so does every industry change quickly.  More expert bashing.]

Fox says we’re moving from a broadcast model to an interactivity model. If you look across all markets, change is happening differently. Consumers are now challenging boards about their decisions. She uses examples from existing institutions and the establishment of new organisations that disintermediate traditional booking and processing organisations. She cites tweetalondoncab and TaskRabbit as examples of how audiences and organisations can develop value.

The Chair asks Fox about the RaceOnline project and notes that while UK has reasonable infrastructure and desire among business and community for access, that it is necessary to still encourage literacy in technology.  She notes that efficiency of government and commercial services are dependent on ensuring access among community.

Chair asks tips for ensuring access to poorest groups internationally. She notes there is very little cash for encouraging access. Benefits messaging across the real world of online access are necessary to encourage access.

Chair asks about the fear of social media among businesses.  Fox notes that there is a huge difference among businesses in terms of social media understanding and implementation.  Of those who are enthusiastic, there is the need to connect the divisions of an organisation to engage with social media.  She asks CEOs to start by looking at how young people are using social media.  She notes that the boundaries between traditional and social media are meaningless.

[JJ’s note: lots here that I would like to contest, or at least extend to ensure that standard business errors with implementation of social media are avoided.]

Questions from the floor are called for.  One question from WWF rep asks if there is more co-ownership between communities and companies.  Fox says co-ownership is emerging, and more platforms that enable collective groups to capitalise on trust networks.

Another question from the floor is from a management consultancy, and is a request to talk about the negative consequences of technology access. Is there a problem with the always-on world.  Fox notes that while she is a technophile she is not blind to the problems.  She notes that there are some internet safety programmes.  She notes that there is a lot of alarmist headlines out there but which there is no clear evidence of changes to behaviours.  Important to ensure all questions about sleep patterns are based on fact.

[JJ notes – hear hear – vital that we don’t assume that changes in behaviour are necessarily bad for them anyway.]

Fox notes that there are now online profile cleaning services (such as reputation.com) as a means of cleaning up histories online. If you are not aware that people are talking about you online, you should understand that it is happening, regardless of whether you are currently online yourself.  You cannot control it, so it is better to be online and to have some contribution to your online reputation.

[JJ note: need to also be aware that there are reputation scoring systems in place that could be negatively impacting on brand perception, regardless of whether the scoring systems are in fact useful.]

Question from the floor is on an ethical problem the questioner found on Reddit.  The problem was about aborting a foetus that had disabilities.  There were 800 comments, many of which came from parents of disabled kids.  This commentary represents great research.  Should government be using these networks for research?  Fox replies noting that government shouldn’t be conducting these conversations but to provide signalling and access to existing experts in other places.

[JJ notes: BINGO – so there are experts in different domains.  And there is no need to suggest that you can’t have experts in tech.]

One question from the floor is about the supposedly “sneaky” campaign to get bloggers to talk about products.  Fox notes that many people check online for opinions before purchase.  She notes that authenticity is crucial, so the ‘sneaky’ aspect will disappear.

[JJ notes: most bloggers called upon to review products do not get paid and are authentic.  Like me at this event – unpaid and happy to critique opinions expressed.]

Question from the floor is on intellectual property protection.  Fox notes that this is difficult territory and probably inadvisable to regulate.

Chair asks about the business model of lastminute.com and whether she would come back.  Fox says it would be a disaster for her to come back.  What she finds more interesting is how relatively disparate organisations have come together.

Question from the floor is a skeptic on the value of twitter.  Fox notes it depends on the person as to how valuable twitter will be.  She’s not sitting listening obsessively to twitter.

[JJ notes: the point is to find sources, not to conduct the entire conversation on twitter.]

Ending the live session now at the event. Going on to panel sessions.

This panel is on harnessing power of social media of drive business innovation.  Panellists Ariel Eckstein, Ruth Foxe Blader, David Mann, James Quarles.

First speaker, David Mann, notes that twitter has changed the way we do business.  Twitter not the only platform.  There is a necessity to look at how organisations connect and how to optimise this process. The changes in infrastructure and interaction principles have an impact on how quickly business can improve and fail.

[JJ’s note: glad to see we’re getting some more practical advice and understanding of interaction design in this panel.]

Opportunities for organisations to consider how they do their business are based on cultural changes in terms of liberalisation of personal privacy.  These cultural changes should drive innovation in business.  Unless you organise to take advantage of these technologies, your chances of sustaining any advantage you get is limited.

James Quarles up now, asking how you provide experiences that capitalise on networks and generate authentic responses.  Quarles notes that 11% of the global population are now regular Facebook users.  Quarles notes that on Facebook, authentic selves are the rule.

[JJ notes: Just to note AGAIN, anonymity does NOT reduce critical responses of businesses.  If your product sucks that’s YOUR FAULT.]

Quarles uses examples from Amazon and Ticketmaster of the use of the Facebook Socialgraph as a means of encouraging a personalised experience.  He also uses the example of Heinz on Facebook, product testing and development.  He notes it reduces costs but increases understanding of product experiences.  Finally, he notes that the single platform can also inform about international markets and what differences exist among markets in terms of business perception.

Ruth Foxe Blader now up talking about PepsiCo10 strategies.  The company has come up with a digital fitness model to ensure that the organisation remains digitally aware.  They invite tech companies to become involved in an internal and external partnership programme to generate ideas about how to use emergent tech.  The strategy seems to have been successful in engaging interesting businesses.

Eckstein now up talks about LinkedIn.  He uses the example of BP as a company that worked with LinkedIn on how potential candidates viewed working with BP.  The company needed to communicate more effectively about the company and the crisis management.  For recruitment and product development purposes, LinkedIn can be used to track conversations, connections and ideas in a manner not previously available.

Chair asks the panel about risks of using social media.  Quarles note that most common concern about public conversations.  Handling that negative feedback is the largest risk for the firm.  Eckstein notes that the method of engagement needs to be clear and fast.  If you fail to respond or run all responses through legal and PR departments you will fail. Foxe Blader notes that there has to be a sophisticated listening structure.  There are specific rules on when to react and when not to react, so that engagement is maintained and negative commentary is reduced.  Mann notes that catastrophic events will get out there anyway.  Important issue is monitoring and ensuring that appropriate response are in place first time, as part of an overall risk management process.

Quarles notes that building an army of advocates is a more authentic response approach than a corporate response.  Eckstein notes these armies need to be built before the crisis.  Chair asks how do you establish these armies with new companies. Response is not clear, but some discussion of blogger recruitment and establishing contexts for communication.

There is some discussion about the accessibility of content online being the guarantee against inauthenticity.  There are also comments on the value of breaking through corporate walls and accessing expertise in specific fields.  Chair asks if the corporate sponsorship/support of smaller companies in emerging technologies is a different way of fostering benefits.  Quarles says he expects the relationship is not so different from previously, just that its public face is perhaps unexpected.

Questions are called from the floor. Alan Patrick speaks about the use of CV pilfering on LinkedIn, and how consumers can challenge that process.  Eckstein notes that LinkedIn has a fraud unit which will act to delete accounts that are deliberately faking content.  Quarles adds that faking does exist but there are good mechanisms of tracking inauthentic accounts.

I’m going to wrap up this liveblog now for the morning session.  Will continue after morning tea.




The three case studies we have to address in this session are TastiDlite (ice dessert), a CEMEX (a cement and heavy materials company, and Pearson (a set of publishing labels).

TastiDlite talks about location based games and the use of Foursquare as a means of driving awareness and sakes.  CEMEX talks about the use of collaboration tools to share knowledge across the business which is an international organisation. Pearson give the example of QR codes  as a means of accessing information about a product.  A second example is given on the use of video business intros and questions as a means of improving face-to-face meetings.  Finally, an example is given of internal company platforms for sharing ideas and adapting solutions across international markets.

Internal networks are discussed and integration of mainstream social networks into generic intranet networks are considered.  Chair asks if consumers will be bombarded with too many messages, and how consumers will standout.  Panel notes that it’s important to use the technology in a manner which clearly improves business process, and which doesn’t overwhelm.

Question from the floor relates to sharing of information internally being the  inspiration of mass mediocrity.

[JJ’s note: great question]

Panel responds saying that first role of social strategy should be listening and that content shared should not just be from within.

Question from the floor is on intellectual property of ideas shared on networks.  Panel responds that there are terms and conditions of use in place and users need to be aware of these conditions when they participate.


The remainder of the day was covered by twitter.  Follow the #ftinnovate hashtag and view the archived tweets at TwapperKeeper.

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