Brand image is a big thing among Silicon Valley’s companies, and the same seems to apply with equal magnitude for their executives too. At least in case of Facebook, which hired a pollster with the sole duty of assessing the public perception of Mark Zuckerberg and COO, Sheryl Sandberg. Although the position was vacated in six months, the situation highlights a peculiar problem for Facebook as it looks to bounce back from a torrid 2017.
The Verge reports that in April last year, Facebook hired Tavis McGinn, a former Google employee who specialized in fine-tuning marketing campaigns for Google’s product line-up and collaborated with advertising partners for doing so. But his role at Facebook was something quite odd. He was assigned the duty of evaluating Zuckerberg’s image among the masses.
It was a very unusual role. It was my job to do surveys and focus groups globally to understand why people like Mark Zuckerberg, whether they think they can trust him, and whether they’ve even heard of him. That’s especially important outside of the United States.
The whole ‘image problem’ appears to stem from huge election-fixing scandal and the Russian troll accounts which seemingly influenced the US Presidential Elections through sustained campaigns on Facebook. Zuckerberg had to embark on a listening tour to communicate with the public and assess the perception about his leadership skills.
Not just him in the abstract, but do people like Mark’s speeches? Do they like his interviews with the press? Do people like his posts on Facebook? It’s a bit like a political campaign, in the sense that you’re constantly measuring how every piece of communication lands. If Mark’s doing a barbecue in his backyard and he hops on Facebook Live, how do people respond to that?
McGinn’s research gave a composite picture of the reaction generated by Zuckerberg’s views on a wide range of subjects. It was not simply about whether the people like or dislike Zuckerberg, but the general range of emotions generated by things he talks about, or what the public thinks of a particular stance taken by the Facebook co-founder. A similar campaign was also launched for Sandberg, Facebook’s long-standing COO.
McGinn resigned after a brief spell of just six months after realizing that working at Facebook in his current role was a ‘waste of time’, and despite its immense potential to do good through its massive reach, Facebook had a negative impact on the society, something which McGinn was unable to change.