Last Thursday Facebook’s extended their regular internal Q & A session to a Town Hall Q&A where the public could get some answers to some tough questions that many have been asking for sometime. The session lasted just over an hour and can be viewed at this link Q & A with Mark
Facebook chose the questions from the ones which had been most liked on a post on their page, Q&A with Mark. People flew in from all over the US to ask Mark Zuckerberg these questions:
1. Mark, why did you enforce us to install Facebook Messenger?
Mark acknowledged that asking everyone to install a new app was a big ask and was maybe a short term painful thing to do but went onto explain that the reason they did this was that they really believe that they will be offering a much better messaging experience. He said that messaging was something people do more than social networking with over 10 billion messages are being sent everyday on Facebook alone. He said it was therefore important to offer a more focused and dedicated app. The old system meant that if people wanted to message then they would have to go through a more lengthy process of going to the Facebook app and then to messages which would take more time. With the dedicated app people can save more time and navigate straight to the app. Mark Zuckerberg said they needed to force everyone to install the app rather than let them do it in their their own time. By doing it this way everyone would be synchronised and receive the best experience in the quickst possible time. He added that they had a lot of trust to earn in proving that this stand alone app was going to be good and that they are going to continue to develop the app to make it even faster which is the most important thing to get right in a message app.
2. What is your favourite feature that Facebook developed but was not released.
Mark answered by saying that they rarely made a decision to launch or not launch something without doing a beta test and letting a portion of people try it. He could’nt think of anything that they thought was good and hadn’t tested but went onto say that they had brought out things that they thought were good but after testing realised they were not. One of these was a different style News feed which they discovered people just didn't like at all.
3. When will our Facebook page reach be coming back?
This was a question many people had asked. Mark went into some detail explaining the reasons behind Facebook’s Algorithm. He said that many fan pages were actually reaching more people and many were reaching less. He went on to emphasise that they understood what it is like to be a new start up and the importance of trying to reach people to grow a business “We care really deeply about all the changes on our product and how it affects the business and how people are using fan pages” He explained that Facebook provided a huge service to businesses and even though traffic to business pages may fluctuate that Facebook was still a great way to reach people organically.
He then went on to say that Facebook’s priority is to give everyone the best possible experience and that their goal was to provide each individual with their very own personalised newspaper through their newsfeed tailored to what they love and are interested to. There are two trends that effect the organic reach of fan pages, firstly the number of people sharing is growing and secondly the competition. He explained that if they were to show everyone everything that was posted everyday there would be about 1500 pieces of content that the avertage person would have to see and this would be way too much. Facebook try to keep it to about 10% of this figure. He emphasised the importance for businesses to both create and share high quality content and communicate effectively with their customers. If businesses are sharing compelling content that is useful to their customers then it is likely to be shown in their fan’s new feed but if not their content may not be shown.
4. How accurate is the story in the movie, The Social Network, compared to the real story of Facebook’s beginning.
This question greatly amused Mark, he found the experience of watching the movie an interesting one and on the day it was released he took the whole company to watch it. He went on to say that the reality was that watching someone code for two hours was probably not glamorous and interesting enough to make a movie about, so they would obviously have to make some things up. He said they were quite accurate in things like the design of the Facebook office but the overall plot about why they were building Facebook was inaccurate and quite hurtful. They had missed the point that their main goal from day one was to help connect the world.The film makers had made it about Mark wanting to attract girls which was clearly untrue since at the time he was dating the girl he was to marry 10 years later.
5. Do you have any programs for people who want to start up in business?
Mark introduced the three things that help business start ups and individuals:
i. The FB Start up program This program offers developers and businesses who are getting started $40,000 dollars worth of tools for free. He offered to send information to anyone who was interested.
ii. Facebook Fan Pages which are free to businesses and help them reach their customers. He added that about 30% of businesses with Facebook pages did not have websites and therefore highly effective.
iii. Summer programs and Internships
Facebook offer summer programs for students who want to learn about the way Facebook develop products.
Mark Zuckerberg expressed his passion for helping develop and train the next generation of entrepreneurs. He went on to say how sad he felt when employees left but how proud he was when they go on to start up new ventures.
6. Is Facebook intending to take over the mobile industry by creating a new ultra low cost voice over IP mobile platform based off internet derived by autonomous solar drones at the same time as using the whats ap messenger app to replace SMS text?
Mark said this question touched on many things that Facebook are doing and planning to do to get people connected. There are still over 4 billion people who are not connected to the internet today, some have no internet connection at all and some can not afford an internet connection. He said they feel at Facebook that they have a social responsibility to help those people get connected to the internet so they are able to learn, look for jobs, find information about health and to just communicate and have fun too. Projects include messaging, free and voice calling. Other more long term projects include internet.org , a global partnership dedicated to making affordable internet access available to two thirds of the world not yet connected and the development of solar powered planes that can beam down internet access to people.
7. Do you think Facebook is losing its charm and becoming boring being primarily a photo sharing site?
Mark thought this was an interesting question and said his goal was never to make Facebook cool "I am not a cool person and I have never really tried to be cool" he said. he went on to say that the main priorities were to connect people and make Facebook both useful and reliable and not to make it exciting. More and more people are using Facebook on mobile so they are focusing their attention more on service, making the app faster and making sure things work rather than trying to make thngs exciting or interesting.
8. Do you think there has become too much information and it has become information overload?
The answer to this question came back again to Facebook’s algorithm and how their priority is to make everybody’s News feed as relevant as pssible to the interests of each individual. He also explained that they are working on ways they can give people more control on what they see in their Newsfeed.
9. Why do you wear the same shirt everyday?
He found this very amusing and said that he did have multiples of the same shirt . The reason he wears the same short as he wants to keep things as simple as possible so he has to make as few decisions as possible and focus on what he considers more important and put all his energy into serving the community.
10. You are a really hard working guy, you are the guy who keeps things in order . How do you keep that passion running for Facebook?
Mark said that it starts with doing something really important . He said that he had never originally wanted to start a company and that Facebook started as a project, he eventually realised he needed to start a company to get more people to serve the community. He went on to say that if you really care about the change you want to make in the world then this in itself is very motivating. You need to power through things that suck. Even though he realises how lucky he has been he said that still crazy things come up from all angles that need to be dealt with . However, he went on to say that if you need to believe that the work you are doing is really important and you need grit to see these things through and most importantly also need to surround yourself with a team of people who also have grit and will help you get through it.
11. You have some great people looking at making sure that Facebook looks like the demographic make up of the US, What is your perspective on the importance on diversifying the tech sector ?
Mark felt this was a very important topic and said it was literally every person’s job within Facebook to make their teams as diverse as possible and that it is a fact that diverse teams perform better. There is definitely a problem with diversity in the tech industry and especially the fact that there are fewer women. He went on to say that this needs to be tackled from a young age and that girls are equally as good at maths and tech need to be encouraged in these careers.
12. Why are you and Facebook getting involved in the fight against Ebola?
He said there are a lot of important issues in the world , however the reason he cares so much about Ebola is that this is now a critical moment in time where if this problem is focussed they may be able to prevent it from being the next global epidemic. The world has the opportunity to do something now and its a rare moment when we get the change and stop these things before they get to the scale that it may and get to the size of HIV or TB.
13. What technique did you use to get through obstacles and go for your dream? What did you do when you were really tired and wanted to give up but you found something and stood up and went for something you wanted?
Mark explained that his path to success was strange, that he did not originally want to set up a company and that he started while at college. He wanted to move to silicon valley for the summer just to be near some tech companies and he never considered Facebook would ever become anything like one of them. The plan was to move back home but he started meeting so many interesting people who were giving him great advise and supporting him that he stayed and the rest is history. He said his secret did not lie in some superhuman ability but in order to power through but you need to incredibly focused and try not to let stuff bother you as much as possible. He went on to say that the main thing that got him through were the people around him. He added that there was interesting data on this and that companies who have more founders are actually more likely to have a successful outcome and that one of the main reasons is that it's really hard to do things on your own.
He wrapped up by thanking everyone for coming and said he found it really interesting and that it reminded him of the first internal Q&A’s that Facebook had when the company was small and they used to sit around in a circle and that it was more of a conversation than a Q&A. But this has now evolved into Facebook's culture and something that’s a really important part of how they learn and work, the way they are transparent and open and continue to evolve and he hoped that the town hall Q&A’s would continue to be a big part of how they learn and how they can better serve the community.
I have to say I really enjoyed the interview, found it very amusing and motivating. An incredible person and an incredible company. What did you think of the interview? Would love to hear in the comments below.