Face to face with Randi Zuckerberg

When the world’s first social media marketer comes to town, you want to be there, especially if you’re a marketer, entrepreneur, business women or all three.
A captivated audience of entrepreneurs and Melbourne Business School students and alumni heard Randi Zuckerberg, the first Chief Marketing Officer of the world’s first social media platform, talk about taking Facebook from a social network start-up to a multi billion dollar business in less than 10 years.

Speaking at our Dean’s Leaders Forum, Randi recalled getting a phone call, when aged just 22, from her younger brother Mark, asking her to leave her ad agency job in Manhattan to come work for him at his start-up in San Francisco.

“I came from Manhattan, where I didn't have a single pair of blue jeans in my wardrobe, everything was black dresses and heels, to California, where these four guys in a house, if you saw them on a street, you wouldn't know if they were homeless or billionaires. I think they consumed only Red Bull and Twinkies for the three-straight days that I was first there.”

A lesson for all women

After she arrived, Mark asked her to write on a restaurant napkin what it would take to convince her to work for him. She kept asking for a higher salary, which he kept rejecting until he finally said, “I'm going to give you advice from a Silicon Valley person. Take the lowest salary that you can afford to live on, and take the rest in equity.”
Randi says she’s pretty happy she took his advice, which all women can learn from.
“Women often don’t negotiate as much as they should. If you don't negotiate in that first job you go for, you'll be something like $100,000 behind a decade later. I often tell people that there's so much more you can negotiate for than just a salary. That's what I learned from my brother.”

You don’t need to code to start a business

Working at Facebook taught Randi a lot more too. For example, you don’t need to be an engineer or coder to start your own business.   
“I was not a technical person before I went to Silicon Valley. I think a lot of people are scared of going into start-ups if they don't have a coding background. But if I could do it, anyone could. I never took a single coding or computer class, and I had to learn on the fly how to speak to engineers.”

Randi says she really understood the the possibilities of social media when an idea that she put forward at a regular new projects hackathon at Facebook took off.

“I decided to start a TV show called Facebook Live with Randi Zuckerberg and grabbed all these engineers and started interviewing them, but nobody tuned in, just my parents.”

But soon Katy Perry’s manager was on the phone asking to use Facebook Live to promote Katy’s next album and world tour.

“I said that he should absolutely do it on our highly reputable television show and hung up the phone and was like, OK, now I actually have to pull it off.”

The show was watched by millions, and soon everybody wanted to be on Facebook Live, and Randi means everybody.

“I was at dinner with my husband and got a call from the White House, which I say very cavalierly, but I got to say to my husband, 'Sorry, the White House is calling. I have to step out for a moment.’”

President Obama, who first used Facebook so effectively in his 2008 election campaign, wanted to be on Facebook Live, Randi’s four-month-old hackathon project.

Getting politics on Facebook

Randi’s use of Facebook to cover the 2010 mid-term Congressional elections led to an Emmy nomination in 2011. She says aligning Facebook with politics completely transformed the company from something just for college kids to a social media platform that everyone wanted to be on.

“In the 2008 presidential election, I was on the phone begging candidates to use Facebook. Most of them said, 'Sorry, we don't have time'. Someone went on the record, saying, 'We don't believe in the Facebook generation'. I can tell you, they didn't win.

“But four years later, I knew who was running for president before anyone had officially announced it because the first thing a candidate did was create a Facebook page to publish on the day they officially announced their candidature.”

Resigning at her peak

Randi resigned from Facebook in 2011 at the peak of her Facebook career, when she was expecting a baby.
“Everyone tells you to not make any big life decisions when you're about to have a baby, so, naturally, I did the only thing that made sense and resigned from my job, started my own company, sold my house and moved.”

She says the time was right to resign because time passes like dog years at start-ups.

“I had been at Facebook for six years. I was like the grandma at Facebook at that time. Everyone I had started with was long gone and had moved to other start-ups. I saw so many exciting things that were happening in the tech and media worlds.”

Making her mark

Randi has not looked back. She’s now the CEO of Zuckerberg Media, creator of the popular Dot Complicated blog and website, and author of two books on negotiating social media – Dot Complicated for adults and Dot. for children. Recently, she was also appointed to the United Nations Global Entrepreneurs Council and the US Broadcasting Board of Governors’ Commission on Innovation. So, what advice does Randi have for all of us, now permanently glued to social media in our professional and private life?

“Be authentic, have a conversation, don’t make it all about promotions, sales, products, and be in it for the long-term. You can't separate the professional from the personal online, so be authentic and decide what you stand for, but be careful. These devices were created to bring us closer to the people we love, not to come between us.”

And if you are wondering what it’s like being the sister of someone well-known.

“People would say, even at the BBC, 'Here’s Mark Zuckerberg's sister'. And I would say, 'Actually, I haven't legally changed my name to Mark Zuckerberg's sister yet, so, maybe, you can call me Randi’. Of course, I'm honoured to have a sibling who's accomplished so much and changed the world in so many amazing ways, but it’s nice to be acknowledged for my own contributions too.”

Randi Zuckerberg with Melbourne Business School Dean, Zeger Degraeve