Randi Zuckerberg gives Facebook insight

WILLIAM MACE
Last updated 14:27 04/07/2012
Randi Zuckerberg
LAWRENCE SMITH/Fairfax NZ

SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT: Randi Zuckerberg speaks to business people and social media enthusiasts at the Viaduct Events Centre.

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Randi Zuckerberg had to be talked into working for a fledgling social media site called Facebook, she has revealed.

The older sister of Facebook founder and billionaire Mark Zuckerburg shared her thoughts on social networking with an audience of corporate marketers, business owners and social media fanatics in Auckland this morning.

Zuckerberg, Facebook's former marketing boss, told the story of how she was persuaded, against her better judgement, to join the site when it had just a million members.

"I graduated from Harvard University in 2003, and the only reason I mention that is because I have a sibling who didn't graduate so that's my one leg up."

After a few years working with an advertising agency in New York, her younger brother started pressuring her to help him out with his new project.

"I started getting texts and emails and instant messages from my brother saying, 'We could really use an online marketer for this new site I'm creating'. Which in translation meant, 'I need someone who'll work for free and you're my sister'.

"At first I was, like, 'there's no way I'm leaving New York and I'm going to move out [to California] to join their little start-up'.

"He even stooped so low as to call our mum and have her call me and be, like, 'Mark thinks you're in a dead end job and you should join his start-up'."

She gave in and decided to spend a weekend helping her little brother.

"These guys were coding in a house, and they were so passionate about what they were building that you could really tell they knew they were going to change the world.

"So I caught the entrepreneurial bug from them that weekend and I decided to move out to California to give it a go."

Today Facebook has more than 900 million members worldwide and earlier this year held an initial public offering which valued the company at US$104 billion.

Zuckerberg said in Facebook's early days she had been careful to hold the network back from moving into new territories until there was overwhelming demand.

But despite its exponential popularity,  Zuckerberg left Facebook last year to set up her own social media business called R to Z Studios based on bringing premium video content to Facebook and other websites.

Her insights are highly valued because of her proximity to Facebook itself and recently her lifestyle has involved travelling the world sharing personal observations, business tips and future market predictions and taking in new ways to use social media.

At the Social Media Breakfast event, organised by Air New Zealand, Zuckerberg pointed out key trends that were being explored in the American technology hub of Silicon Valley and around the world.

Crowdsourcing was the word on Silicon Valley entrepreneurs' lips, and businesses were now developing websites and products for mobile devices only and almost ignoring desktop and laptop devices altogether.

Businesses exploring social media should be attentive to customers' needs and use social networks to run next-generation loyalty programmes, she said.

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But the live video streaming of events is where Zuckerberg's interests lie.

While at Facebook in 2008 she linked with America's ABC Network to host the first simulcast online and on-air broadcast of an election debate.

She then linked with CNN to broadcast online coverage of President Obama's inauguration.

Since setting up R to Z Studios Zuckerberg has worked with Cirque du Soleil, The Clinton Global Initiative, The Tony Blair Faith Foundation and the UN Foundation, but says her company is still "pivoting" to find the most suitable business model.

At the end of this morning's event Zuckerberg, and her American compatriot Jessica Gilmartin from social media marketing agency Wildfire Interactive, were treated with a surprise rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by three local singers to recognise American Independence Day.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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