Sheryl Sandberg’s Facebook Legacy: From Building Her Advertising Business to Taking Responsibility
Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Meta (formerly Facebook) and the company’s second-in-command, is stepping down after 14 years with the social media giant. After Mark Zuckerberg, it was Sandberg who made many key decisions at the company, including several major first hires and also helped grow Facebook’s mammoth advertising business.
We take a look at her major contributions to Facebook and Meta, including some of the criticism and controversy she’s faced.
Joined in 2008, helps create and scale advertising business
As Sheryl Sandberg recounted in her Facebook post, where she announced her resignation, it took several dinners and conversations before Zuckerberg offered her the job in 2008. Sandberg had previously worked at Google, where she helped develop its advertising and sales activities.
According to a 2011 profile in The New Yorker, Sandberg was the man behind Google’s AdWords and AdSense projects, which would eventually secure billions of dollars in revenue for the search engine giant. And when she went to Facebook, she did the same, using much of the knowledge she had gained from Google.
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In fact, Sandberg notes that when she joined Facebook, the company had little advertising. Many may not recall that Facebook’s main draw was private wall pages in 2007-2008, compared to other social networks. Sandberg recalls that “most of the advertisers I met wanted to take over our homepage, like the movie The Incredible Hulk did on MySpace.”
The same New Yorker profile notes that Facebook had become profitable in 2010, as low-key ads made their way to the social network. Facebook has grown from 70 million users to nearly 700 million in three years. He also quotes Zuckerberg saying that Sandberg basically handled all the “things I don’t want”. This included “advertising strategy, hiring and firing, managing and dealing with political issues.”
Thus, she helped build much of the company’s management structure.
Zuckerberg in his post about his departure wrote, “When Sheryl joined me in 2008, I was only 23 and knew next to nothing about running a business,” and that Facebook was not still profitable. “Sheryl designed our advertising business, hired great people, shaped our management culture and taught me how to run a business,” he added.
Key hires, creation of corporate policies
Sandberg also played a significant role in some of Facebook’s key hires early on and set key company policies in place. For example, she extended maternity and paternity leave to four months at Facebook, which was in line with her ideas on gender equality. She hired key executives at Facebook. The list includes Lori Goler as head of recruiting, who is still with the company, Elliot Schrage, former vice president of global communications, marketing and public policy at Facebook, and Priti Youssef Choksi, former director of business development. of Facebook and Director of Corporate Development.
She also hired former Facebook chief revenue officer David Fischer, who left the company in March 2021. Fischer was previously at Google and helped develop AdWords technology. When Sandberg hired him for Facebook, he joined as vice president of global advertising and operations.
But Sandberg’s aggressive hiring of his Google colleagues didn’t leave his former company too happy. The same New Yorker profile notes that some Google executives believed it hadn’t “played a fair game in hiring engineers and took advantage of inside information.”
There is no doubt that Sandberg is the one who helped grow the company’s core business, make it profitable and hire key executives.
Joined the board in 2012, role in Facebook’s IPO
One of the early criticisms of Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook was that its board was all-male. That changed in 2012 when Sandberg joined the board, though many pointed out that was hardly a change, given that she was a company insider. She will continue to serve on Meta’s board of directors, even if she leaves her position as COO.
Facebook became a publicly traded company in 2012, but the IPO had its fair share of problems, although it later recovered as the advertising business grew. But there’s no doubt that Sandberg played a crucial role in Facebook’s IPO.
She helped develop the advertising business, which in turn ensured profits. She had already declared in 2011 that the company would soon go public, which she did the following year. Sandberg reportedly sold half of her shares in 2014, although she still has a large stake in the company. It should be noted that at the time of his departure, Meta’s advertising business experienced a slump due to various factors, including Apple’s privacy changes to iOS.
Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
Sandberg also deserves credit for being a leading female leader in a tech company at a time when women were lacking in these leadership positions. She has been an advocate for women’s equality in the workplace and her bestselling book Lean In takes a closer look at this topic. The book is intended to help women achieve their career goals.
But others have criticized the book for being too elitist and failing to take into account the struggles working-class women face. Criticisms aside, Sandberg has been candid about the need for more female executives in companies.
During a Ted Talk in 2010, she explained that women are nowhere at the top in most professions. She also talked about how women managers face a much tougher choice than men, and women often give up.
The 2018 Cambridge Analytica Scandal
Sandberg faced increasingly negative scrutiny once Facebook’s role in elections in the United States and other countries began to be viewed critically. It started after the 2016 US election with allegations of Russian involvement in spreading misinformation and that Facebook may not have done enough to quell these issues.
As Sandberg was seen as the sole handler of politics on the platform, she faced most of the scrutiny with Zuckerberg. The 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal exposed Facebook data being used to target and sway voters in key US states. In fact, the New York Times revealed in a report that Sandberg was particularly angry when Facebook’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos, told the board that the company failed to contain disinformation networks. Russians. Sandberg later told Stamos, “You threw us under the bus!”
She then waged an “aggressive lobbying campaign,” according to the NYT, to thwart criticism and direct anger at rival Facebook companies. Publicly though, Sandberg has made very little comment during the company’s recent crises. Both Zuckerberg and Sandberg have had to testify before the US Congress on many of these issues related to misinformation, election interference, user privacy, and more.
According to Bloomberg, “Sandberg was personally criticized by Facebook employees for surrounding herself with trusted lieutenants who filtered out bad news and didn’t address issues until they turned into public crises. ..”
And the negative press didn’t stop at his mishandling of Facebook’s crises. Another WSJ report said she used her influence to try to suppress negative news about her boyfriend, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick being accused of serious sexual harassment. He also dated Sandberg from 2016 to 2019. Meta is still investigating this, although it’s not supposed to be his reason for leaving.
Meanwhile, another WSJ report notes that Sandberg told People “she feels burnt out and has become a punching bag for business problems.”
His departure also comes at a time when Meta is pivoting towards virtual reality, away from advertising where Sandberg was typically more focused. The report notes that she has “notably been absent from numerous meetings about the company’s metaverse projects.”
While Sandberg’s image has suffered over the past few years, she undoubtedly played a vital role in helping Facebook, now Meta, go beyond a niche social network to become the giant corporation that she is today. His departure marks the end of an era within the company. Mark Zuckerberg has also acknowledged that he has no intention of replacing Sandberg. “I do not plan to replace Sheryl’s role in our existing structure. I’m not sure it’s possible because he’s a superstar who has defined the role of COO in his own way,” he wrote. While Javier Olivan will become Facebook’s next COO, the role will be different from what Sandberg has done in the past, he added.