Besides the recent Meta crisis, Zuckerberg has had his fair share of failures. The course to his current position as one of the wealthiest men and being featured on Forbes multiple times has not been smooth. That being said, the journey of an entrepreneur is never entirely smooth. On the bright side, thanks to such challenges, entrepreneurs emerge as strong players in their niche. Let’s talk about the 5 failures of Mark Zuckerberg and how he overcame them:
1) Facebook crisis
Before Facebook became the subject of controversy, the major challenge that Zuckerberg was facing was mastering Mandarin. While it was stressful, Zuckerberg thought the entire process was more of an exciting venture. Unfortunately, 2018 quickly turned into the worst year for Facebook.
It doesn’t take much digging to find all the crises that Zuckerberg had to deal with that year. The Cambridge Analytica scandal, infiltration by operatives from Russia, and user psychological well-being concerns. As a result of all these issues, Facebook experienced the biggest loss of about 123 billion USD. In 2022, the company we now know as Meta is still under intense scrutiny for its privacy practices, its hiring practices and its vision for the metaverse.
To make up for the company’s mistakes, Zuckerberg has visited various institutions and governments in the world to apologize. Through these apologies, he aims at restoring the good relationship between his social network and the affected parties. Despite his best efforts in the preceding years, he’s still working to restore the company’s image and fully resolve the brand crisis.
Although rebranding the platform as Meta doesn’t seem to have helped yet, Zuckerberg remains committed to his vision of the metaverse. He truly believes he’s building a platform that will transform our digital worlds. While the stock price drops and mass firing of employees don’t bode well for the company, there are people who have remained loyal to Zuckerberg because they feel inspired by his vision.
2) Criticism for his inventions
When you think about major CEOs, the likes of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs immediately come to mind. They founded their ventures while in their 20s. Beyond that, they had creative ideas. Success was a little harder to come by for Zuckerberg. In fact, earning the CEO title and garnering respect took some time. Not just in the US, but in the entire world.
In college, Facebook was still in the development stage, and he was already facing lots of criticism. Many claimed that he stole the idea from Harvardconnections.com so that he could build a competing product. Furthermore, the Winklevoss twins claim he’s a traitor and that he sabotaged their project, thereby putting his reputation on the line.
If that wasn’t enough, his reputation was further tarnished by the launch of “The Accidental Billionaires” by Ben Mezrich. As you well know, the mind of a writer is pretty powerful. By imagination alone, writers can paint vivid pictures through simple words. Mezrich’s book is infamous for sharing unknown information that painted Zuckerberg in a negative light.
3) Securing investment and funding
Among the greatest challenges Zuckerberg had to put up with is finding investors for his social network. Since Facebook was a one-of-a-kind platform in the beginning, not many people believed in its potential. As such, he had to struggle to secure funding and bring investors on board.
To overcome this issue, he had to run ads through his site. In 2004, there was hardly any external funding to save his business. As such, he had to use his own money for this. It was a major challenge for him. Even worse, the venture needed to garner at least 1.5 million users by the end of the year, to make it a viable investment.
With that number of users, the probability of getting an angel investment was higher. While they missed this target narrowly, they still got the funds. The following year, Zuckerberg had to expand the board members to accommodate five seats. This was after Accel Partners joined the board. They agreed to a venture capital deal with Facebook, but two seats remained empty.
A couple of years later, Microsoft joined in as an investor. They acquired a significant stock share with an option to liquidate it anytime. To Zuckerberg, this was risky as Facebook could get sold any day. Later on, he filed for an IPO raising the social network value to 16 billion USD. While this was a win, it created another challenge. The social network needed solid streams of revenue to account for its great valuation.
One way to determine a company’s true worth and potential for revenue is through an intrinsic value calculator. For example, investors could use an intrinsic value calculator to determine META’s intrinsic value and make more informed investment decisions.
4) Invasion of privacy scandal
Privacy invasion has been one of the major issues in Mark Zuckerberg’s company over the years – and an ongoing one at that. In fact, the media began expressing concerns about the privacy of Facebook as early as a decade ago. While being interviewed, he was asked about the privacy of users’ details. Even now, with the launch of new products, Meta seeks more user details than before. Their insistence on people providing more profile information has raised red flags over and over again.
According to Zuckerberg, Facebook doesn’t share user information with external parties. In fact, he’s claimed that even advertisers don’t have access to it. He insists that everyone’s personal info is secure on the platform. He’s also stated that in case there is a breach by application developers, their role on the site is disabled immediately. Zuckerberg maintains that Facebook’s priority is guaranteeing user privacy, especially when it comes to personal information.
Be that as it may, recent events such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and infiltration by operatives from Russia suggest otherwise. Due to these events among others, the Meta brand is in crisis. Zuckerberg is doing everything he can to mitigate this crisis and reposition Meta as a brand that prioritizes privacy.
5) Critical need for massive users
When you garner a massive number of users for long-term support of your innovation, it becomes self-sustaining. Thanks to that, your venture experiences further growth. In the early years of Facebook, Zuckerberg struggled to boost the adoption of the platform. For example, getting around 1.5 million users to adopt the platform to access funding was hard enough. In some cases, he had to use his money to sponsor the platform.
Since he knew this would be the eventual challenge when developing Facebook, he had braced himself for it.
To attract more users, he leveraged his business site for marketing campaigns. However, even that wasn’t enough to drive over a million users to his venture. He knew that acquiring millions of users meant that he couldn’t charge a subscription fee. While that was his goal all along, it still took a while for the users to come knocking.
How to deal with a PR crisis
Finally, the PR storm Mark Zuckerberg and his company Meta are facing now can happen to any business. While you’re reading about the Meta crisis today, you may be facing a similar crisis tomorrow. Since you can’t do anything to prevent such storms from engulfing your business, you should arm yourself with the tools you’ll need to mitigate the crisis when it arrives.
When your business is growing from a startup to an established company, losing your connection with clients is easy. Oftentimes, people throw themselves into the innovative aspects of the business and forget the PR side of things. This is where troubles like those of Facebook arise from. To avoid getting engulfed by a similar storm, you should hire the services of a PR expert early on.
Lessons that entrepreneurs can learn from Zuckerberg’s troubles
Avoid creating brand dissonance
Oftentimes, business crises occur when the internal perception of an organization is different from its external brand image. If your business is presenting one image to the employees while showing third parties a completely different brand image, then a crisis is sure to ensue. After establishing your brand, it’s easy to forget that you still need to develop a robust brand image. After all, in the beginning, your focus is on strategic initiatives and fire fighting.
At the moment, the historic perception of the more recent Meta is out of sync with the story that it’s telling the world. This is largely due to the fact that employees have a completely different perception of Meta as a brand. As a result, over the last two years, the employees have been coming out with disturbing stories that challenge the brand image that Meta is trying to build.
As a brand, one of the best ways to create a robust brand image is to make sure your internal brand image aligns with the brand image you’re projecting to the world. Treating employees poorly can lead to them telling stories that ruin your reputation. On the other hand, making sure your employees benefit from the same brand values you’re championing to the public can ensure that the stories they’re telling align with your brand story.
How do you recognize dissonance, especially in your company? Well, start by looking for clients who don’t understand exactly what you stand for. The most common indicators of this are lower sales, higher customer service calls, and poor reviews from clients. Finding out how they feel about your brand will point you in the right direction when you’re trying to identify where you need to make changes
You need to accept that all businesses are susceptible to brand dissonance and take steps to prevent this from happening.
Embrace your flaws
Around 10 years ago, the idea that the US presidential election could be influenced by fake Russian news was farfetched. Zuckerberg thought so too. Regardless of how ridiculous the notion was, Facebook was actually one of the avenues that Russian hackers used to interfere with the elections in 2018. Clearly, identifying issues and embracing their flaws was the last thing Facebook had in mind. Their refusal to accept that their platform was actually vulnerable to hackers led to another huge brand crisis.
Similarly, when you cannot acknowledge and fix the issues popping up in your business, you’re bound to face more. In some cases, a simple issue can escalate fast, causing greater damage. To be on the safe side, learn to embrace your mistakes and fight the urge to ignore them. Only when you do that will you be able to take the necessary steps to protect your brand reputation.
Many clients prefer brands that can own up to their flaws and work on fixing them right away. Such actions give people faith in your business. A good example of how great things can happen to your brand after owning a mistake is Domino’s company.
After their “We Suck” campaign, the company experienced complete internal transformation that led to better product quality. Years later, they’ve acquired a solid share of the market and have a great reputation.
Use feedback to save your business
It’s easy to ignore customer feedback when it’s given to you directly and not posted on a public platform. When you do this, the customers can develop rage and express their frustration through other available platforms. In this case, you may find negative reviews about your brand on social media among other public channels.
Maybe you’ve got a LinkedIn or Twitter business profile for publishing exciting and marketing content. If you don’t have a feedback channel for clients, then they’ll decide to post their frustrations on your social channels. In the worst-case scenario, this feedback will capture public attention and go viral. Overnight, your social media could transform into a showdown show between the clients and your brand.
To avoid such a scenario, you can install a direct feedback mechanism for your clients. This will allow clients to share their complaints and get the responses they desire. Keep in mind that getting feedback is a good thing. After all, it presents a chance to identify flaws and improve your products and services.
A great example is the approach that logistics companies take. Their trucks normally have stickers asking “How is my driving?” This evokes a response from clients and other road users. With the feedback they receive, they can implement proper re-education of drivers. It’s way better than receiving customer 911 calls when the driver has already caused an accident.
It’s easy to go down the Meta route and ignore the need for feedback. After all, if your business concept is unique, it means you don’t have something to use as a reference. Even so, you must find ways to generate customer feedback. Feedback is extremely important if your want to update your business regularly and continuously improve its services. It’s the key to success in all businesses.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
If Meta had a reliable CRM tool right from the start, then most of its current issues could have been avoided. In addition, they should also have owned up to their flaws before people pointed them out. When you ignore these two elements, problems are bound to occur.
Failing to integrate a CRM into the Meta apps is one of Zuckerberg’s biggest failures. If you’re just starting out, you should install this system while your business is still young.
Had Zuckerberg invested in reputation building and management in the early days of Facebook, the company would’ve been better placed to withstand the storms that came their way. After all, when you’ve built a positive reputation, people are more willing to give you the benefit of doubt when a crisis hits.
While reputation management is quite straightforward, many businesses make the mistake of turning to it when it’s already too late. In order to do your reputation management effectively, you need a proactive and consistent approach. A good way to manage your reputation early on is to hire the services of a PR expert, either internally or from an agency.
How Pressfarm can help with your reputation management
When you look at the major ordeals that Zuckerberg was facing, the media has always played a major part in making sure that any negative news blew up. In order to avoid having this happen with your own business, it’s important to engage in media outreach continuously, right from day one. By sharing valuable content that media professionals appreciate, you can create a positive reputation that both they and their readers feel connected to.
With quality content like press releases, guest posts and media kits, Pressfarm can help you stand out and make a name for your brand as a trusted authority. Beyond that, custom media lists from Pressfarm can help you connect with media professionals who can help you tell a positive brand story, even before a crisis hits.
Connecting with the PR experts at Pressfarm is definitely also helpful when you’re already in the middle of a crisis. They can help you craft a brand message to regain public trust and restore your reputation. However, if you sign up for a PR package before a crisis hits, you can build a more robust reputation that can survive a few hits. As a result, when you start with your PR early, there will be less work to do during a crisis.