Sheryl Sandberg: We 'Ruthlessly Prioritize'

Facebook's COO on phone rumors, advertising

Sheryl Sandberg | Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images


What does Sheryl Sandberg think about former employer Google’s latest foray into social networking?

“Imitation is the highest form of flattery,” she said. “Google+ is flattering.”

During an interview with Business Insider editor-in-chief and CEO Henry Blodget at the news site’s Ignition conference Thursday, Facebook COO Sandberg said that while there may be increased competition, Facebook thinks it can find success with a tight focus on building social technology and “ruthlessly” prioritizing.

While Blodget observed that Facebook has appeared Google-like in its attempts to launch (and then, subsequently, close) trendy products, such as Groupon-type daily deals and Foursquare-esque check-ins, Sandberg said Facebook and Google couldn’t be more far apart.

“Our product strategy is about as different from Google’s as two tech companies can get,” she said, adding as an example of their differences that highly resourced Google has about twice as many job openings as Facebook has jobs.

When asked about recent rumors of a so-called Facebook phone, Sandberg declined to indulge the speculation. Instead, she said, “Our strategy, really, is that we want to be a social layer on every device.”

Sandberg also said that while the company doesn’t have immediate plans to use its vast data resources to roll out advertising products outside of Facebook, it is something that they’ve discussed.

“It’s something that might be a good idea at some point in the future,” she said. “[But with] limited resources, running the company to, as I said, ruthlessly prioritize, when we make a list of things we can work on, it hasn’t made the list.”

Emphasizing Facebook’s benefits to advertisers, she said the site lets marketers “fish where the fish are.” While 9 million companies use the site to promote themselves, she said only 2.3 million pay for ads or sponsored stories.

“[Advertisers] want their consumers not just to buy their products but recommend their products to their friends,” she said. “What Facebook does is allow brands . . . to have an authentic and direct relationship with a consumer.”

Noting the quick rises and falls of former tech giants Yahoo and AOL, Blodget asked Sandberg how she’ll avoid “becoming Yahoo.” While she acknowledged that market leadership changes happen faster in the Internet space, Sandberg said Facebook’s goal is to grow a long-lasting company, on par with Procter & Gamble and Coke.

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