Mark Zuckerberg Q&A: Messenger, Pages’ Reach, ‘The Social Network’ and Those Grey T-Shirts

By David Cohen 

MarkZuckerbergQAMenloPark650Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg hosted a community question-and-answer session Thursday at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., during which he offered his views on topics including removing messaging from the social network’s flagship applications and requiring users to download Messenger, pages’ declining organic reach, whether or not Facebook is cool, The Social Network and his wardrobe.

The video of the event is embedded below, and highlights follow.

On the shift to Messenger:

Asking everyone in our community to install another app, Messenger, is a big ask. I appreciate that this required work and was a bunch of friction, and I just wanted to acknowledge that upfront.

The reason why we wanted to do this is because we really believe that this is a better experience, and we think that messaging is becoming increasingly important.

On mobile, each app really can focus on doing one thing well, we think. The primary focus of the Facebook app today is News Feed. You open it and you can look at content that your friends are sharing, or public figures, and you can share things. Messaging was this behavior that people were doing more and more — there were more than 10 billion messages sent every day on Facebook — but in order to get to your messages, you had to open up the app, which could take a few seconds, and then go to a separate tab.

What we saw was that all of the messaging apps that people were using and relied upon the most were kind of these dedicated, focused experiences. There are these apps that are fast and just focused on messaging.

You’re probably messaging people 15 or 20 times per day, and having to go into an app and wait for it to load, and then go through a lot of steps to get your messages, we felt was a lot of friction. We felt like we just couldn’t deliver the best experience in doing that.

We think messaging is one of the few things people do more than social networking. Even though it was a short-term, painful thing to ask people install a messaging app, we knew we could never deliver the quality of experience inside as just as tab in the main Facebook app, and that we needed to build a dedicated and focused experience.

Because Messenger is faster and more focused, if you’re using it, you respond to messages faster.

On pages’ reach:

We care really deeply about the different changes in our product and how that affects all of the businesses and people who are using fan pages. We take it really seriously when any product change that we do will change or impact someone’s business.

(Facebook is probably) still overall a very good organic and free way to reach and communicate with your customers.

There are two primary trends that I think are affecting the organic reach of fan pages. The first is that as time goes on, people are just sharing more things on Facebook. Each person who is consuming content in News Feed might read 100 stories from friends and pages per day. As their friends share more content, and as they follow more pages and those pages share more content, there’s just more competition. There are about 1,500 stories per day that they could see in News Feed, but they probably see about 100. Only the highest-quality content is actually going to get through and be shown to those people.

With News Feed, our goal is to build the perfect personalized newspaper for every person in the world. There are lots of different newspapers or media channels that people can plug into, and they tend to not be personalized.

There’s this inherent conflict in the system: Are we trying to optimize News Feed to give each person the best experience when they are reading, or are we trying to help businesses reach as many people as possible? With every decision we make, we optimize for the first. If a business is sharing content that is going to be useful for them, we’ll show that. If a business is sharing content that probably isn’t going to be useful for them, we probably won’t show it.

Publish really good content that’s going to be compelling to your customers.

In response to an audience question about whether Facebook was “losing its charm”:

Is Facebook getting less cool? It’s an interesting question to me, because my goal was never really to make Facebook cool. I am not a cool person, and I’ve never really tried to be cool. Our model for Facebook has never been to try to make it particularly exciting to use. We just want to make it useful.

On The Social Network:

Writing code and building a product and building a company actually is not a glamorous enough thing to make a movie about. A lot of the stuff, they probably had to embellish and make up, because if they were really making a movie, it would have been of me sitting at a computer coding for two hours straight, which probably would have just been not that good of a movie.

They went out of their way in the movie to try to get some interesting details correct, like the design of the office, but on the overarching plot, in terms of why we’re building Facebook to help connect the world, or how we did it, they just kind of made up a bunch of stuff that I found kind of hurtful.

I take our mission really seriously. We’re here not primarily to just build a company, but to help connect the world. We take that really seriously. The thing that I found the most interesting about the movie was that they kind of made up this whole plot line where I somehow decided to create Facebook to attract girls. One important piece of context is that the woman who I’m married to (Priscilla Chan), who I’ve been dating for more than 10 years, I was actually dating her before I even started Facebook, so if somehow I was trying to create Facebook to find more women, that probably would not have gone over too well in my relationship, and I probably would not still be married to her today.

We took the whole company to go see it the day it came out. I think there was this scene in the movie where we were drinking appletinis, and no one had ever heard of appletinis until this movie came out.

Finally, in response to a question about why he wears the same shirt every day, Zuckerberg replied:

You’ll be happy to know that there are multiple of the same shirt.

Chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg chimed in:

I joined the company almost seven years ago, and I thought one of the major things I contributed is I went around telling people, “You know, Mark actually has more than one of that T-shirt,” which people found very reassuring.

And Zuckerberg concluded:

I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community.

I feel like I’m not doing my job if I spend any of my energy on things that are silly or frivolous about my life.

Readers: What did you think of Zuckerberg’s first town-hall Q&A?