Facebook Gets a New 'Friend'

Q&A: Sandberg Discusses Her Role as Zuckerberg's No. 2

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Facebook has appointed a No. 2 for 24-year-old CEO Mark Zuckerberg in Sheryl Sandberg, a Google veteran who most recently served as VP-global sales and operations. Ms. Sandberg surely will be called on to help figure out how to monetize Facebook's massive user base -- and keep that user base growing.
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's new chief operating officer
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's new chief operating officer

The social-networking site's number of unique visitors grew almost 80% year over year to a total of 33.9 million in January, according to ComScore, but was slightly down from December's 34.7 million.

What's more, she will be responsible for creating an ad solution that has scale -- the beauty of the systems she launched at Google.

Ms. Sandberg was on her second-to-last day as a Google employee at the time of her conversation with Ad Age, but in two weeks she will assume a post just down the road at Facebook's digs in Palo Alto, Calif.

Advertising Age: Facebook is a young company, and there's a lot of talk about it being a real innovation engine. You joined Google when it was a young company, in 2001. Does Facebook remind you of what Google was when you joined it?

Sheryl Sandberg: Certainly similar in terms of size, but I don't think any two companies are alike, and it's hard to know what it's like until you join. I've spent time with Mark. ... His vision of the power of people's social connections and how the internet can be used to take advantage of that is very compelling. [That vision is] to build communities, share information and make the sharing of information easier and more efficient. It's to take your personal connections and allow them to help influence your lives. ... Technology has changed our lives in so many ways, but in many ways, what technology will be able to do is still ahead of us.

Ad Age: Is finding an ad model that scales priority No. 1?

Ms. Sandberg: When we talk about scale, we mean it along a bunch of different dimensions. We mean it along the company dimension; it's a company that needs to scale. ... Certainly global scale is something we've spent a lot of time talking about. I've had a very global job at Google and have a lot of international experience, and I think Facebook has been a company that's worked largely in English until recently but has aspirations to be a global company and has done some great work on that front. Obviously scaling the business model, which is advertising-based, is an important part of the challenge as well.

Ad Age: You worked in President Clinton's administration. How might that experience help you at Facebook?

Ms. Sandberg: I spent the beginning of career at the Treasury Department and working in a complex organization like the Treasury Department -- 140,000 people at the time -- you see how organizations run at massive scale. Having seen how an organization runs at massive scale really helped me when I was building my team at Google ... and I think that lesson applies again. Having had the experience of being at Google when it's small, when it's growing, and then something as big as the Treasury Department, shapes you.

Ad Age: You've also spent much time working on Google.org. What excites you about how social networking can affect the philanthropy space?

Ms. Sandberg: Philanthropy is about people trying to take the resources they have -- ideas, monetary resources, time -- and put them to good use. Is social networking part of that? Absolutely. I've done some cause stuff on Facebook as a user and have seen the power of what it can do.

Ad Age: There are a lot of folks in the internet space banking on advertising to underwrite their business models. Do you think there will be enough ad dollars to support it all?

Ms. Sandberg: It's a hard question to answer because we don't know what the internet is. Can advertising support the internet right now? Well, it kind of does. ... I'm a huge believer that advertising is important to companies but it's also hugely important to consumers -- and those consumers are Facebook users as well as Google users as well as Yahoo and Microsoft, all kinds of internet users. So do I think advertising is key to this going forward for everyone involved? Of course. Do I know that the internet will be largely supported by advertising going forward? I mean, we don't even know what the internet's going to do in 20 years, let alone how it's going to be monetized.
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