Facebook has reportedly hired a full-time pollster to monitor CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s approval ratings worldwide.
The Verge reports that last year Facebook hired Tavis McGinn, a former employee at Google where he worked on multiple marketing campaigns for the company’s products, to gauge public perception of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. McGinn interviewed at Facebook hoping to work in the company’s market research department but was soon asked if he would act as Zuckerberg’s personal pollster, a position which he accepted in April of 2017. McGinn joined Facebook around the time that Mark Zuckerberg began his all-American tour across the United States, a move which many saw as a political campaign stunt by the CEO.
“It was a very unusual role,” said McGinn. “It was my job to do surveys and focus groups globally to understand why people like Mark Zuckerberg, whether they think they can trust him, and whether they’ve even heard of him. That’s especially important outside of the United States.” McGinn stated some of the questions about the CEO that he tracked included, “Not just him in the abstract, but do people like Mark’s speeches? Do they like his interviews with the press? Do people like his posts on Facebook? It’s a bit like a political campaign, in the sense that you’re constantly measuring how every piece of communication lands. If Mark’s doing a barbecue in his backyard and he hops on Facebook Live, how do people respond to that?”
The company reportedly worked hard to develop a deeper understanding of the public perception of Zuckerberg outside of a simple “like” or “dislike” rating, “If Mark gives a speech and he’s talking about immigration and universal health care and access to equal education, it’s looking at all the different topics that Mark mentions and seeing what resonates with different audiences in the United States,” McGinn says. “It’s very advanced research.” Similar research was also conducted in relation to Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg.
McGinn measured public approval of both Sandberg and Zuckerberg, this information was then provided directly to the Facebook CEO and COO themselves as well as their lieutenants, communications teams, and external PR agencies. Surveys and focus groups were performed around the world in order to gain an insight into the global opinion of the two tech executives, McGinn did not state outright how much the project cost but did say that it was “very, very expensive.”
Facebook reportedly began monitoring public perception of Mark Zuckerberg approximately two years ago due to the CEO’s close ties to the company’s public brand and image, “Facebook is Mark, and Mark is Facebook,” McGinn stated. “Mark has 60 percent voting rights for Facebook. So you have one individual, 33 years old, who has basically full control of the experience of 2 billion people around the world. That’s unprecedented. Even the president of the United States has checks and balances. At Facebook, it’s really this one person.”
McGinn only stayed at Facebook for six months, leaving after he decided that the social media platform was actively having a negative effect on the world. “I joined Facebook hoping to have an impact from the inside,” stated McGinn. “I thought, here’s this huge machine that has a tremendous influence on society, and there’s nothing I can do as an outsider. But if I join the company, and I’m regularly taking the pulse of Americans to Mark, maybe, just maybe that could change the way the company does business. I worked there for six months and I realized that even on the inside, I was not going to be able to change the way that the company does business. I couldn’t change the values. I couldn’t change the culture. I was probably far too optimistic.”