If you had told me at the beginning of 2013 that before the year ended I would have the chance to interview Randi Zuckerberg – CEO of Zuckerberg Media, Facebook’s former Director of Market Development, and big sister to the site’s founder Mark Zuckerberg – I really don’t think I would have believed you. But the funny thing about working in social media and as a freelance writer is that what was formerly seen as impossible isn’t anymore. Opportunities can be presented just as much as you can seek them out on your own and now more than ever, we’re using tweets, emails and blog posts to carve out our own niche and get noticed online.
Few people understand what this means better than Randi, who can now add author to her resume with her two books “Dot Complicated” and “Dot” out this month. (Both of which I read on paperback – kicking it old school without a Kindle screen.) Today, I got to ask her about some of her time working at Facebook, trends she doesn’t like in social media, and where she sees the future of social heading.
Heather Taylor: Dot Complicated provides solutions for maintaining balance in a world where professional and personal are connected by the social and we are expected to be “on” 24/7. What inspired you to write this book?
Randi Zuckerberg: After I left Facebook, I spent some time traveling the world for speaking opportunities. Everywhere I went I’d encounter the same questions – how can I use social media to help my career? How can I get my kids to stop spending so much time online? How do I get my husband to stop using his phone at the dinner table? I wanted to help people to navigate some of the tricky situations that often arise because of technology, and hopefully preserve people’s faith in the positive power it holds.
HT: You also wrote a children’s book called Dot. Can you tell us who Dot is and what the inspiration behind that book was?
RZ: Dot is a spunky, tech-savvy little girl who is learning how to both play online and interact with the real world. As a mom to a 2.5-year-old, I wanted to create an engaging book for children to help them understand the importance of finding balance between the two.
HT: In Dot Complicated, you mention how early on you forgot to unplug and be present in the moment. What kinds of tips do you have on unplugging from social sites?
RZ: In my book, I talk a lot about the importance of setting aside a time to take a “digital sabbath” at least once a week. A time where you unplug and focus on your friends and your family right in front of you and really spend time in the moment. I try to set aside at least a few hours for this each weekend, in which my family gets my undivided attention and I set my mobile devices aside. I’ve found that if someone really needs me, they’ll call – I don’t need to be on email and social sites around the clock.
HT: What was the most difficult project you worked on when you were on the team at Facebook?
RZ: The Town Hall with President Obama was both the most challenging and most rewarding project I worked on during my time at Facebook, and it was actually my last project there as well.
HT: There are thousands of blogs and bloggers writing on and giving advice for every single topic under the sun today – what do you recommend a blogger do in order to make themselves stand out from the crowd?
RZ: The most valuable resource you have is your readers. Talk to them and interact with them to find out what would be most helpful to them in their everyday lives.
HT: What kind of advice do you have for anyone looking to pursue a career in social media today?
RZ: Learn from your mistakes and from the mistakes of others. Be authentic and do your research – social media challenges us to be quick with posting content; however, it is important that the contact you post is also accurate. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want to see printed in a newspaper.
HT: What’s your favorite social platform, outside of Facebook?
RZ: Lately, I am really getting into Instagram. I’ve been using it to post photos counting down to the launch of my two books!
HT: What are some trends in social you don’t like?
RZ: The VagueBooker. This is when someone posts a vague, unspecific update, like “I can’t believe that just happened,” or “Wow… really?” without any further explanation. They’re just begging their network to ask what happened or check in.
HT: What are you currently working on outside of the books – and would you ever consider returning back to Facebook?
RZ: We have a lot of exciting projects coming up with Zuckerberg Media. I can’t provide details yet, but over the next few months, we will have some exciting new TV projects to share. And while I loved my time at Facebook and it is still a huge part of my daily life, I’m enjoying being on this side of things right now.
HT: Where do you see social media heading in the next 5 years or even in less than a year from now?
RZ: Social media will continue to impact every aspect of our modern lives, from entertainment and the customer service experience, to fundraising, political campaigns and gaming. Technology will continue to open the gates for innovation and connectivity, so it is up to us to use it wisely.
HT: Bonus retweetable question! Your ultimate social media etiquette tip in 140 characters or less.
RZ: Use social media to enrich your life, not control it.
Image credit: Delbar Moradi