I watched the Facebook/Mark Zuckerberg hearing last week. I was transfixed to the TV watching Zuckerberg take on the Senate and the House. Quite simply he was amazing. He appeared genuine and confident with the right amount of humility. This was a tough assignment to say the very least. He appeared to have won the moment, but has he won the year?
There is nothing more important than trust when it comes to a company and its customers. The actual product is a far second if the customer trusts the company. This even applies to the rarified air of technology. Just look at IBM, perhaps the oldest technology company in existence.
IBM is proof of this adage. Rarely is IBM thought of as the leader in technology. While they may have innovation in their labs, their customers have always trusted that they would wait to deploy the technology until it was thoroughly market ready. IBM has seen countless companies come and go, but they survive during it 100 plus years. They guarded this trust so consistently a cliché was born – “you won’t get fired for buying IBM”.
Zuckerberg repeatedly said Facebook was a technology company. He was clear to say they were not a publisher. They owned the content, but they did not produce it. Now that very concept would make Randolph Hurst’s head explode! I know he said this for a variety of legal and regulatory reasons. However, I hope he does not lose sight of the most important reason. The entire news publishing business is built on trust, not so much the technology business. If you are an early adopter of technology, you expect shortcomings in the product. If you are reading the news, you want to trust it.
Facebook is the leading source of news for its users and they are creating the digital you. If you are a user of Facebook, your digital presence is largely shaped by Facebook. Up until now, most of us have not given that much (enough) thought. We like the fact that our feed is tailored to the things we like. That is because we blindly trust Zuckerberg and Facebook. He must feel like the king of the world right now with his dorm room to board room story. It is remarkable. However, if he wants Facebook to last 100 years, he had best ensure that trust is the foundation of his technology.
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