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You’ve probably read some of the vast amount of thoughts on Sarah Lacy’s interview with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg at SXSW yesterday — if not just go here and pick a link. Basically, most people were unhappy with the way it went down, finding it unprofessional and lacking substance.
Today, Zuckerberg held a follow-up Q&A session at the Facebook Developers Garage. Though he stated he was always planning on talking at this event, it was pretty clear this was meant to be a follow-up to diffuse the situation that arose out of the previous day’s event.
Zuckerberg acknowledged that opening up the interview with Lacy earlier to questions from the audience might have been the smart play. He then promised: “We can talk about anything you want.”
What the majority of the people wanted, was to ask more questions about data sharing and privacy. What the crowd got was more non-committal and sometimes canned answers — but it didn’t matter.
By simply extending this olive branch (of another Q&A session) to the community, Zuckerberg was able to return the discussion back to what it should have been about — real issues concerning Facebook.
This could have been the latest in a string of bad PR blows for Facebook dating back to their launch of the News Feeds. Users were outraged when they first saw that function — and now many of the same users find it to be the best part of the site. So why the outrage initially? Because Facebook didn’t explain it as they should have, and forgot to talk about privacy controls.
The same is true to an extent with Beacon. Facebook completely mishandled that launch from a PR perspective. Naturally, when it backfired, it was a disaster for them.
This has led some to call for Facebook to bring in someone besides Zuckerberg to run the company. Our own Eric Eldon talked with Zuckerberg about this recently after the company brought on Sheryl Sandberg, previously of Google, to be the new chief operating officer (our coverage).
However, moves such as the one Zuckerberg made today, may give some hope.
While the audience gave him a nice round of applause as he left the stage, the last ten minutes of the session were almost drowned out by people in the back taking advantage of the open bar. They lost interest — something which Zuckerberg probably didn’t mind too much. After all, many came simply to see if Zuckerberg would cause more of a stir with candid comments about the interview debacle.
In the end, for others, this event wasn’t about the answers, it was about the effort.
Those who do care more about the answers should check out Marshall Kirkpatrick’s interview with Zuckerberg at ReadWriteWeb.
Brian Solis of PR 2.0 also spoke with Sarah Lacy for her side on the ordeal.
Embedded below find the Qik video Robert Scoble took of the Q&A.
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