A lesson from Mark Zuckerberg on 60 Minutes: Don’t bash your competitors

Devon-McDonald by

Last night I tuned into 60 Minutes as I typically do on lazy Sunday evenings. Nothing wraps up the weekend like commentary from Andy Rooney (a fellow Colgate alum – he graduated a few years before me).

Last night I was particularly intrigued by the segment — the empire known as Facebook. I mean, I was so intrigued that I actually closed out of Facebook and put down my computer to watch the program. Yes, I’m an addict, and my fiance is about 2 seconds away from having a social media intervention with me.

At any rate, Lesley Stahl showed no mercy with Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder. Stahl is a seasoned pro of course — she has no fear in asking the difficult questions, and that’s what we all love about her. It was just 3 years ago that Mark Zuckerberg was visibly uncomfortable (sweating and fidgeting- 7:52 in video below) when the press grilled him on the privacy issues surrounding Facebook. But this time around, the so-called “toddler CEO” seemed calm, cool and collected, despite the sensitive subjects of Lesley Stahl’s questions. Oh, and he barely blinked. What’s up with that?

While Mark Zuckerberg still gave off some arrogant vibes, I definitely gained a great deal of respect for him. He has managed to prove all of his critics wrong. Everyone said he was too young to successfully lead a corporation the size of Facebook, and everyone also said he should have sold Facebook to Yahoo when they put a bid on it for $1 billion back in 2006. Zuckerberg stood his ground. And today, he’s managing a business valued somewhere between $35-50 billion… and growing. The possibilities are endless.

One thing that really impressed me… Zuckerberg refused to talk negatively about Google, arguably one of Facebook’s biggest competitors. Whenever Ms. Stahl tried to dig in about Facebook’s plans of pushing Google out of the way, dominating the Internet as a single force, and hiring much of their staff from the search giant — Zuckerberg was very humble, and refused to trash talk.

Sales teams and management teams at expansion stage businesses that aspire to have the same growth as Facebook (and who wouldn’t, honestly?!), can truly learn something from the 26 year old. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure Zuckerberg’s PR reps coached him quite a bit on what to say (and what not to say) since his more “awkward” interviews with the press; however, there is still something to be said about showing class when speaking about your competition. Rather than pointing out your competitor’s flaws, focus more on your business’s competitive advantage. Zuckerberg had the opportunity to lay into Google — after all his business is growing far more rapidly than Google in recent years. And yes, Google should be scared. But he didn’t talk about them negatively at all. And he turned out looking a.) not threatened and b.) respectable.

If you missed 60 minutes last night because you were decorating your Christmas tree or watching football, watch this video to check out the clip yourself — Lesley Stahl starts digging in about Facebook vs. Google at 11:14.
PS. 60 Minutes Executive Producer, Jeff Fager, is also a Colgate grad.

A proud alumna and major facebookaholic,