Mark Zuckerberg’s Elonization: How Meta’s CEO Is Doing Well

Mark Zuckerberg's Elonization: How Meta's CEO Is Doing Well

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has tried to appear more relevant among the tech elite

(Illustration by The Washington Post; Photo by The Washington Post; iStock)

Mark Zuckerberg has been trying to make himself cool again and more relevant to a tech elite caught up in Elon Musk’s online antagonism and offline antics.

Over the past year, Zuckerberg has appeared on podcasts hosted by provocateur Joe Rogan and AI researcher Lex Fridman, both popular with Twitter owner Musk’s fans. He posted sweaty action snaps on Instagram showcasing his jujitsu skills. And this week, he accepted Musk’s challenge to a cage fight following the news on Meta creating a Twitter competitor. The pair have agreed to fight at the Vegas Octagon, an Ultimate Fighting Championship arena, though it’s unclear if or when that will take place.

The strategy to introduce Zuckerberg as a visionary innovator to a tech-savvy audience that has lost enthusiasm for his social media empire has been worked out for years, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal issues. But Zuckerberg has really stepped it up over the past year, one of the people said, courting the same tech bros who have been fascinated by Musk, who is suddenly Zuckerberg’s competition in more ways than one.

As Meta struggles with layoffs and his hitherto unfulfilled dreams of the metaverse, I think even Mark feels like he’s not being respected, said Bhaskar Chakravorti, dean of global business at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. The cage match was a way for him to show that, look, he’s nervous. He can be a tech bro just like the next guy.

How Mark Zuckerberg Destroyed the Metas Workforce

Meta has long understood that Zuckerberg is more synonymous with its product than other Big Tech companies and has even conducted surveys on CEO sympathy and whether Facebook’s better days were behind it, said one of the people familiar with the strategy. company communication. Zuckerberg, in particular, is sensitive to being perceived as an innovator and interested in what the public thinks.

Facebook has moved to the metaverse. Now he wants to show off his artificial intelligence.

Meta’s communications relations team has positioned him as the company’s chief storyteller in recent years, directly announcing many of the company’s products, the people said. This has also meant putting him in front of journalists and influencers who they perceive as influential among the early adopters and tech workforce. This change also coincided with the company’s plans to rebrand itself as Meta and Zuckerberg’s decision to elevate global affairs president Nick Clegg to the company’s lead advocate for content moderation.

Zuckerberg has also been trying to win back the support of his workers in recent weeks, after tens of thousands of layoffs. The CEO defended his leadership internally, arguing that he should be judged on whether the company is making progress toward its business goals. And lately he’s been spending more time talking about the company’s new investment in AI products with the goal that they might become more enthusiastic about the company’s direction.

Zuckerberg took to Instagram to try and promote that edgy image. Three weeks ago, he posted a selfie sporting a camo vest, announcing that he’d just completed the Murph Challenge, a popular exercise challenge that calls for a heavy dose of running, pull-ups, push-ups and squats while wearing a 20-pound suit. weighted pack.

Even jujitsu, in the last two years, has obtained top marks. After it was reported that Zuckerberg was knocked unconscious during one of his matches, the CEO reached out to The New York Times to deny that it had happened, according to the paper.

In 2021, he posted a video of himself boarding with an American flag on July 4th.

These founders want to drive their story directly, said Brooke Hammerling, a public relations consultant for tech companies. The story of the CEO can get bigger than the company itself.

While Zuckerberg and Musk share many traits as tech CEOs, their public images have diverged from each other in recent years.

Zuckerberg’s image has taken a beating after a long period of scandals and political infighting over Facebook’s content moderation practices. More recently, Meta has been facing major problems in its business which have hampered the growth of the company. Its main blue app is losing its appeal among younger audiences who prefer the new Snapchat and TikTok apps. Slow post-pandemic e-commerce growth has impacted the company’s advertising business. An Apple change in privacy settings is estimated to have cost the company billions.

Meanwhile, Zuckerberg’s big bet on virtual and augmented reality seems years away from making any money, and Meta has been slower to build products in generative AI, which has already transformed the tech industry.

Musk, on the other hand, is the richest man in the world, thanks in large part to his stake in Tesla, of which he is the CEO. His rocket company, SpaceX, has won major government contracts, and his decision to buy Twitter last year and campaign for the right to free speech on the social media platform has won accolades from different corners of the tech industry.

Musk’s penchant for tweeting at odd hours and trolling his critics, as well as his crusade against cancel culture and the waking mind virus, have attracted political conservatives and leaders from Silicon Valley’s reactionary right. More of the contrarian tech crowd ensued as Musk cut Twitter’s workforce, called for a return to office, and vowed to build an alternative based wake-up AI, borrowing a compliment from Twitter’s extremely online factions.

The two billionaires have long argued in public. In 2016, Zuckerberg criticized Musk after a SpaceX rocket exploded and destroyed one of Facebook’s satellites that was part of a project to expand internet connectivity around the world. A year later, the two exchanged banter about their different perspectives on the risks of AI. In recent years, Musk has also advocated for the elimination of Facebook and has criticized the platforms’ role in facilitating the riots at the US Capitol on January 6.

Now, the two CEOs are preparing for another battle. Meta is exploring building a decentralized social media network as an alternative to Twitter, the news that prompted Musk to challenge battle.

I think there is another side to the viral match between the two, that now many more people are aware that Facebook wants to start an alternative to Twitter. And they’ll want to check that out when it’s announced, Chakravorti said. So this is free advertising.

Zuckerberg’s commitment to the rivalry may continue to be tested.

After Zuckerberg won two medals at his first jujitsu tournament in May, he took to Fridman’s podcast to discuss his interest in the sport and his vision for Meta. The two men became passionate about jujitsu, exchanging thoughts on why it’s such a difficult sport and what they learned about life by participating.

Fridman also insisted that Zuckerberg say something Musk says he did right on Twitter. Zuckerberg said Musk’s decision to make drastic cuts and changes to the company’s workforce emboldened other tech leaders, including himself, who might have been hesitant before following suit.

It was probably good for the industry that he made those changes, Zuckerberg said.

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