Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Social Network, Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, and Social Media Public Relations

The movie "The Social Network" premiered in New York City this past Friday and will be widely distributed on October 1st. The screenplay was written by Aaron Sorkin and is based on Ben Mezrich's book, "The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal."

According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook tried to influence the narrative in "The Social Network." Last month, the New York Times stated that, "[b]ehind the scenes, however, Mr. Zuckerberg and his colleagues have been locked in a tense standoff with the filmmakers" regarding the content of the film." I don't blame Facebook for trying to persuade the filmmakers to create a film that puts its founder in the best possible light; however, Facebook needs to realize that trying to massage a message in the Social Media Age is very difficult. Instead of trying to ignore "The Social Network," Facebook should embrace and own the story of its founding with its warts, real and imagined.

In the movie, "Clear and Present Danger," the fictional president has a public relations problem on his hand because a close friend of his may have been involved in drug trafficking. Harrison Ford's character (Jack Ryan) advises the president something along the lines that he should tell the media that the friend in question was not just a friend but a close friend. This advice killed the story because the fictional president embraced and owned up to the relationship.

On December 2, 2009, and then again on December 10, 2009, I blogged how Tiger Woods should handle his public relations situation and provided David Letterman and Meredith Baxter as examples of great Social Media public relations. As the world knows, Woods did not listen to my advice. Woods allowed the situation to spiral out of control and he lost his family, hundreds of millions of dollars, and his ability to focus on his profession.

Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg should openly embrace and promote the movie, "The Social Network" because downplaying the movie and/or ignoring it enables others to own the narrative. Zuckerberg is extremely hypocritical because he wants everyone to share their private information but he refuses to reciprocate. If Zuckerberg held a press conference and publicly explained the entire situation regarding the founding of Facebook and was open and honest about all the lawsuits he has had to settle surrounding Facebook's founding the story would die a natural death because he would own the narrative.

I have read Ben Mezrich's book, "The Accidental Billionaries" and David Kilpratrick's "The Facebook Effect". Mezrich's book is a much more interesting account than Kilpatrick's. In addition, I watched Zuckerberg's recent Oprah appearance and Zuckerberg seemed uncomfortable when "The Social Network" was brought up.

The truth in how Facebook was started is most likely somewhere in between Mezrich's account and Kilpatrick's Facebook endorsed version. "The Social Network" has been made and Facebook and Zuckerberg's public relations team should embrace movie. Facebook's stance towards the movie is only going to encourage more people to want to see it.

The bottom line is that Facebook and Zuckerberg need to reevaluate their Social Media Public Relations strategy.

To learn how to create and execute a Social Media Public Relations and Crisis Management Plan and to understand the legal issues that may affect your plans you may contact me at http://www.shearlaw.com.

Copyright 2010 by the Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC. All rights reserved.

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