Why Women Should Think Like Mark Zuckerberg

Not up for shelling out $100 to message Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg? Social innovator and marketing thought leader Ekaterina Walter has a much cheaper way to pick the brain of the famed boy wonder. Her new book, Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook’s Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg, examines the success of Facebook and its controversial founder.

Focusing on what Facebook has done right, Walter outlines what she believes are the the five “P”s of Facebook’s meteoric rise. A positive, informative and inspirational book, Walter also delves into the success of many other successful companies with maverick leaders, including Zappos, Pixar, TOMS, 3M and Southwest Airlines.

To those who wince at Walter’s praise of Zuckerberg, she writes, “…no matter what one thinks about young Zuckerberg, one cannot call eight solid years of his company’s unprecedented growth pure luck.”

Walter is an unusual mix of female technology genius and down to earth “woman’s woman.” She is a member of the online social network I run, called A Band of Wives. A believer in our plan to change the world by supporting the women in our own backyards, Walter was happy to answer some of my questions about the book and how she manages life as a working mom.

You outline a formulaic, point-by-point system for success. Do you believe, even if the “5 P’s” are followed precisely and applied the way you describe, that there may be a “x-factor” necessary for success?

Think Like Zuck is an analogy of a leader who follows his/her passion, leads with purpose, builds great teams and strives for continued excellence in his/her product (or services). It is a mentality that drives great leaders to building successful business and the approach they use to doing so.

Hence, the 5 Ps described in the book are:

PASSION — Keep your energy and commitment fully charged at all times by pursuing something you believe in

PURPOSE — Don’t just create a great product, drive a meaningful movement

PEOPLE — Build powerful teams that can execute your vision

PRODUCT — Create a product that is innovative, that breaks all the rules, that changes everything

PARTNERSHIPS — Build powerful partnerships with people who fuel imagination and energize execution

But this isn’t the exhaustive list by any means. There are a number of different factors that need to align to drive success. For example, timing is important — are the customers ready to embrace your product? Even a little bit of luck is needed every now and then. Discussion of all of them would probably not fit in one book. So I chose to focus on the ones that I’ve witnessed to be more impactful over the years in anyone’s success and growth.

The title “Think Like Zuck” seems very masculine. Can you explain why this book is just as (if not more) important for women to read?

Think Like Zuck is more of a way of thinking, a philosophy of a leader. And women have the same potential to be leaders as men. Oprah, Estee Lauder, Amelia Earhart and many other female leaders were driven by their passion, led with purpose, understood true power of partnerships, persevered and exemplified excellence. Some of them are quoted in my book.

The lessons in the book are universal. Working within the large brand but advising start-ups in my spare time, I’ve seen both men and women apply them to drive change and make a difference. But it seems to me that women are naturally more inclined to follow their heart, listen to their gut and rally people around the same vision. And when they do that, women make great visionaries. Sometimes we just need a little bit of encouragement, someone saying “Go for it!” That is why it is critical for women to support each other. We are much stronger and more successful together than we are apart! That’s my mantra. That is the reason I spend a lot of time mentoring other women and supporting them, and that’s why I never said no to anyone who seeks career advice.

You paint a pretty rosy picture of Mark Zuckerberg: his intentions, his challenges and his accomplishments. What would you say to the people who claim he is not the most likeable or ethical character?

Zuck is a very public figure. And just like with anyone else who has the level of visibility that he does, there will always be people who praise him and people who criticize him. Undoubtedly, he made some smart decisions and some poor decisions. As a brand marketer, I’ll be the first one to tell you that it isn’t easy to work with Facebook sometimes.

I think we should learn from others rather than judge them. No one is perfect. And no matter the shortcomings we think Zuckerberg has, there is a lot to learn from him. That’s what I tried to focus on in my book.

You are not only in a high-powered job, you are also a mother and a wife (and find time to travel and dance, according to your website). What are tips for being a modern woman juggling so much?

I don’t think the secret sauce exists, really. And I believe that the balance is an elusive concept. If you prioritize something, it means you are sacrificing something else. The way I look at it is this: You need to be crystal clear on what your priorities are and be brutally protective of your time. Outline what you need to focus on (work vs. family vs. exercise vs. volunteer work vs. your hobbies or social life) and which one gets the priority at any point in time. There are times to multi-task and there are times to be fully present. Do whatever works to increase your productivity. Notice what times of day your productivity is at its highest and book that time to do strategic work, to write and brainstorm or execute on your projects. Book the rest of the time for meetings and more mundane tasks.

And don’t be afraid to delegate and ask for help. Sometimes we seek excellence (which is great!), but by doing so we are taking on the tasks that we may not trust others to execute and in the process over-committing. Delegate, empower others to jump in and support you and you might be surprised at the initiative and quality of work you see from others. And if your finances allow it, hire help. Outsource all the work you dread doing like cleaning your house, for example. Preserving your sanity is much more important in the long run.

What do you say in response to studies that say social media can be detrimental to our development, independently and as a culture?

There are always two sides of a coin to everything in life. The fact that kids nowadays are constantly glued to their devices isn’t a good thing. But reality is that face-to-face interaction is still the activity valued by most teenagers. Multiple studies show that they look for real-life experiences and want to experience adventures with their friends.

Good or bad, the world evolves and we need to evolve with it. Millennials are demanding access to social networks at work and value that over monetary compensation. Youngsters grew up feeling comfortable with technology. Facebook created a sweet 24/7 addiction of information flow and connectedness. I definitely think that the fact that kids hide behind the avatars of social networks and gaming consoles isn’t a healthy trend. That’s why I ensure my daughter gets plenty of social interaction outside of home and not a ton of time with technology (except for educational purposes). That is why my husband and I insist that every night we have a family dinner, free of technology and toys, so that we could have a conversation about the day and plan for the next one.

I have three kids, so this comes up a lot in my house: At what age will you let your daughter have a Facebook page?

Mine is still 3 years old and I am not yet sure what the world would look like in 10 years. So I guess my answer would be “when I feel confident that she understands the cons and pros of having a digital life.”

Privacy is my biggest concern. For example, I have always been extra-cautious with what I am posting online. My mantra is: even if I post to a close group of friends, if I don’t want the whole world to see it, I don’t post it at all. For example, I never post pictures of my daughter anywhere online because I feel like she gets to have a say in what pictures of her are floating out there on the web. It isn’t my decision to make, it is hers. Though I have to tell you — it is sometimes super hard not to share that cute little face with others.

Because of your extensive marketing experience, do you have any advice for marketing tactics or strategies that might win over those who are not as social media savvy?

My advice will probably be very fundamental.

Build relationships: just like you build relationships with your partners and investors to advance your business, you have to build relationships with your customers… and social media is the best way to do so. Listen to them, understand what they relate to, know what they like, engage with them in meaningful ways that show that you listen.

Love your customers: it doesn’t matter where you connect with them, if you love your customers and you delight them with your service and personal attention, you will always do well. Here is an example of how REI delighted me this holiday season with custom-created video response to my tweet.

Go back to basics: know your objective, know your audience, and based on that, decide what social channels will work best for you. Don’t get distracted by the next shiny object, focus on what works best. But don’t be afraid to try new things and track the performance as much as you can so that you could learn in real-time.

Add value: there is a ton of ways to add value to your customers. Contrary to a popular belief that the customers are only looking for discounts, they are also looking to understand, learn, and grow. They are looking for great content. You can either engage within the existing communities like LinkedIn groups and offer your expertise to those communities on a regular basis, or create your own communities on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or your blog and offer valuable content/advice/offers to your customers that will keep them engaging with you.

Building relationships and producing amazing, custom content takes time, no doubt. But that is the only way to stand out from the noise and delight your customers.

This column first appeared on the Huffington Post