This story reflects the views of this author, but not necessarily the editorial position of Fast Company.
Over the past few weeks Mark Zuckerberg has seen firsthand how quickly social media can escalate a crisis. The Facebook CEO, armed with more digital power, influence, and data than many world leaders possess, is getting grilled in front of bipartisan lawmakers in Congress today and tomorrow, with Facebook users and tech observers watching closely.
In one sense, he has a leg up on most execs when it comes to containing the fallout and rebuilding trust: the head of Facebook is also a regular (if not necessarily voracious) Facebook user. According to research conducted by Domo and CEO.com, 60% of Fortune 500 CEOs aren’t active on social media, up a few percentage points from a year before–likely in part because the ROI of social media is so hard to capture. However, experts agree that engaging stakeholders authentically and transparently–particularly on social platforms–is a vital leadership skill, especially when crisis hits.
Related: How Facebook Blew It
So when Zuckerberg chose to stay silent for several days after the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke, he squandered some of his advantage, leaving many users (and even Facebook employees) in the dark. Zuckerberg has since posted several lengthy statements on his personal Facebook page, all of which are laden with with corporate-speak and legalese, widening the painful gap between corporate Facebook and the expectations of the platform’s 2.2 billion global users.
As Zuckerberg testifies, he should be working double-time: defending the platform to leaders on the Hill, while simultaneously hustling to regain trust among Facebook users who are following the hearings. Here are three ways that he can do that by creating meaningful interactions on the platform that he created.
Host A Facebook Live
Zuckerberg needs to meet his customers (and his workforce) in real time. Facebook Live is one of the most powerful ways to humanize a brand, many of which use it to effectively build trust with customers at scale. Zuckerberg should do the same while he’s in Washington this week. Going live on Facebook would show users he’s looking out for their interests.
Even if it can’t be live, Zuckerberg should at least do a post video sharing his thoughts after testifying. Taking a page from Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes, who regularly posts video updates for his staff, Zuckerberg can keep everyone feeling connected to his efforts in Washington this week to defend the company in real-time.
Share A Selfie
A crucial move in Zuckerberg’s crisis-management playbook should be to validate Facebook’s user community, and as silly as it may sound, selfies can help help do that. A simple selfie can prove an engaging tool, collapsing the distance to show that an executive is a real person, especially during a challenging time. CEOs like T Mobile’s John Legere and LinkedIn’s Jeff Weiner have used selfies to great effect to boost their brands and make themselves seem more accessible.
Zuckerberg already knows this himself. He’s posted some family photos on Facebook in recent weeks, including a shot from his seder during Passover recently. In fact, Zuckerberg is lucky to be in D.C. this week: The cherry blossoms in the Tidal Basin are still in bloom. They’ll make a great backdrop!
Reflect On The Experience When It’s All Over
In a Facebook post last Friday, Zuckerberg raised the issue of transparency. Genuine transparency involves providing accurate information and responding to what people want or need, not what feels “right” to the business itself. Over the past week or so, Zuckerberg has posted more details about political interference on the platform and Facebook’s plans to prepare for the Congressional midterms in November. While many important questions remain unanswered, this is a good start.
By posting transparently and consistently, Facebook’s plummeting leadership ratings (down a whopping 20 points in a recent poll) may yet recover. After testifying, Zuckerberg should round out this week by reflecting on his experience speaking to Congress and the issues that remain to be ironed out. It’s an opportunity for him to respect differences, be empathetic, and share his vision while signaling which changes he’s planning to make internally and externally.
In this tense moment for Facebook, the company’s CEO has an opportunity many other execs would kill for: a chance to leverage a vast social-media audience that is paying extremely close attention. Mark Zuckerberg should see that as an opportunity during his high-wire walk in Washington this week, not a liability.
Mordecai Holtz is the chief digital strategist of Blue Thread Marketing, a boutique digital agency working with clients in eight countries ranging from startups to the city of Jerusalem. He is also part of Huawei’s global network of Key Opinion Leaders.