Facebook Is Friend to Jobless and Small Business, Says Company COO

'Facebook economy' links businesses with potential consumers and employees.

September 14, 2011, 4:23 PM

Sept. 15, 2011— -- Sheryl Sandberg is widely considered the most powerful woman in Silicon Valley, and it's little wonder why.

Sandberg is Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, which could soon have 1 billion users and be worth $100 billion. A Harvard MBA and former Chief of Staff of the Treasury Department under Bill Clinton, Sandberg left Google to be CEO's Mark Zuckerberg's partner in crime, tasked with helping him take Facebook from scrappy start-up to Internet powerhouse.

The 42-year-old married mother of two rarely gives interviews, but she's speaking out about Facebook's role in trying to solve one of the most intractable problems of the day: unemployment.

To start with, she's hiring.

"Great [software] engineers in this economy...are in hugely high demand. And we all fight...for them," Sandberg said in an exclusive interview with "Nightline" anchor Bill Weir. "More students should study computer science. It's a great way to make sure you can be employed for the rest of your life."

But even if you didn't go to Harvard or can barely work a mouse, Sandberg says Facebook could be the key to your next job.

As everyone says, getting a job is all about "who you know." And chances are, most people you know are on Facebook.

"More than 60 percent of people who find jobs find them through people they know or people those people know. ... If you're looking for a job, you should be telling the people you know you're looking. But if you do that on Facebook ... you can tell all of your friends, and then they can pass it on to their friends," Sandberg said.

There are also job-seeking apps developed specifically for Facebook. Simply Hired, for example, has 5 million listings, Sandberg said.

Sandberg says Facebook helps people actually land jobs by researching potential employers. Over 9 million American business use Facebook to promote their businesses, allowing job seekers to contact companies before they put out the "help wanted" sign, and tailor their approach to what the company needs.

"A guy named Noah Salzman lost his job. He was a technician who worked on solar panel installation. And so he used Facebook to find the pages of all the local companies that did this. He did a lot of research, he knew about the company, applied, interviewed. And then when he got the job, he said it was like I got to interview the company before I got to meet them, on Facebook," Sandberg said.

Sandberg says they've seen great success among freelancers or small business owners who use Facebook Ads to help grow their businesses. Chris Meyer, a wedding photographer in the Twin Cities, bought ads targeting women who changed their Facebook relationship status to "engaged." The strategy worked.

"This year will be, hands down, the largest year that we've had. We're due to turn about 250 percent, 300 percent of what we did last year," said Meyer.

Targeted ads, however, can raise fears of privacy violation, perhaps Facebook's biggest albatross. For every new fiancee who welcomed Meyer's ad, there may have been others who were creeped out by it. Sandberg is quick to point out that users' information is never shared with advertisers.

COO Sandberg Says 'Facebook Economy' Has Created 250,000 Jobs

"Privacy is one of the most important things we do, and it's a very firm commitment we have to all of our users. We took his ad, and we showed it to all of those women. But we never gave a single bit of information on any of those women to Chris Meyer. We just show them something they're interested in," said Sandberg.

Sandberg said Facebook, by helping businesses grow, does something the economy has struggled to do: create jobs "in the ecosystem around us," she said.

Citing third-party studies with which the company has collaborated, Sandberg said "the Facebook economy" -- the ripple effect of the company's success that has spawned developers, programmers, and others -- had created "about 250,000 jobs."

As for the overall economy, Sandberg said we need to restore confidence: "consumer confidence to spend money, business confidence to hire."

How? First, a regulatory environment that encourages business and creates "the kind of entrepreneurs America has created: the Sam Waltons and Mark Zuckerbergs and Steve Jobs and Oprah Winfreys," she said.

Second, greatly improved education: "Our education system used to be one of the world's best, or the world's best. It is so far from that. We are failing our children, and we're failing the next generation. And over the long run, our competitiveness will be completely tied to how well we educate our children."

Sandberg has become a prominent role model for women in business, partly as a result of several of her speeches going viral.

"The data shows that women feel less self-confident than men. At every stage. And they're also less ambitious," she said.

Today her wish and advice for women is the same as when she was at Treasury, when, as reported in the New Yorker, she would invite junior staffmembers, many of them women, to join the senior officials at the main conference table.

"Women should sit at the table. Don't sit in the back of the room... Really be there, leaning forward in your career," she said.