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

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

ByABC News
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.