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Mark Zuckerberg’s Elonization: How Meta CEOs Play Cool

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been trying to appear more relatable among the tech elite.

(Washington Post illustration; Washington Post photo; iStock)

Mark Zuckerberg has been trying to make himself cool again and has more to do with the tech elite caught up in Elon Musk’s online antics and offline antics.

Over the past year, Zuckerberg has appeared on a podcast hosted by demagogue Joe Rogan and AI researcher Rex Friedman, both popular among fans of Twitter owner Musk. He posted a sweaty action scene on Instagram showing off his jiu-jitsu skills. And this week, he accepted Musk’s cage fight challenge after a news report. From Meta, which makes a Twitter competitor. The two agreed to fight at the Ultimate Fighting Championship arena, “Vegas Octagon”, but it’s unclear when that will take place.

The strategy to present Zuckerberg as a visionary innovator to a tech-savvy audience that has lost its passion for the social media empire has been in the making for years, according to people familiar with the matter who requested anonymity to discuss sensitive internal issues. But Zuckerberg has really ramped it up over the past year, wooing the same “tech brothers” who have been enamored with Musk. Musk has suddenly become a competitor to Zuckerberg in many ways.

As the meta struggles with layoffs and dreams of a metaverse that have yet to materialize, Bhaskar Chakravorti, dean of global business at Tufts University’s Fletcher School, said, “I think Mark is also getting the feeling he’s not being respected.” The cage match was “he said, ‘Look, he’s edgy. He could be a tech bro like the next one.’”

How Mark Zuckerberg Broke Meta’s Manpower

Meta has long known that Zuckerberg is more synonymous with its products than other Big Tech companies, even conducting surveys about its CEO’s likeability and whether it’s behind Facebook’s heyday, said one person familiar with the company’s communications strategy. Zuckerberg, in particular, is sensitive to being perceived as an innovator and cares about what the public thinks.

Facebook switched to metaverse. Now they want to show off their AI.

According to sources, Meta’s communications relations team has appointed him as the company’s chief storyteller in recent years, directing many of the company’s products. This also meant putting him in front of journalists and influencers who were perceived as influential by early adopters and techies. The change also coincided with the company’s plans to change its name to Meta and Zuckerberg’s decision to elevate Global Affairs President Nick Clegg to the company’s primary content moderation defender.

Following tens of thousands of layoffs in recent weeks, Zuckerberg has been trying to regain the support of its employees. The CEO defended his leadership internally, arguing that the company should be judged by whether it is making progress toward its business goals. And he recently spent more time talking about the company’s new product investment in artificial intelligence to get people more excited about the direction the company is headed.

Zuckerberg turned to Instagram to promote an edgy image. Three weeks ago, he posted a selfie wearing a camouflage vest and announced that he had just completed the “Muff Challenge,” a popular workout challenge that requires a ton of runs, pull-ups, push-ups, and squats while wearing 20 running shoes. -Pound weighted pack.

Over the past few years, Jujitsu has also topped billing. After reports surfaced that Zuckerberg was knocked unconscious during the game, the CEO contacted the New York Times and he denied it ever happened.

On July 4, 2021, he posted a video of himself riding a hoverboard while holding the American flag.

“These founders . . . You want to tell the story yourself. “The CEO story can grow bigger than the company itself.”

Zuckerberg and Musk share many characteristics as tech CEOs, but their public images have diverged in recent years.

Zuckerberg’s image has been disrupted by a longstanding scandal and policy battle over Facebook’s content moderation practices. More recently, Meta has faced major business challenges that have been holding back the company’s growth. The core blue app is losing its appeal among younger audiences who prefer the newer apps Snapchat and TikTok. The sluggish growth of e-commerce following the pandemic has curtailed the company’s advertising business. Apple’s privacy settings change is estimated to have cost the company billions of dollars.

Meanwhile, Zuckerberg’s big bets on virtual and augmented reality seem to be years away from paying off, and Meta has already been slow to make products out of generative artificial intelligence that has transformed the tech industry.

Musk, on the other hand, is the richest man in the world thanks to his stake in Tesla, of which he is CEO. His rocket company, SpaceX, has won major government contracts, and his decision to buy Twitter last year and promise freedom of expression on the social media platform has been praised by many in the tech sector.

Musk’s penchant for tweeting at irregular hours and harassing critics, and his campaign against “cancellation culture” and the “awakened mind virus,” have attracted political conservatives and leaders within Silicon Valley’s reactionary right. When Musk slashed Twitter’s workforce, demanded a return to office, and borrowed praise from Twitter’s ultra-online faction, promising to build a “powered” alternative to “awakened” AI, a more contrarian tech crowd followed. I learned

The two billionaires have been publicly sparring for a long time. In 2016, Zuckerberg criticized Musk after a SpaceX rocket exploded and destroyed one of Facebook’s satellites, part of a project to expand internet connectivity around the world. A year later, the two traded barbs over their differing views on the perils of artificial intelligence. Musk has in recent years defended the deletion of Facebook and criticized the platform’s role in fomenting the Jan. 6 Capitol riots.

Now, the two CEOs are gearing up for another battle. Meta is looking to build a decentralized social media network as an alternative to Twitter, the news that sparked Musk’s challenge.

“I think there is another side to the viral cage match between the two. More people now know that Facebook wants to launch a Twitter alternative. And they will want to check it out when it is released,” said Chakravorti. “So this is free advertising.”

Zuckerberg’s will to compete can be tested again and again.

After winning two medals at the first Jiu-Jitsu tournament in May, Zuckerberg appeared on Fridman’s podcast to talk about his interest in the sport and his vision for Meta. The two enthused about why Jiu-Jitsu is such a difficult sport and what they learned about life through participation.

Fridman also pressured Zuckerberg to say what he thought Musk did right on Twitter. Zuckerberg said Musk’s decision to drastically cut and change the company’s workforce has emboldened other tech leaders (including himself) who may have previously been hesitant to follow Musk.

“It would have been good for the industry for him to make that change,” said Zuckerberg.

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