Tavis McGinn spent six months working for Facebook, and in that time he had just one task: monitoring public perceptions of CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg. He initially applied for a different job, but was asked if he’d be interested in using his data background — McGinn previously worked at Google — to monitor Zuck. “It was my job to do surveys and focus groups globally to understand why people like Mark Zuckerberg, whether they think they can trust him, and whether they’ve even heard of him. That’s especially important outside of the United States,” McGinn told the Verge.
McGinn — who signed an NDA with Facebook — didn’t offer a ton of details on the nitty-gritty of his tracking work at the company, but it was “advanced researched,” and he used a wide variety of questions to get a read on how people were feeling about Zuckerberg. Questions like “Do people like Mark’s speeches? Do they like his interviews with the press? Do people like his posts on Facebook?” He also mentioned that infamous time Zuckerberg went on Facebook Live from his backyard and grilled for a while and talked a whole lot about meat. “How do people respond to that?” McGinn also didn’t offer specifics on how much this research cost — similar studies were conducted with Sheryl Sandberg — but basically said that it didn’t come cheap. “You have one individual, 33 years old, who has basically full control of the experience of 2 billion people around the world,” McGinn said of Zuckerberg’s power at the company. “That’s unprecedented. Even the president of the United States has checks and balances.”
A Facebook spokesperson told the Verge that McGinn’s work “was not designed to influence Facebook products or policies.” McGinn has since left the company and gone on to found his own market-research firm, Honest Data. “I worked there for six months and I realized that even on the inside, I was not going to be able to change the way that the company does business,” McGinn said.