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Sheryl Sandberg announced her retirement from Facebook parent company Meta on Wednesday. Although she ranks as number two of the company directly behind founder Mark Zuckerberg, Sandberg was the one who made Facebook rich and powerful.

Sandberg made the switch from Google to Facebook in 2008. The social network only existed for four years and started to grow considerably. Zuckerberg was 23 years old, Sandberg 39.

Her plan was to stay at Facebook for five years, develop herself as a businesswoman and then run a large company. She wanted to turn the social network into a sustainable business that would become successful and profitable in terms of ad sales.

She ended up staying fourteen years. In addition to Zuckerberg, Sandberg became the face of Facebook. “I hardly knew how to run a business in 2008,” Zuckerberg writes after the announcement of Sandberg’s retirement. “Sheryl shaped our advertising department, hired amazing people, forged our management culture and taught me how to run the company. She deserves credit for so much of what Meta is today.”

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The focus on ad sales has done Facebook no favors. In 2021, about 97 percent of fakebook’s 117 billion dollars (109 billion euros) in revenue came from the sale of advertisements. That was different in 2008. “There were some advertisements, but they hardly yielded anything,” Sandberg recalls in her farewell message on Facebook.

With Sandberg at the top, Facebook grew into a company that now has more than 2.8 billion daily users on its platforms. Meta, as Facebook’s parent company is now called, is now also the owner of WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger. All popular services with many users.

After good years, the scandals followed

But the success also has a downside. Under Sandberg’s leadership, Facebook faced huge scandals. In 2015, for example, data was leaked from tens of millions of users, which were later used to show targeted (political) advertising. This happened, among other things, during the election campaign of US President Donald Trump in 2016.

That advertising policy has been discredited more often over the years. For example, it was not always clear who was behind the advertisements. Advertisers could also show their ads to people with a certain background or not, until Facebook changed that policy. Until the beginning of this year, it was possible to offer advertisements based on sexual orientation and the religion of users.

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Also at the beginning of 2021 there was controversy around Facebook, after the storming of the Capitol in the American capital Washington. Sandberg said at the time that the storming was organized “on platforms that cannot prevent the spread of hate messages like us, that are not as transparent as we are”. Later it turned out that there were also frequent calls on Facebook.

Mark Zuckerberg remained the face, but Sheryl Sandberg made Facebook big

Mark Zuckerberg remained the face, but Sheryl Sandberg made Facebook big

Exciting time for Meta

Sandberg is considered one of the most important women in high positions of power in the American Silicon Valley, where the largest tech companies are located. She says she is leaving to focus on philanthropic efforts and wants to spend more time with her family.

Sandberg remains involved with Facebook as a board member. Who will take over her top position there is not yet known.

Although the company is financially healthy, it is growing less rapidly than before. It is also under a magnifying glass with legislators.

The metaverse (everything you can think of in a virtual world) should be the new success of Meta, but a clear revenue model is not yet there. Furthermore, it will be exciting what the new European regulations on the online protection of citizens will mean for the company. In that respect, Sandberg’s successor has big shoes to fill.

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Mark Zuckerberg remained the face, but Sheryl Sandberg made Facebook big


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