Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg meets users of FB groups in Singapore to find out their needs

Facebook's chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg met eight "regional community leaders" from Indonesia, India, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, during the first Asia-Pacific Facebook Community event organised by Facebook. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/ SHERYL SANDBERG
In a rare visit to Singapore, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg (on stage, in white T-shirt with text) held a talk at Facebook Asia Pacific Women's Leadership Day in Singapore on Tuesday (Nov 7) night, which gathers female Facebook employees to celebrate, learn, inspire and share with one another. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/ SHERYL SANDBERG

SINGAPORE -Ms Sheryl Sandberg, the No 2 person at tech giant Facebook and one of Silicon Valley's most prominent female leaders, met users of Facebook groups on Wednesday (Nov 8) to get feedback on how to improve this function on the social media platform.

In Singapore on a rare visit, Ms Sandberg, the US company's chief operating officer, met eight "regional community leaders" from Indonesia, India, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand at the company's first Asia-Pacific Facebook Community event. It was held at Marina Bay Sands.

These leaders are administrators who run and manage Facebook groups.

They had started groups for social good, ranging from helping domestic workers learn about financial literacy to helping blind Facebook users transcribe text to speech.

"Before social media, one person couldn't just start something. And what social media, like Facebook, really aims to change is to give every single person a voice," Ms Sandberg told them.

"We built the platform, but you did this - your voice was strong, you knew what you were saying, and you helped other women, parents, people - that was the goal all along."

She disclosed that the Asia Pacific region is the fastest-growing region for the number of people who use Facebook groups.

More than 420 million people, or 56 per cent of active Facebook users in the Asia Pacific, use them.

"We are making a major investment in Groups," she said. "The engineering, the product teams are growing, so you will definitely see a lot more features and functionalities come to Groups."

Ms Grace Melia from Indonesia, a community leader, said when she found out her daughter would be born with special needs, owing to congenital rubella syndrome back, she went on Facebook to share her story. That was in 2012.

"I made a Facebook status - is there anyone there with a special needs kid? The doctors can give medical advice, but I need to share and talk to someone, to get over this denial phase," said the 27-year-old.

Friends started messaging her on the social media platform with their own stories, leading her to start Rumah Ramah Rubella, a Facebook group for parents of children born with rubella-caused congenital diseases.

Its popularity spread and it has more than 19,000 members this year.

Following its success, it lobbied the Indonesian government to provide free vaccinations against the disease for its citizens.

Another leader at the event is Ms Jacqueline Loh, chief executive of Singapore non-governmental organisation Aidha. It teaches maids in Singapore how to manage their money and start businesses.

She said the meeting gave her fresh insights g on the different ways Facebook is used "to enable interactions in these various communities".

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