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Op-ed: Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg are acting more like celebrities than company execs

  • Zuckerberg's political tour, Sandberg's book tour not typical executive itineraries
  • Travels reflect how much Facebook's product has infiltrated American lives
  • Facebook's business, meanwhile, has been humming along

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg are busy doing things quite atypical for top executives of a high-profile public company.

Zuckerberg has been criss-crossing the country -- in the Deep South in February, then the Midwest last week -- on visits that closely resemble those of an aspiring politician.

Rather than meeting with the leaders of other companies that either partner with or advertise on Facebook, for example, he's seeking out everyday citizens who voted for President Donald Trump. In recent weeks, he's visited a dairy farm in Wisconsin, dined with a family in Ohio and spent a few minutes working on a Ford assembly line -- and documented everything on his Facebook page.

Sandberg, meanwhile, will be in San Francisco on Thursday as part of a tour in support of her new book, which delves into her emotional struggles following her husband's sudden death in 2015.

On Wednesday, the two will collaborate on something more germane to their Facebook jobs -- conducting a conference call with Wall Street analysts to discuss first-quarter results.

This integration of personal and professional time is not uncommon for executives who are nearing retirement or otherwise close to moving on to their next challenge.

Yet Zuckerberg and Sandberg are both relatively young, which makes the overlap of Sandberg's book tour and Zuckerberg's travels all the more striking.

The coinciding tours by Facebook's high-profile tandem could be nothing more than a reflection of just how much the company's service has infiltrated the lives of its users.

When over 200 million Americans use your product every day, it's hard to do anything without being noticed.

A picture of Zuckerberg eating a sandwich in Madison, WI, over the weekend, for example, was shared by 305,000 Facebook users.

And Zuckerberg's maverick tendencies and Sandberg's personal sharing are not exactly new.

Zuckerberg ruffled feathers on buttoned-down Wall Street investors by wearing a hoodie during the company's IPO tour in 2012.

But thumbing your nose at Wall Street investors when they're falling over each other to buy your stock is well within the purview of a trend-setting CEO.

Showing up in Alabama -- home state of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose immigration policies Zuckerberg has criticized -- and mixing with the locals is much less so.

The visit to shake hands with the citizens of Bayou La Batre, AL, where the fictional character Forrest Gump's shrimp fleet was based, was deemed provocative enough for the chair of the Alabama Republican Party to call Zuckerberg "another elite liberal."

As Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump both proved, candidates with little national political experience can go far with a candidacy promoted heavily on U.S. social media.

Meanwhile, Sandberg's first book, "Lean In," offered advice on how to balance work and life.

Yet her new one, "Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy" is a memoir about coping with grief after the death of her husband, and journeys much further afield from her role at Facebook.

All this has worked out fine so far for Facebook's business.

The company is expected to have boosted revenue by 45 percent in the first three months of the year according to Yahoo Finance, a heady achievement for a firm of its size.

Its shares are up more than 30 percent this year, more than twice the gain of the broader market for tech stocks.

As long as the company's sales and stock price keep climbing, there's likely to be little grumbling from Facebook investors about how its two top executives spend their time. But if the company starts missing expectations, investors will have a right to ask whether its two top execs should be spending more time minding the business.