If you get an email from a “Fortune 500 CEO who is traveling the United States” wanting to meet with you, don’t automatically assume it’s a scam — it could be Facebook chief exec Mark Zuckerberg aiming to hang out.
Zuckerberg has been on his Tour de America, hitting several small towns from Iowa to Ohio. He’s been looking to talk to “regular people” he usually wouldn’t run into, in an effort to better understand the impact Facebook and fake news had on the 2016 election.
But his trips have often run into speed bumps, as the Wall Street Journal reported. A youth hockey coach in Minnesota initially deleted the obscure Fortune 500 email, thinking “it was a multilevel marketing scheme.”
Zuckerberg usually gives little advance notice before meeting with commoners: a candy store owner in Wilton, Iowa was told the Facebook honcho was showing up five minutes before his arrival. The billionaire walked in, ordered a chocolate malt, and asked the woman at the cash register about the town of 2,800 and what her future plans were.
Despite being the world’s fifth richest man and amassing two billion Facebook users, Zuckerberg still flies below the radar on many visits. After secretly booking blues musician James “Super Chikan” Johnson to perform a concert in Mississippi, the guitarist had no idea who Zuckerberg was when he approached him before the show.
“They said, ‘That’s Mark Zuckerberg.’ I said, ‘Who dat?'” Johnson told the Journal. “They said, ‘It’s the Facebook guy, the guy who owns the Facebook. I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ I had no idea who he was.”
The 33-year-old tech guru’s team lays down a few rules before he mixes with the masses: you can’t let people know he’s coming — 100 people showed up after it was leaked he was coming to the South Side of Chicago — and you can’t quote him to the press.
This allows Zuckerberg to control the narrative as he travels across the country, sharing his thoughts on Facebook.
“Until recently, the Nebraska constitution banned gay marriage,” Zuckerberg said in a June post. “Omaha is more welcoming, but we still have a long way to go.”
People are allowed to shoot pics with Zuckerberg, and he travels with his own team of eight — including a photographer.
His political-ish posts have drawn speculation he’s gearing up to run for office in 2020, but he’s shot down those rumors. “Some of you have asked if this challenge means I’m running for public office. I’m not,” Zuckerberg said in February.
In fact, it’s one of the few things Zuckerberg’s team says his new friends can share with reporters — that he’s not running for President.