Last year, when my 18-year-old niece first told me that I needed a Facebook page, I think my response was something along the lines of, “Like I need a hole in my head.” I spend way too many of my waking hours screenbound as it is. I figured the last thing I needed was one more online distraction.
My niece, however, is a stubborn gal (it runs in the family), and so she quietly went about setting up my Facebook page for me. It took her about five minutes. “See?” she said, “It’s easy!” She then recommended a few friends and relatives I might add and showed me how to invite them to be my “friends.”
This seemed lame and slightly pathetic to me. First, I’m not in the habit of beseeching people to be my friends. Second, I barely have time to talk to the friends I have; did I really want to go shopping for new ones, or to connect with the people I’m closest to in this totally awkward, semi-public way?
I did, according to my niece: I would see, she insisted, that this would be fun.
To humor her, I swallowed my pride and sent off the invites. And then I started getting happy little notes of welcome. To my great surprise, all kinds of people — old high school chums, long-lost ex-neighbors and coworkers — were also on Facebook and were excited to find me, and I was (mostly) thrilled to hear from them.
A few days later, I got an invite from an Experience Life reader who reached out to say hi and how much he liked the magazine. Then I heard from another reader, and another. They were all neat, interesting people!
I mentioned this phenomenon to Kaeti and Jamie, the 20-something editors who oversee our Web efforts. They patiently told me that yes, this was one of the cool things about social media — the ability to connect with other people through shared enthusiasms and appreciations. They had already begun setting up a Facebook fan page for Experience Life, they told me, and also a Twitter account.
“Wow, that’s great!” I said. “What’s a fan page, and what’s Twitter?”
And so began my late education in social media, about which I am still largely clueless, but increasingly enthusiastic. My niece was right — these tools are fun. And I see now that they are also incredibly powerful. They offer a whole new, rapidly evolving model for building relationships, sharing information and discovering new perspectives.
What excites me most about tools like Facebook and Twitter is the potential they have to help us connect with our readers in a more individual way, and to be able to share the healthy-living wisdom we work so hard to gather with an ever-broader spectrum of people who really want and need it.
Every month, we get amazing letters from our readers telling us that we changed their lives in some way, that they are grateful to find a whole-life health-and-fitness magazine that respects their real-life priorities, rather than focusing on six-pack abs and bikini-body obsessions. When new readers learn that we’ve been publishing Experience Life for more than eight years now, many say they wish they’d found us sooner. We do, too!
We recently did some research that indicates Experience Life’s potential U.S. audience is huge — in the tens of millions — but that to date, only a tiny fraction of those who’d be most inclined to enjoy and benefit from the magazine have ever even heard of us. That’s not particularly surprising given that, unlike most magazines, we don’t advertise through direct mail. And while we’re on select newsstands nationwide (mostly at Whole Foods and Barnes & Noble), we keep a very modest presence there.
Our low profile suits me fine. But I also love the idea of letting more people know about what we do, and of empowering the readers who love and appreciate Experience Life to help us spread the word. In my mind, sites like Facebook and Twitter are ideal tools to help us do that, to grow the extraordinary family of people who share our healthy-living values, and to offer the kind of daily support and inspiration that can help them achieve the goals that matter most to them.
And so, I would like to officially invite you to become part of our happy little online family. You can link to our Facebook and Twitter pages here. And if you like, you can also follow my personal tweets at www.twitter.com/pgerasimo.
Another online distraction it may be. But (in moderation, at least) it’s a healthy distraction — one you get to share with a wonderful group of like-minded people. And on that front, I say, the more, the merrier!