NutsPR Spotlight: Ai Zhang

Happy November!

Can you believe it’s November already? Where did this year go?

Anyways, welcome to another edition of NutsPR Spotlight!

I’m very excited to introduce to you this month’s guest: Ai Zhang.

Ai and I share the passion for social media and connecting with people. We met, where else than on social media. 🙂

Passionate about teaching and all things social media, Ai reinvented herself and she is proof that if you really want something, you get to work and get it.

Today, I am honored to introduce to you: Ai Zhang.

When and how did you fall in love with social media?

I fell in love with social media in March 2015. I remember it as vividly as if it were yesterday. I was at home grading students’ papers. I read in a good student’s paper that he had never heard of Pinterest. I was in shock.

I had always assumed that my students knew more about social media than me. And I had been talking about the importance of social media in my classes for a long time and telling my students to engage in lifelong learning and self education. But, clearly, my message didn’t register in students’ minds and they didn’t seem to be learning much about using social media as a professional tool.

A major part of the problem stemmed from my own teaching. I noticed a big gap in my teaching in that I had never fully walked my talk. Certainly, I had done enough lectures on the importance of social media in my classes. However, I never truly embraced social media myself.

Since that day, I decided to use myself as an example to show my students the ins and outs of social media and to become a teacher who walks the talk. Also since that day, I fell in love with social media.

However, little did I know a simple decision to become a better professor would transform not only my teaching practice in the classroom, but also my professional career as well. So many opportunities came to me as a result of my online presence and the content I produce.

How does teaching help you learn? How do you like to learn?

I am a firm believer of lifelong learning. I see myself as a forever student.

We know that an effective way to become good at something is to teach it to someone else.

As teachers, we need to stay ahead of the game or at least be fully aware of our surroundings and environment. Given I teach public relations and social media which are constantly changing, it is even more important that I engage in constant learning and self-education.

Being a teacher forces and motivates me to develop and expand my personal learning network and to engage in ongoing learning.

Learning can happen at anytime and any place. It doesn’t have to be in a formal classroom or learning settings. Quite the contrary, learning can happen when you do errands.

For example, I love listening to podcasts and listen to them daily. When I take a walk, I listen to an episode. Several of my favorite podcasts include Women Worldwide by Deirdre Breakenridge, Online Marketing Made Easy by Amy Porterfield, Social Media Marketing by Social Media Examiner, Twitter Smarter by Madalyn Sklar, The Write Podcast by Julia McCoy, and Digital FOMO by Brian Fanzo.

Social media is another great way to engage in learning. I participate in Twitter chats weekly, I am a member of several Facebook groups that help me learn and stay up to date.

I also love reading books. Currently, I am about to finish Adam Grant’s Originals. It’s a delightful read that helps me question the status quo and to be more original in my thinking.

Of course, learning can happen in more formal settings as well. I take classes all the time. I am almost done with an Instagram class that I love and I also participate in webinars on a weekly basis.

All these are important learning channels that help broaden and deepen my scope of knowledge in social media marketing, and business, and self development.

What piece of advice do you have for anyone heading into the reality of social media?

Just do it. Social media changes constantly. Apps and tools come and go. The longer you wait to start, the harder it is.

Don’t wait for the perfect moment to come to embark on your social media journey, because that perfect moment doesn’t exist.

I learned from my own experience the only way to overcome my fear of something is by acting on that fear. I used to be so shy of being in front of cameras, but embracing Snapchat helped me overcome it. Now I have a weekly Facebook live show.

Human beings have lots of potential. It’s our responsibility to challenge ourselves and to push ourselves outside of our comfort zone because that’s where magic happens.

What would you like to change in social media?

I would love to see more people in higher education and in general experience the transformative power of social media.

Social media has helped me connect and collaborate with so many amazing friends, professionals, and influencers. And I have learned so much from every single one of them.

Social media has substantially amplified what one college professor, ie., me, can accomplish. I cannot be more grateful for the positive changes social media has brought to my life.

What’s next for Ai Zhang?

Great question. I am developing my very first online course, which focuses on Social Media Pedagogy. I want to share my message with fellow educators and help them experience the impact of using social media as a teaching tool.

Given that this is my very first commercial product, I am super nervous and excited. I am nervous because there are lots of things I don’t know about creating and selling online courses.

I am excited because I cannot wait to hear how my course has helped other educators to incorporate social media into their teaching.

Life is indeed an adventure.

Want to know more about Ai? Connect with her on her website, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Instagram.