Discover the best ways to use social media tools to attract and engage audiences consistently. In this episode, APU’s Dr. Bjorn Mercer talks to Dr. Aikyna Finch about how she developed her social media presence and following.
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Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Hello. My name is Dr. Bjorn Mercer, and today we’re talking to Dr. Aikyna Finch, faculty training developer in the Center for Teaching and Learning at APUS. And today, our conversation is about social media tools. Welcome, Aikyna.
Dr. Aikyna Finch: Thank you so much for having me today, Bjorn.
Dr. Bjorn Mercer: What are some of the tools you have when you are engaging with people via social media?
Dr. Aikyna Finch: You know, I have several. I do have business tools as well as actual social tools. And I’ve noticed that a lot of our social platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn are actually integrating more tools in that manner as well. And so first and foremost, I always try to use what I have in the system first, because that increases reach. So things like the Meta and, uh, connecting your Facebook to your Instagram, that increases. Also, the scheduler tool also helps with the increasing of the networks. Because one thing I’ve noticed for sure is that a lot of these third-party platforms that they’re using now on Facebook, on LinkedIn, they’re actually lowering your reach.
It may make it easier for you to post, but it can lower your reach because they want you to use their tools first. And so prime example, our HootSuites, and our Buffers, and things of that nature, they’re starting to tag it. It’s transparency. So, you can see on the post what tools that people are actually using now, and that is one thing. They are doing that to try to deter you from not using their tools first. So, when I’m doing that, I first examine the tool that I have.
So, let’s say I’m doing Facebook. I make sure that I’m checking to see if there’s a scheduler. I’m checking to see if there is something that I can use for my groups. I’m checking to see if there’s any type of enhancements and things that I can use. Once I’ve used all of those and I’m still not getting what I want, then I move off to a HootSuite or a Buffer or something to that effect. You also have Planoly and Later as well. And the one thing I like about Later is the fact that you can do your Facebook, your Instagram, but you can also do your LinkedIn and your TikToks now on the Later app.
And you know, a lot of LinkedIn doesn’t, and especially TikTok and LinkedIn both, they really don’t do a lot of third-party apps. So, for them to actually endorse these apps was a game-changer. So now, you also have the ones where you are on your websites, and I have one that’s amazing for that, which is CoSchedule. So, if you are a blogger, that is an amazing thing. And especially if you have a WordPress site, it works best for a WordPress site. And you can basically schedule it out, whatever posts. But the cool thing about that platform is the fact that it will actually change according to how the people respond on each platform.
So, when it comes out on Facebook, it may come out on Facebook in the morning, because that’s where you get your most views, but it may come out in the evening on LinkedIn because that’s where you get your most views. So, they will actually scour your platforms and see where you get the most response, and they will post the things accordingly.
And that is a great tool for people who are trying to get to their biggest audience and get the bigger bang for their buck. So, tools like that are things that really pique my interest. There’s some more that we’ll discuss early, but those are the ones that really get my juices flowing when I’m getting my social media, because at the end of the day, I am a social media relations type of lady. So, I love to make a impact to educate and explore with my listeners and my audience, so that they get the most from the information that I’ve provided.
Dr. Bjorn Mercer: And that’s great. I love how you said get the most from the information you’re providing. And so, my follow-up question is how do you decide to use like a third party, like a tool, versus just going to individual sites themselves? Is it because you want to have a larger social media presence, so you have a bunch of platforms that you use? So how do you know when it’s too much, that you have to use a third party?
Dr. Aikyna Finch: I like to use whatever the platform has first. So, a prime example, LinkedIn is coming out with some amazing things. Well, I am a LinkedIn creator. So, I get things ahead of time. I had the audio lives first. Now, they’re getting ready to launch the Carousels, so I have that. Different types of tools, so what I do is I scour what they have first, then use what they have and then I will go to the third party. Because you always want to go with the native platform’s tool, because they will, even though the third party is seamless and aligned, they want you to use theirs, so they will bring your viewership down with those posts.
So that is when you’ll know it’s too much, because when you notice that you’re flowing with that third party, but you’re not getting the reach that you were getting when you were just hosting natively, or using those tools, that’s when you know it’s too much. Because our ease is not as important as our audience getting what they need from our content. The point of us putting out content is to help other people. So, if we’re not helping people because they’re not getting it because the platform is blocking us, then that’s defeating our purpose. So sometimes, we need to try to see if we can use the native tools first, then go to the third party. So that’s an amazing question.
Dr. Bjorn Mercer: And I like how you said our ease is not as important as the audience getting the message. Because yeah, it’s all about if we are active on social media means that we have something to say, and hopefully, we have something to share, and like you said, educate. For the audience to get the information is really the most important thing, and so as like anything, it just takes a while. It takes practice, and so how long would you say it took you to become proficient at navigating social media, learning different times to post, when to use a native scheduler versus a third party? You know, what is that ramp-up time that you’ve found that it takes?
Dr. Aikyna Finch: So, to establish your audience, I know that it takes at least 90 days, because people need to see consistency. First they’ll start seeing you, but if they see you, you post one thing, they like it, and then you don’t give them anything else for another month, then they’re going to fall off. They need to see that they’re going to get constant information at a time. Now, if you say that you’re going to post every Monday at 3:00 p.m., post every Monday at 3:00 p.m. If you say you’re going to post every two weeks, do that. But that is where you’re going to learn about the consistency piece. The actual how to see what areas are growing and things like that, that is in your analytics. That’s another thing that I scour. Twitter has amazing analytics. Most people don’t really pay attention to it, but it is amazing.
Right down to the cell phone, where they live, what size house they have, the phone carrier, the whole nine yards. So, if you’re really trying to get deep into where your audience is, that’s a great analytic. Facebook has a wonderful one. Instagram has really stepped up, and now LinkedIn has really grown their analytics as well. I’m loving TikTok’s analytics as well, that For You page versus where they’re out and about, I love that aspect as well. When you learn your analytics, it will tell you all those things and pretty quickly, you’ll be able to see the charts. So, if you’re a chart and graph person, you’ll get it like, instantly, right?
But you know, for some that just like, “Eh, you know, I just want to post whatever,” we have to realize that it is about what the audience wants, and not what we want. And that’s where a lot of people fall short when they’re trying to learn about their audience. They need to start posting things, paying attention to what they actually get the most hits on and then post in that area, to keep that momentum flowing, because if you are posting what they like, they will share that. They will let other people know about it, and you won’t have to do as much work, if that makes sense.
Dr. Bjorn Mercer: No, it totally makes sense. And it makes me think of when people have an original idea, they’ll put something out and then typically, what happens is what is popular is actually not what they think would be popular. And it’s tough, because then you have to make a choice. Do I continue to do what I think I should do, because maybe it’s a little easier for me, or should I do what my audience likes? And if you want to meet the needs of your audience, then you have to give what the audience likes. You could always continue to do other things.
And so, here’s a question. Now, we’re in higher education, and you’re in higher education and training, and so how do you choose which platforms to post on? Because there’s a punch. Back in the day, there was only a few. Some have come, some have gone. And so which platforms do you choose, and then as a second question, how do you choose to then adopt a new platform that’s up and coming? Like, when do you figure that out?
Dr. Aikyna Finch: So as someone who works in social media, and I’ve been doing this since 2008, any time a new platform comes out, I will go to that new platform and get my handle. That way, I have the same handle throughout, that way people don’t have to search for me and my content, because I have the same name on every single platform. That is the first thing. Then as far as education, education tends to lean in the LinkedIn, the Facebook, and the Twitter area. Whereas in more business rounds, they tend to be more Instagram, Facebook, and political realms tend to stay more in the Twitter range and things of that nature.
So, if you’re dealing with younger people, you will tend to go to TikTok, things like that. Video, Instagram. Younger people love Instagram. They love TikTok, they love things that are going to move and shake. My Baby Boomers, my X-ers, we tend to like more of the Facebook and the LinkedIn, where we’re going to do our business. We’re going to do more publishing, things of that nature. More where they can post more words, and then of course, they like Twitter when they need a fast hit, because it’s only 280 characters, and most of it is a link.
So at least they’re like, “Just give me a snippet and make me push the button.” So that’s a reason why a lot of political or a lot of higher ed tend to go on the Twitter route, and a lot of businesses as well because they’re really fast and they get a lot more customer service type of things as well. They get a lot more comments on Twitter, which I’ve noticed. And the customer service is super-fast. So that has been something that’s been branching out in that area as well. As far as education, yes, LinkedIn and Facebook and of course, the Twitter.
Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Each social media platform is unique, because the demographics of each platform and who uses it say, more often, is unique. You said, you know, like TikTok has more of a younger fan base. Twitter, it’s interesting because Twitter’s not the largest social media, but it really punches high because so much of politics is put out on Twitter and commented. But then when you look at the demographics of Twitter, it doesn’t quite represent everyone.
But then that’s one of the difficulties of social media, is that it’s not always that everybody’s there, it’s that who uses it. And so, I really love how we talked about a bunch of different social media platforms, because each of them is unique in itself.
And so how did you build your audience? You know, was it just week and week and month and month after just posting and putting content out there? And since your content is higher education and training, there is a large market, but it’s not that you’re doing things on Instagram or Facebook that will reach millions of people. So how do you know when you’re a success, if that makes sense?
Dr. Aikyna Finch: So how I build my audience, when I started in 2008, LinkedIn was actually my very first platform. It had just started, and I was working for ACAP, so I was helping soldiers find jobs when they were getting out of the Army. And we decided to start a LinkedIn group for them for employers and soldiers to come together. And as I was typing about the experiences I was having and doing the social media classes and things like that, my audience started growing because they were paying attention to what I was saying in my different posts, and I went to Facebook and then I went to Twitter, and then Instagram and then Periscope. Meerkat was there for a little while, but I skipped Meerkat and went straight to Periscope, and from Periscope, that’s where everything blew up.
It’s one thing when they see the posts, but it’s another thing when they hear your voice and hear the passion. So, because I am an educator, which made me have to be a presenter, that leveraged my strength. And so, I ended up speaking at Periscope summits, and I ended up speaking in different countries about social media and how I did social media because I did it a little differently. I’m always educating. I’m always providing information, always letting people know about different things they can do and motivating them. That’s my niche. I have friends that talk about money. I have friends that do all these different things, but they found their niche in their delivery. So, when you find out you’re a success is when you find your delivery, you find your comfort level, but you are still delivering what your audience needs and that’s when the supply and the demand come together.
You have a supply, and they have a demand, and that’s when those two points meet, and that’s when you become successful, and mine just so happened to be training, education, speaking. But it could be in anything. You find your audience. I have friends that do it for non-profits. Whatever it is, that’s when you find success when you find out that you’re creating a supply for somebody else’s demand. But as far as how long it took, there were times when I was fully active with the soldiers, it was boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. Then I transitioned to becoming a dean, and so I did more posting about different jobs and different things, and things like that.
So, I started growing, growing faster in another arena. But then when I went to Periscope, that’s when everything hit, and it went very, very fast. Whereas certain parts took years, certain parts took months. So, it is about that supply and demand. You will find yourself where you’re supposed to be.
But the point was, they looked at my numbers and they saw I was consistent, my information didn’t change, and I told them exactly what I talked about in every post, and let them know that I talked about motivation, education, and social media. And you are going to get one of those three things, and they knew, and I didn’t deviate from the plan, and that’s how it goes. So be consistent, let them know what you’re talking about, and as you grow, they’ll grow with you. They will share and they will support you.
Dr. Bjorn Mercer: You talked about supply and demand, and really giving them what they want, and of course, that requires us all to find our niche, whatever we’re doing. So, another question is you started in 2008, which is a long time ago. It’s basically at not the beginning of social media, but when social media really started maturing and growing exponentially. And so how did you transition from mainly like blog posts and written words to say, audio and video? For some people, they’re hesitant to do video, but like you said, when people can hear your voice and see you, they respond to that passion and that engagement, and just being able to connect with someone visually.
Dr. Aikyna Finch: It was kind of a hard transition, because I am an introvert. So, I can perform but it takes a lot, and I’m usually drained afterwards. But what happened was literally, I signed up for Periscope in March, and then in June, I was waiting on a Twitter chat, because that was when Twitter chats were super-hot, and so I was fooling around with it, and literally hit the button. And all these people started flooding in, and it was go time. And so, I got to talk, and then I talked about how to get onto a Twitter chat, and literally, those people went over there and got on the Twitter chat, and I realized that my words had power, and my word had influence, and if I just showed them what I was doing, you know, they would have a better experience.
And it was so amazing. When you realize that your dreams are bigger than your comfort zone, that’s when you’ll start moving. When you realize that those people out there need what you have, and the only difference is the fact that you need to get from behind your own feelings and give them what they want so that they could be better, when I realized that I was a catalyst for somebody else’s greater, what would have happened if I decided one day that I was not going to do that video and somebody needed that video to let them know that they could do it too? And I said, “No, I need to get past my comfort zone and get out there and do what I need to do.” And that included video, and the connections started building, people started moving, the audience started growing, other people started growing because of it, challenges started happening, and the rest is history.
Dr. Bjorn Mercer: And I like how you said that previously, you were an introvert. And so, in my past life, I was an uppercase Introvert. And today, after years and years of teaching and talking and presenting, I’m a lowercase extrovert. You know, I’m extroverted when needed, but I don’t walk into a room and take over the room. I’m not an uppercase extrovert, but it was one of those things early on in my own teaching experience when I was in front of a class, I realized that if I was just myself, I would become one of those faculty, one of those teachers that I just couldn’t stand because I would just stand there and talk in a monotone voice.
And I realized that when I was teaching, I had to act to a point. I had to be a more outgoing version of myself. I was still myself, I was still me, but I was just more extroverted. So, during that hour when I was teaching, I was totally outgoing and engaging, and then like you said, I was drained afterwards. And the same thing with social media, you have to engage.
And it’s however it’s comfortable with you. Some people like people that are just super outgoing and crazy and fantastic, and others like a more mellow, extroverted acts, you know, ways of being. And each is different. Your audience will want something different. For the last question is, how do you know when your social media presence is a little too stressful for yourself, and how to pull back to make sure that you have a good work/life balance?
Dr. Aikyna Finch: Very, very good question. In my case, I’m just going to use my story, there came a point where I was traveling 10 months out of the year, speaking. And I was talking about social media and different things, and that was before virtual events were popular, so I was getting on bus, train, plane, and your body just kind of lets you know. And so, what happened was, luckily for me, COVID-19 happened. But that’s not the case for everybody. So, you need to start checking yourself. You will get a feeling when it’s a little too much, and that’s where you’ll start using your automation tools. That’s when you’ll start posting things a month out and scheduling those types of things. That’s when you will start changing your schedule to maybe only one event a month, or one event every two or three months.
You will start really getting to know when it’s large or too much when posts from two, three months ago are still getting hits and you’re still pumping out content. Sometimes, you got to let your old stuff do its work and you take a break. And there’s nothing wrong with taking a break, because your people would rather have a full you than a broken you. And so, if you let them know, “Family, I’m going to take a break, and we have plenty of content that’s going to be coming out. You’re not going to miss a thing. You won’t even know I’m gone. But I’m going to let you know, if you don’t get the comments you all are used to getting, no worries, I’m here, but it just might be a little slower.” And they’ll respect that. Because I took them, one thing I did, I took my audience on the journey with me. I asked them about the content that I was putting out. I asked them about the classes I was putting out.
I asked them about the books I was putting out, because at the end of the day, if they saw that you were paying attention to what they want, they will be apt to buy or apt to consume, because they know that what they said meant something to you, and that was the main point.
Dr. Bjorn Mercer: And I love that you said they want a full you than a broken you, and I think that’s an absolutely wonderful way to put it, because if you are on social media, I say most people have their day jobs, the gig that pays the bills, and then they have social media to enhance their job, to network, to reach out, to put out product that is important to you, and your audience wants you to thrive and they want you to create more content. And unfortunately, there’s so many examples on social media of social media really stressing people out. And so much like life in general, we have to find that balance, that holistic balance, and if you have that social media presence, that’s also one of those things you have to figure out. So absolutely wonderful conversation today, Aikyna. Any final words?
Dr. Aikyna Finch: I would just like to say get to know your audience. Remember that they’re not just dollar signs. Those are human beings, and they need things that you are giving, so let it flow, keep pouring, and at the end of the day, the people that were meant for your content will come. Be consistent, be real, be you.
Dr. Bjorn Mercer: And absolutely wonderful final words, and today, we’re speaking with Dr. Aikyna Finch. My name is Dr. Bjorn Mercer and thank you for listening.