Expert Interview with Shane Barker on Social Media and Crowdfunding for Mint

By now, if you own a small business, you know about the power of social media to help get your products and services noticed. But, cautions social media guru Shane Barker, there's a right way to use this tool, and a wrong way.

Don't spend all your time talking about whatever you're trying to sell.

"If there was a guy in front of you yelling, 'I sell widgets,' over and over again, would you continue to listen to him over time? Of course not," Shane says. "Don't be the widget guy!"

Instead, offer good information about widgets, offer your opinion on the right widgets to buy and be engaging. Over time, potential clients will see your intent, and if they feel like you know what you are talking about, they will see what you do in your social media profile bio.

Read on for more of Shane's advice on social media marketing as well as crowdfunding.

Tell us about your professional background...

I'm a digital marketing consultant, named the No. 1 social media consultant in the nation by PROskore Power Rankings. I have expertise in business development, online marketing, and am an SEO specialist who has consulted with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and a number of A-list celebrities.

How did you become so passionate about social media?

I became passionate about social media once I realized its power and potential reach. If you invest the time, build the communities, and add value, those fans/followers will be loyal clients and refer you business.

What do you think is the future of crowdfunding? Is it a viable strategy for business owners?

Crowdfunding can be a way to raise capital without losing any equity in your company, but it is not as easy as it used to be. Now you have to have amazing content, stunning video and gain traction in the first seven days in order to reach your goal. There is a lot more competition, but if you have the right idea and team to help you get your crowdfunding message out there, you can be successful. The key is to plan your strategy ahead of time. You need to have your PR, social media, and strategic partnerships all ready BEFORE you launch. It is all about preparation.

What are the smartest things a startup can do when launching their social media presence?

The smartest thing you can do is start building a community (i.e., followers) and give your followers the kind of content they love. You will have to test different messages, the times you post, etc., but once you have it dialed in, it will generate business. Another thing: Don't outsource your social media, as you will meet great people and learn valuable information by staying on the ground floor.

What are best practices for gaining traction on social media?

It is and always has been engagement. Get in conversions, meet new people, and be strategic. There is no need to tell people about your line of work or what you do all day long. All you have to do is be genuine, offer good information, and they will inquire if your insight is valuable.

How much time should startups plan to invest on their social presence?

Great question. Social media is not something that you automate and just let go. It involves strategy, and it is constantly evolving and changing as your product and audience change. I would dedicate at least 15-20 hours per week on social media, depending your business. Don't wait for people to engage or talk to you...you take the bull by the horns.

Why should business owners factor video marketing into their social strategy?

Video marketing is essential. YouTube is the second-largest search engine, and Google owns it. You do the math there. With today's technology, it is easier and cheaper to do video marketing. The videos don't need to be long - all they have to do is add value. Show that you know what you are talking about and you are a leader.