Shift One is a digital marketing agency led by CEO Dylan Kohlstadt, a serial entrepreneur and speaker with over 20 years of marketing experience in the gaming, insurance, financial and property industries. Dylan also recently launched the Digital Marketing Academy and has created a following for herself on Instagram as an influencer in the entrepreneurial space. In this interview, she shares her views on current marketing trends and reveals the story behind Shift One.
Please describe the company background, vision and evolution so far.
Shift ONE is not a traditional agency or digital agency, in fact, I refuse to be called an ad agency!
Shift ONE was created at my kitchen table in 2011. I had recently been retrenched which was the encouragement I needed to stop and create my own thing, something I had been dreaming of for the last 10 years of my marketing career.
We started out as a digital marketing agency for small entrepreneurs, and, after learning and growing, we are now a digital marketing agency for large entrepreneur-led brands. Most of our clients are entrepreneurial because we know how to grow brands using digital marketing.
We offer a 360 degree, integrated digital marketing service. Everything from websites, SEO, e-commerce websites, email marketing, social media, writing blogs and articles, press, influencer marketing, paid media, and video and design. Our clients love us because we are a one-stop-shop with everything under one roof.
We have recently opened a branch in Gauteng, Centurion, which is the economic capital of South Africa, and our clients come from all over the world.
We have 12 subject matter experts on the team and pride ourselves in giving the best service to customers with the best results.
What are the most fundamental mistakes that people make with digital marketing, and how can they be avoided?
I think that some brands still think that being active on social media is enough to move the needle when it’s the bare minimum requirements.
To create social media content that is next level, or moves the needle, one has to create communities from followers, give them value-added content and experiences, and really go to the next level for your customers and followers. I recently wrote a blog about this, covering the top trends in digital marketing for 2019.
Which current technologies are you most intrigued by, and why?
You probably want me to talk about VR, IoT, Big Data and AR. Personally, I think these things are very exciting, but for the average entrepreneur or marketing manager, they are as far removed as the moon.
There are so many technologies out there that help you use digital marketing effectively, and most of them are really expensive for the average entrepreneur.
Practical technologies that entrepreneurs should make use of are:
Hootsuite – to schedule your social media content.
MailChimp – to design and send out newsletters, create segments for your databases and send out mailers that are only relevant to each group of customers.
WhatsApp – create customer groups and use this tool for your business and customer management.
Facebook Groups – create a group for your customers to engage with each other and with staff from your business.
How has social media automation affected the way we do business?
Very often the people you engage with are nothing more than bots. It’s hard to know the difference as not all brands disclose that they have bots working on call centers and not real people. You only figure it out after a few minutes of frustration.
Automation has caused people to lose trust in social media and in digital marketing and, ultimately in brands messaging, as this recent report from Neilsons will show.
Real people are more expensive and sometimes have off days. They also require a lot of training. Bots can be beneficial as long as you make it clear to the user who they are dealing with.
But people will always believe real people and want to engage with humans, above AI, at any time, until AI becomes advanced enough to mimic human emotions like empathy and compassion.
What does it take to become a social media influencer?
When I created my Instagram account, it was with the express intention of understanding this ‘road to influence’. what would it take to grow a following, across all my social platforms and YouTube, and how would that change my life?
Firstly I realized that the commitment was huge: I would need to create meaningful content on a regular basis, at least daily. This takes a huge toll, as I am running three businesses, and taking time to shoot videos, check images, provide content. It’s really time-consuming and requires a real sense of why you are doing this.
For me, the main reason is that I am a teacher. I love to share, and sharing my entrepreneurial journey is very fulfilling for me. Being able to inspire others to join me on this journey, or inspire other entrepreneurs to not make the same mistakes as me, is very important to me and motivates me to create content on a regular basis.
When I started out, I hired a videographer and brand manager to follow me around full time, creating content, posting, scheduling, replying and driving the process. Since then, these team members have been booked up with client work (from my digital agency Shift ONE), and so I’ve lost my crew.
Then, to remove all barriers and self-excuses, I started using Canva, and my own video editing software. I am now creating my own content. It might not be quite as sexy, as I usually do it while walking to my car or on the way to a meeting, but at least it gets done and there are no barriers to me making it happen!
What is the role of influencers as opposed to brands?
Influencers are more believable and trustworthy than brands. The role of influencers is to be completely honest and to show integrity. While brands are mostly blinded by their own intentions, and shareholders drive for profits, influencers, who have a broad reach and high level of credibility, are responsible for sharing the honest truth.
Where influencer marketing fails, is when influencers are not honest, or suppress their findings because they are being paid.
Influencers need to be transparent about posts that are paid for, which can be a tricky thing to do, but if influencers lose their credibility, what will they have left?
The question is, what comes after influencer marketing? Something that is higher in integrity, honesty, reality, and believability.
While AI marketing strives to only serve relevant ads, it presents a growing concern for privacy violation. What are your views?
There is a massive increase in ad blocking technology over the last few years, especially from millennials. This means that people don’t believe ads, and don’t want to see ads.
Ads still are relevant, but only once they have engaged with your brand and expressed interest in your brand.
The best way to reach customers is through influencer marketing, using credible, small, micro and nano influencers, who will get your message out there, credibly and cost-effectively.
Once people are interested, you can go ahead and show them an ad.
How do you see the future of digital marketing in 5 years from now?
Good question. Digital needs to become more authentic. This means becoming less creepy, and less hard sell, and more genuine with real value addition.
Everyone is now doing social media marketing. It’s time to move onto the next level of social media and create content in collaboration with customers because this is what is what makes you credible in the eyes of the audience.
Also, I believe that CEOs and thought leaders need to become influencers: they need to turn themselves into Instagrammers and use YouTube to share their values and beliefs.