Agents of Change 2016 Conference

Ahhhhh autumn. The leaves are changing, pumpkin spice everything is available, and conference season begins!

The 2016 iteration of the Agents of Change conference occurred this past Friday in Portland (ME, for any of you out of town readers ;). What was once a local social media conference (Social Media FTW) has grown into a strong digital marketing conference drawing national speakers such as Chris Brogan, Sue Zimmerman, and John Lee Dumas

Local digital marketing celeb, conference organizer, and zombie movie star Rich Brooks got the room laughing by opening the conference with clips from the "zombie rom com" Night of the Living Deb that was filmed here in Portland. The trailer is below for your viewing pleasure...Rich is the zombie at the very end.

With the crowd warmed up, New York Times bestselling author of nine (!) books and CEO of Owner Media Group Chris Brogan took the stage for the morning keynote. Cue the multitude of tweets about how awesome it was to see him in person, which is absolutely true. Brogan is a true industry leader and it was great to see him in person (yep, one of those tweets was mine). He discussed selling in the crazy digital landscape "Sales is no longer a funnel, it's a Jackson Pollock painting" and producing content which "must become habit - you are talking to people who are anxious to hear what you're doing next." But he warned to not give away the whole content buffet in one go but rather focus on "small bites, snacks, we are in the world of tapas."

Brogan's opinion of what you need for digital marketing? Four things: a blog, email marketing, podcasting and Instagram. But be authentic, the message gets lost if you're not living it: "It's not how you say it, it's how you live it. Worry less about wording, be out there living your message."

With the morning keynote complete it was time to grab some caffeine and head off to the first breakout session. I was impressed with the offerings and it was legitimately hard to choose which one to attend, which makes me very happy that video will be available post-conference so I can catch the ones I missed. 

I decided to attend 'Creating Systems to Help Grow Your Business' with Kate Erickson of Entrepreneur on Fire, and host of the popular podcast Kate's Take. I have to admit, I wasn't familiar with Kate prior to this session, and left it declaring she is my business systems spirit animal. So true! 

Erickson's specialty and superpower is business systems (no, not back-end IT systems). Creating systems and workflows for your business to create efficiencies, which then open up your time for the work you should be doing as an entrepreneur, digital marketer, etc. “No one in this room should be working on $10 tasks, you should be working on $10k tasks" and creating systems can help you offload those $10 tasks. 

To set the stage for all those in the room, she outlined what could prompt the setup of a business system: prepping for a deadline, planning an event, all these things can be systematized by: taking inventory, writing out the steps, determine the efficiencies, document the system, and periodically reviewing and refining the system.  

Erickson then shared life hacks and tech tools to help create and manage these business systems. Life hacks included theming your days (aka social media content producing on Mondays, sales focus Tuesdays and so on), batching like tasks together to eliminate context switching. Tools varied by use case, but Zapier, Boomerang, Edgar, Asana and more were mentioned. (I personally use Trello to manage my business processes and highly recommend it). Even the most creative of endeavors have systems behind them. Content creation includes drafting, writing, editing, scheduling and promoting.  

So much of what Erickson mentioned are also strengths of mine - creating order out of chaos, defining, documenting and implementing systems - so it was heartening to see this kind of work which is often behind the scenes be recognized! 

Up next was the fantastic and energetic Sue B. Zimmerman sharing her thoughts on how to amplify your company's online presence. Now, if you work in social media you are aware of Sue "The Instagram Expert", and she has tons of content out on social media to view. She's fantastic and super high energy in person, but it's not all just fun energy, she's super savvy and had lots of tactical takeaways for the audience. 

To drive traffic, Zimmerman pushes out content on three platforms (Facebook, Periscope, Instagram) all to drive traffic back to her blog. She styles the content specific to each platform, and much of what she does is video: “The power of live streaming and video is so real, it’s like nothing else and you can’t hide behind it.” However, the key to video is to not just regurgitate the blog post or Instagram post, it's giving the viewers something specific they'll only see on the video.  

After a quick lunch, we were back at it with 'Mobile Marketing: Beyond a Mobile Website' with none other than Rich Brooks. But first, his  Dad took the stage to introduce him and was fantastic and engaging! Now, to be clear, his dad isn't just a proud father who shared Rich's report card info with us he is also Dr. Robert Brooks, internationally recognized psychologist, speaker, and author. 

Brooks (the younger) professed his presentation was going to be emoji-rich and so it was! But the content was serious. Mobile marketing is no longer "I have a mobile friendly website! Done. Check!" And it's not one size fits all. What's needed for mobile marketing for the pizza place is going to be different than for the dentist. Speaking of, "a human is more likely to own a cellphone than a toothbrush, 4.6 billion toothbrushes vs 5.1 cellphone" according to Brooks. Yikes.  

Brooks shared easily attainable tasks such as making the NAP (name, address, phone) consistent across all platforms to help with mobile search (check Moz Local to see how you appear), and how to use geofencing and geotargeting with your mobile marketing.

Next I was off to Elite Twitter Tactics with Jen Lehner and was so impressed! I feel like I've been on Twitter forever and know it well, but I definitely learned a lot of new tips and tricks from Lehner! So much so that I hopped right on Twitter to tweet to Rich Brooks to book Lehner for this same conference next year - great content! Lehner covered such tips as using Lead Card, how to do automatic client mining, and more. She shared some great real world examples of using video reach-outs on Twitter, and some really cool advanced search hacks. And she used what is now my fave Twitter geek hashtag #birdnerds! 

For the last breakout session of the day I chose to focus on video and one of the best in the biz was in the house. Amy Schmittauer is a video marketer and the producer and host of Savvy Sexy Social; her YouTube portfolio has more than 10M views and has 47K+ subscribers.  

Fun and snarky (in a good way!) Schmittauer broke down the barriers of video to the audience, such as getting over the fear of needing really good gear, that your first video needs to be perfect, slick, and well produced, and that you don't have the personality for video. For everyone, Schmittauer said, it's all about SRP= Specialize, Read, Practice. Get comfortable with the camera and speak to it as a person/a (your mom, your best friend, etc.) rather than trying to sell something to the camera.  She also did a deep dive on video on different social platforms - a great example being: "If you're watching me on YouTube, YOU pressed play. On Facebook,I showed up auto-playing in your feed while you were stalking your ex." 

Whew-brain full! But we're not done yet (with the conference or this blog post) - the last speaker of the day was John Lee Dumas, founder and host of Entrepreneur On Fire, an award-winning 7-days-a-week podcast featuring successful entrepreneurs. Dumas challenged the audience to not let all the conference learning go to waste and go back to business as usual on Monday. Rather, he challenged the audience to set and accomplish meaningful goals. Walking the audience through SMART goals and F.O.C.U.S., Dumas also highlighted consistency - "what would my life be like if I consistently accomplished my most important goals?" - and accountability such as finding a mastermind partner.  

And with that, Agents of Change had come to a close. But the closing reception, the after party, and apparently the after after party kept the Twitter stream hopping for quite a while!

For a full rundown of the conference tweet by tweet, check out my Twitter stream.
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