Wednesday September 11, 2013 | 08:00 AM
Posted by Rob Gould

This week I sat down with Rich Brooks, founder of The Agents of Change Digital Marketing Conference (AOC), to discuss the conference which will be held this year on Friday, September 20 at the University of Southern Maine (USM) in Portland, Maine. The conference is close to being sold out so I highly recommend grabbing a ticket while they're still available.

Rich is also the president of Flyte New Media, a web design and marketing firm in Portland, Maine. He teaches Web marketing & social media at USM, is a nationally recognized speaker, and is the "tech guru" for 207, an evening news program on WCSH6.

AOC is an all-day digital marketing conference that helps businesses master search, social & mobile marketing. Marketing experts from around the country will be in Maine on September 20, 2013 to share their best tricks to help you raise your online visibility, drive more qualified traffic to your site and convert that traffic into leads and business.

Sword swallowing, a podcasting explosion, and social media as an accelerant

As with most of my interviews, what you'll read here is a greatly condensed version of our conversation.

Give me the basic information about this year's conference.

"It's going to be at the Abromson Center at USM in Portland, Maine. It's a beautiful space. It's happening on Friday, September 20th. The doors open and registration will start at 7:15 a.m. that day. The content will start at 8:30 a.m. and we've got a full day of digital marketing goodness set up for attendees."

"We're going to be talking about search, social and mobile marketing. We've got experts from around the country coming into Portland, Maine, plus a lot of local experts as well. We're going to be talking about Facebook, Twitter, podcasting and YouTube ... about creating a digital presence. I'm going to be giving a presentation about creating content that attracts your ideal customer. So, we'll be covering a lot of good stuff."

"There will be 400 people in Hannaford Hall that day for the conference, and we're almost out of tickets. We're running very low actually. We've sold about 325, so we have about 75 tickets left. The good news is we're also selling a digital pass. So, if people can't make it to Portland that day, or they're just not available, they can buy the digital pass. They'll get live access to the live stream and all of the sessions on demand for a full year after the conference. You can find all of that information, and an agenda listing all of the speakers that day, on our website at

Tell me about the history of AOC.

"We had three good years, and I had two awesome partners in Chrystie Corns Vachon and Jaica Kinsman, putting together a conference called Social Media FTW. At the end of three years, the band broke up, so to speak. There were no hard feelings at all, and I really felt like I was done putting on conferences. Then, through a chance meeting with Chris Brogan the very next day where he told me he'd like to get involved, I reconsidered. I decided I wanted to go in a slightly different direction. I wanted to to expand on the subject matter the conference covered. I love social media, but I also wanted to talk about search engine optimization (SEO) and mobile marketing. I really saw these as the three things, that if you can master these three arts, you can accomplish anything in this world today."

"I also wanted to come up with a new brand for the conference. A new way of expressing that the conference was all about search, social and mobile. I was playing around with different names and I started with 'accelerant' because I've always said that social media is like an accelerant, good or bad. But I didn't really like the sound of 'Accelerant World' or 'Accelerant Expo.' Terrible names. So, I went to the thesaurus and landed on 'catalyst.' I thought it was kind of cool, but I still couldn't come up with a great name for the conference. So, I went back to the thesaurus and under 'catalyst' was 'agents of change.' I had already done some work in the past with Josh Fisher, whose illustrations I just love. As soon as I saw 'agents of change' I envisioned something between 'Spy vs. Spy' from the old MAD Magazine and Max Smart. Of course, we ended up going in a totally different direction because Josh just totally gets me and gets my vision. So, we came up with these three agents to represent search, social and mobile marketing. That was kind of how it all came about."

"Because I do a lot of speaking around the country for bigger marketing events, I was fortunate enough to get to know a lot of the big names in my industry. The interesting thing about lots of people, especially in the U.S., is they have this fantasy about what Maine is all about. So they would find out I was from Maine and I would hear one of three things, 'Oh, I've always wanted to go to Maine,' or, 'I had a place there when I was a kid,' or, 'I used to go to camp there.' So then, as we're sitting on a roof top at some conference, usually both of us with a tequila or scotch in hand, I would say, 'Well, you should totally visit. I've got this conference you could speak at.' And, that's how I started to get some of the bigger names to agree to come to our conference."

For people who have attended the conference in years past, what will they find this year that's different?

"Different speakers for sure. There are only two returning speakers, me, because it's my conference, and Chris Brogan. And, Chris is kind of like the Michael Jordan of our industry. So we'll have a lot of new speakers and a lot of exciting topics. There will be a bigger focus on podcasting this year. There seems to be a podcasting renaissance going on right now. With Stitcher Radio actually being installed in your car in a lot of the new models, it's even easier to download new podcasts on-the-go. That's very cool. Plus, of course, iTunes is a huge mover of podcasts. Maine's own John Dumas has created a very powerful podcasting brand. He's going to be one of our speakers. He has over a million downloads of his podcast, 'Entrepreneur on Fire.'"

"The day will be started off by my friend Roderick Russell. He is a professional sword swallower. I met this guy in Vegas when we were all hanging around in a suite. He swallowed a 26 inch sword. How could that not get my attention? And, that was the least interesting thing he did all day. So, he's going to open the conference speaking on the topic, 'How to be Remarkable.'"

"It's difficult to put on a conference that addresses every level of sophistication of the average attendee(s). So, this year we're doing more on the strategy. This is a topic that's important for all attendees. Whether you're a beginner or you've been doing this for years. We'll cover how to talk about this stuff and put it into your business growth models. That's one of the important things that we're doing a bit differently this year."

Is there anything else you'd like to tell me about AOC?

"There's an energy that you get from a conference that you can't get from reading something on the Internet. It's a different experience. When you get a powerful speaker with a great message up on stage, you walk out of there and you feel inspired to do something amazing. I wanted to bring that experience to Maine. If I can get 400 people to come to one place, feel the energy, get inspired by everybody else, and talk to other people, I think that's a big win for Maine. Plus, if you get someone to visit Maine once, you get them for life. I'd love to get more people into the state and show them that there is a vibrant business community here and there are an amazing number of creatives right here in the greater Portland area. And, up in Bangor and in other parts of the state as well."

What do you love about social media?

 "I think of social media both from a business/marketing standpoint and how I use it in my personal life. For me, the thing I love most about social media are the connections I've made, especially locally. I also have friends from different areas of the country who I usually see a few times a year at conferences.  Social media allows me to keep in touch with them throughout the year. That's extremely powerful. But, for me, the best thing has been the local people who I've gotten to know. There is no way I would have been able to meet as many of them as quickly as I did without social media. I love being reminded of how many awesome and creative people we have in Maine."

I want to thank Rich for taking the time to talk with me about AOC, digital marketing and what he loves about social media.

You can find Rich on Twitter at: @therichbrooks

You can find AOC on Twitter at: @agentconference

You can find the AOC hashtag on Twitter at: #aoc2013

You can find AOC on Facebook at: agentsofchangecon

You can find information and registration for AOC at:

You can find the speakers and agenda for AOC at:

You can find some of the AOC speakers on Twitter at: @chrisbrogan @mike_stelzner @pistachio and @johnleedumas

You can find Flyte New Media at:


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Social media has changed the way that many of us learn, purchase, interact and explore the world around us. And, things are just getting started. Social, Social is a place to discuss social media with people from all walks of life. No experts allowed.

About the Author

Rob works as a digital marketing & public relations consultant to agencies, brands, and individuals. He has 20 years of marketing experience. He also currently serves in a volunteer capacity as director of pr/communications for TEDxDirigo. From 2005-2011, Rob served as director of social media & agency communications at The VIA Agency (Portland). Prior to VIA, Rob worked with several PR & advertising agencies in London & Boston. He is a graduate of The University of Vermont (UVM) and a Maine transplant (2002).

Follow Rob on Twitter at @bobbbyg

His real-life interests include art, travel, writing, design, psychology, the beach, & exercise (grudgingly at times).

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