THE world-renowned American marketer Mark Schaefer praised Bournemouth’s first You Are the Media conference as he drew it to a close.

The author of Known and The Content Code told an audience at Boscombe’s Shelley Theatre: “I’ve spoken all over the world. This has been a great event.”

He saluted organiser Mark Masters, of the ID Group in Poole, for bringing people together to hear from a host of top names in marketing.

“This was a great, great conference and I’m proud to be a part of it,” he said.

He told the audience: “The world of marketing has changed more in the last two years than in the rest of my career. And fasten your seatbelts because it’s just going to get faster.”

He said people had less trust in brand names, but this gave new opportunities to small businesses.

“Most of the people here, your companies, your small businesses. This is your time,” he said.

“What’s moving the needle today is human-driven marketing.”

He shared examples of people becoming known in their fields online. “As long as you have an internet connection and some way to create content, you can create your own voice, your own power in this world,” he said.

Earlier, Jason Miller, group manager for global content and social media marketing at LinkedIn, spoke about the value of long-form content such as blog posts of 2,000-3,000 words.

He disputed the widely-quoted claim that online audiences have an eight-second attention span, comparable to that of a goldfish, saying it was not supported by evidence.

“Are we so fast to be first that we forget to check whether we’re right?” he said.

“Marketers have been told that everything we do moving forward has to fit into this non-existent eight-second attention span.”

He pointed to huge increases in business LinkedIn had achieved through blogging. And he took issue with the idea that “organic” reach – from readers enjoying and sharing content – was dead.

“Claiming that anything in marketing is dead in 2018 is passe,” he said.

Sonja Jefferson, founder of the agency Valuable Content Ltd, runs a “pub school” which helps businesses find an audience online.

She told how she had discovered the power of “shareable” content in the 1990s, when she was in sales. People then had been more willing to take her calls if she had sent them a photocopy of an article relevant to them.

“Today, the hard sales approach makes people switch off but if you share something that’s useful to other people then connection happens,” she said.

Robert Belgrave, chief executive of the web hosting company Wirehive, told how the company had set up an awards scheme which honoured marketing and digital agencies in the south outside London.

“I knew there was all these great agencies in places like Bournemouth and it wasn’t really getting the recognition it deserved,” he said.

“There are all these huge brands headquartered outside London and they go to London to find an agency.”

He said the awards had been so successful that many people had thought the business was an events company.

He urged people thinking of starting new events to give it a go. “You won’t know until you try it. So many great ideas die on the marketing table without anybody actually trying,” he added.

Wimborne couple Tim and Tarryn Poulton told how Tarryn’s experience with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) had led to them founding PCOS Diet Support, which offers education and information about living with the condition.

Tim was a former project manager who had worked for Microsoft and the pair had relocated to Dorset, but were facing a £12,000 tax bill when the business started bringing in revenue.

Chris Marr, director and founder of the Content Marketing Academy, talked about the importance of learning through online communities.

“Learn from those that are within your own zone of learning. You don’t have to learn from an expert,” he said.

“It’s amazing how quickly you can go from being a student to a teacher in that environment.”

Simon Swan, digital strategist with the Met Office, shared his experience of leading the creation of new content and finding new audiences.