by Staley White
A conference for women engaged in social media returns for its second year today through Saturday at The Canyons Resort in Park City.
The Evo Conference offers hands-on learning sessions, networking opportunities and keynote speakers from top media specialists, including senior producers with the Oprah network, a photography professional with Kodak and a digital media specialist with Sesame Street.
According to a recent study by Pew Internet, the majority of social network users are women. This notion and others brought Jyl Johnson Pattee, one of the founders of the conference, to design an event for “the evolution of women in social media,” as their slogan states.
“The attendees we attract are women who want to grow their blog, to extend their passion because they write their blog as a hobby and for those who want to monetize their blog,” Pattee said. “It also brings brands that want to connect with passionate women who can be ambassadors for them.”
Like many conference goers, Pattee started out using social media at a small scale, but within a year, she used online tools to build a community of followers and a business.
She joined the Twitter world in 2008 after a friend mentioned she should try it. They decided to host a “Girls’ Night Out” Twitter party and saw the event was growing in popularity every week under their hashtag #gno.
“At the time I was like, ‘This is crazy. This could be something,'” Pattee said. “Every week more and more people came and followed.”
Their traditional party became “something” when she and the founders of #gno used their personal PayPal accounts to raise funds among their followers. Within two hours they raised $1,500.
Pattee didn’t stop there. With the intent to donate to any generous cause, she founded Mom It Forward, a Web site working to better the lives of mothers, their families and communities. Now companies come to Mom It Forward to gather women across the world and generate funds for its cause.
That was how Pattee said she became the CEO of a successful social media community, but apparently Twitter is key to many opportunities.
During a late-night Twitter session in 2008, she noticed someone talking about a Tweetup in Orem. According to Twittonary.com, this is when fellow twitterers meet up in person. Within an hour Pattee left her mouse and keyboard to join the group.
“There were three girls and a gazillion guys, and so I stayed at a table with five guys,” Pattee said. “I was so new to the space that I didn’t even know anyone. They said Rachel was someone I needed to know.”
Rachael Herscher, CEO of Today’s Mama, an online media and publishing company, decided to partner with Pattee, and together, they founded the Evo Conference.
“At the time, there just weren’t any conferences in Utah or on the West Coast,” Pattee said. “So we were looking at a practical need and trying to fill that need, but what we found is that people really love it.”
So far the conference has sold out every year, with attendees mostly from Washington, D.C.; Chicago,; Utah and California. Niri Jaganath from Boston, visited Utah for the first time when she was asked to be a keynote speaker at last years’ conference.
Jaganath started her blog Mommy Niri in 2008 and started to connect with brands and campaigns in 2009. She was chosen to speak not only for her success as a blogger, but as a woman.
In her speech, she talked about her life growing up in South Africa, experiences that molded her personality and social media.
“I knew they wanted me to bring the passion to it. It wasn’t just for the blogging part, but for the inspiration,” Jaganath said. “I thought it was just about one of the biggest honors I’ve ever had.”
Jaganath said this conference was focused toward women because of their natural social tendency.
“I think that women are amazing at being connectors,” Jaganath said. “It is natural for them, and I think it is so much easier for a woman to take the chance on pouring everything out and taking the risk of being rejected.”
Janet Thaeler, owner of online public relations site Newspapergirl.com and author of “Killer Press Releases,” will attend the conference for the second time this year and also noted the power of women showcased at the conference.
“The biggest impact for me was seeing the sheer power and voice of women in social media as a whole,” Thaeler said in an email. “We are opinionated, savvy, strong and vocal.”
Thaeler said having hands-on activities including food prep and photography sessions is what makes this conference unique.
“At the conferences I go to there’s a lot of typing (we’re on Twitter and blogging or Facebooking),” Thaeler said. “At this conference we were engaged.”
Some tickets are sold out but those desiring to attend can visit evoconference.com to be added to a wait list.
The Evo Conference is scheduled to be held for the next three years and will continue building the evolution of women in social media.