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Barkworld Expo: Social Media Goes to the Dogs

At this year’s Barkworld Expo, you can participate in dog yoga in the morning, a pet costume HOWL-O-Ween Charity Pawty in the evening and share everything on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or you social network of choice all day long. That’s because the Barkworld Expo is a national social networking conference for dogs (and cats) and the pet owners that love them.

It’s coming back to Atlanta October 25-27, 2012 and is being held at the Westin Buckhead.

Denise Quashie, a corporate marketer by day and full-time happy pet parent to Frankie Beans, is the founder of the three day conference. She shares what else to expect from it and why it’s the event to attend for people who love technology and their pets.

TAILS OF THE CITY: What was Barkworld’s original vision and how much has it grown and thrived to what it is now?

DENISE QUASHIE: The original vision was to be a platform for pet owners who really love social media and technology as well as people who just love pets. I thought there was a missing link between the two - that there were pet conferences that just focused on exhibits but there were no education or lifestyle showcases. And there were social media and lifestyle showcase events, but they were not pet specific. I figured there needed to be one that encompassed both of those.

I always felt lost going to those pet expos because it was just a sea of exhibits. There really wasn’t any connection or education or anything like that as a pet owner. That was the original vision. And now - it’s taken a life force of its own. It’s grown from just that to focusing on leveraging different ways for integrating social media, monetizing our social media and we’ve really built up the whole lifestyle portion of it from DIY home to decorating your home but not compromising design and making it a pet friendly home too.

Having morning yoga with your dog -  so it encompasses a lot of fun lifestyle things that as a pet owner you hear about but don’t experience.

TAILS OF THE CITY: How do you do yoga with a dog?

DENISE QUASHIE: It’s called doga - and if you Google it you’ll see photos of it. It (hasn’t) taken off in Atlanta but it’s in a lot of large cities like Seattle and Chicago and so forth. Basically you do yoga with your dog. Mostly it’s a lot of breathing exercises and stretching with them and so forth. I’ve not done it but we’ll be doing it at BarkWorld for the first time, Friday and Saturday morning.

TAILS OF THE CITY: How did you get people to buy into your vision of pets and social media?

DENISE QUASHIE: Through the online community. I was not connected to any of these people - not a pet blogger by any means. I just created a website and  (I put my dog on Twitter) and he had a few people he was communicating with on Twitter. And he pitched the idea to them. It was really the online community saying oh we agree we definitely need to have a conference; they got behind the idea. They promoted it. And yeah it kind of took off on its own. That goes to show you about the power of social media and it acting differently than expected. The very first year, it cost me $200 in marketing - maybe.

Everything else was done word of mouth and through social media.

TAILS OF THE CITY: That’s a workshop unto itself for Barkworld.

DENISE QUASHIE: It’s definitely a great case study for sure.

TAILS OF THE CITY: What are some of the highlights from past years and what do you have in store this year for people to entice them to come back?

DENISE QUASHIE: Sure definitely the speakers. We do a survey at the end of every conference and we ask attendees what keeps you coming back. What are the most important things that you look for when you are deciding that you are going to participate in a conference? And overwhelmingly they said education. So we’ve definitely been working (hard) on getting great speakers at the conference. So this year we elevated it by having Twitter at the conference which was a huge coup to get them there - and focusing more on technology companies that want to integrate with our community.

The other thing is definitely developing a lot of the lifestyle social media elements. So for example one of the sessions we have this year is digital scrapbooking. So as pet owners we take a million pictures of our pets. So how are we chronicling all of those photos. We’re going to have a session specifically based on that.

And also this year we’ve opened up more elements for cat owners. So with the conference being called Barkworld, we created the Meowworld Lounge. So it’s for cat lovers. So we’re trying to be innovative and bringing new things that happen at other larger social media conferences.

TAILS OF THE CITY: What have people shared with you about their experiences at the conference?

DENISE QUASHIE: I think we will add a little bit of that to my opening remarks this year because you have this event and everyone says it’s great. But you never hear what happened to some of these people after they left the conference. And I received two emails not too long ago from people who had attended and they told me - the reason why they attended was just out of curiosity.

And after they left the conference they were so energized. And they started to do huge stuff - they either quit their jobs , started this pet business or they figured out a way to write a book. Something like that.  To me that’s been the most rewarding part of it of all -  hearing the stories of the people who have come from the conference and they’ve come up with new business ventures or ways of doing things that they had not thought of doing before.

That’s inspiring! And that’s a motivation and encouragement for you to keep it going. Sometimes in my life I’m like why am I killing myself doing this work? And then you hear a story like that and you’re like “oh”.

So it’s not just a fun conference. It’s not just something that people use as their time to get away on vacation and to say "Hi" to their friends that they haven’t seen in a year. 

On a bigger level it’s better to hear these stories of these people actually taking what we’ve taught them and doing something with it so for me I think that’s a whole lot more rewarding personally. Hearing those stories.