IMG_1145IMG_1146IMG_1147Social Media and Smartphone Success: Pope Francis 2015 U.S., Interview with Joan Conn, Digital Diplomat


Event photo taken at Pope Francis U.S. Event 2015 by Joan Conn.

It has become really a necessity for your business to have your smartphone wherever you go and to be able to capture your world and share it immediately in social media.

This interview with Joan Conn, a volunteer at the recent Pope Francis 2015 U.S. event for World Meeting of Families, is an expert on how you can do just that, and capture photos and share them immediately in social media, at one of the largest events she’s ever experienced.

And she did it successfully, and she’ll show you how,

(Links for the resources mentioned appear at the end of the interview below.)

Here is a transcript of the actual interview:

Super excited to be here with a special, special guest today, Joan Conn. She is an awesome, awesome individual whom I met at my favorite Unique Photo Fair in Fairfield, New Jersey. She is a sales support representative for Panasonic, and she is a great individual. She is going to rock your world.

I got in touch with you because I saw all of the stuff that you do in social media, and I know that recently we had the Pope visit the United States –  you worked as a volunteer, Digital Diplomat for the World Meeting of Families. Tell me a little bit about that?

I wanted to do something and do my part. I looked up the different volunteer positions. I saw that Digital Diplomat was just perfect for me because I love to take photographs and most importantly, I love to capture memories. What a Digital Diplomat entails was engaging. I was there all day Saturday and all day Sunday of that weekend. It was to engage with the World Meeting of Families attendees. You had to go through a background check. You were really scrutinized to make sure that you didn’t have anything in your background that would be worrisome. We had over a hundred countries throughout the world represented and traveled right here to Philadelphia. What I was doing was I was capturing historical moments and I was to share these experiences using social media platforms. I used Twitter, and I used Instagram and Facebook. A lot of putting everything on Facebook, mainly but also the other social media platforms as well.

 It was such an amazing experience. What I was doing was I was using my smartphone at home to capture the visuals, like the broadcast from ABC 7. They were broadcasting and I watched every moment. I might have even seen you with your smartphone capturing the whole thing in it!  I know that you’ve taken a lot of shots, and actually I think that you shared a shot with me. The Pope was in it and I know that there were tons of smartphones. People were just capturing everything?

Yes, that’s right. What they did was on Ben Franklin or Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, up by where the Basilica was and the art museum, from the famed “Rocky Steps.” They built a beautiful, beautiful stage and then it became an altar. They had a papal parade all the way down the parkway on both sides. The shot that I shared with you was basically, we had almost a million people up there at one time. There were just masses of people holding their cellphones up, capturing the video as the pope went by. Capturing video, capturing still photos and then once he went by you see everybody’s heads go down and they’re starting to take photos. They want everybody to see that “Hey, look! I just saw Pope Francis.” My understanding is even when the Pope went to see the clergy, even the clergy had their cellphones or iPads, tablets.

Yes, I know. I captured the photo on my smartphone, a tv screen capture,  of I believe he’s a bishop. He was up with the Pope and he was capturing it all on his smartphone.  I captured a shot of that because I thought that it was just as much of a story as everything else going on there.

That’s right. The world that we live in…

It’s crazy! I know. That’s totally how I feel you understand social media and you know how to photograph. You’re a photograph enthusiast?

Yes, I’m a photo-enthusiast. I’ve taken photos my whole entire life. I wish I could say I was professional but I do use, through Panasonic’s line-up, I do use professional style cameras. But I love capturing memories and taking photos, since I’ve been twelve years old, which is many years ago.

You’ve had many different types of cameras that you are familiar with working with. What do you use to photograph not with the smartphone? How do you share the photos to your smartphone?

I love taking photos and videos with my smartphone but Vickie, sometimes it just doesn’t do it. I mean, I can create great images and stories with the photos with my iPhone 6 and I absolutely love it but sometimes I need a long zoom or a wide angle shot. What I will do is I always carry a pocket camera with me, the S Series, which is small and has pursability, but I also love using the FZ Series in the Panasonic Lumix line. For the papal visit and the World Meeting of Families, I used the FZ 1000. The FZ 1000 is a wide angle, long zoom and it can shoot 4k, and it’s WiFi. I say WiFi because it’s very important to me because part of my digital diplomat duty was to get the news and the wonderful experience out as quickly as I can onto the social media platforms hosted by World Media Families. All of the hashtags were wmf2015, and then it was followed by letters. The United States was just 2015. The volunteer site was V-O-L, I-T for Italy, E-S for Espanol, you understand. We were hashtagging all of these different photos immediately.

Imagine this, here I am given the Francis experience, which was a wonderful experience of a lifetime, and I’m meeting people from every area of the globe. People hugging, people with flags on them from their countries, waving them, little children, grandparents, I met generations of families, all walks of life, all religions, all nationalities, just wonderful.

I think that really what brought you all together was really your knowledge of social media and your use of photography. You definitely know what you’re doing.  I’ve done interviews with other experts in social media and also photography. I think you really get it that it’s just as important to share the photos but also to make sure that they’re searchable by the use of hashtags. I think that’s key.  We know about what cameras you used. How did you share them? You shared it on Instagram. Where else did you share it?

Twitter and a lot on Facebook.

When you go to an event like this, what types of photographs do you look to capture?

We were capturing people just feeling the love and feeling the experience. There were grandparents, and great-grandparents, with parents, and little children, and babies. People next to each other that maybe would never interact because one is from one part of the world and the other is from the other part of the world. The looks on people’s faces. I met people from Zimbabwe in different, in beautiful, beautiful garb and head pieces, just getting in the crowd.

That is such a service that you’re doing because when people can’t come to an event, and this is particularly what I share for businesses, when you want to share photographs or videos for your business, you should share events. Maybe a speech or some kind of something that people would not be privy to. You did such a service to everybody by volunteering at that event and sharing all of the families and the people that were there, and just the cultural experience. That was really important, the types of photographs that you share, at the event.

Yes, I was honored and so many people replied and said, “Thank you” because they were seeing into the eyes of the believers. They were seeing these people who traveled halfway around the world to get here. It was a really wonderful experience.

When I took those photos, Vickie, how did I get them? Here I am in the middle of the city, metropolis, surrounded. I’m not at my desk. I’m not at my computer. I didn’t have anything with me except my camera, my iPhone, and the Panasonic CM1, which is a communication camera. It’s a 20 megapixel unlocked phone that you can use. I got a data plan through T-Mobile. I didn’t need the minutes on it but I did need the data. I should have had someone take the photo because the funniest thing was that I went and got some snacks at a 7/11 and I found a place against the building. There I was with my camera, with WiFi, and my phones that are WiFi. I had the two in a very simple process, in a moment, communicate with each other, and transfer all the photos that I took to that point.

Right down the street, not even far from me at all are three secret service people standing there. Here I am, sitting there and in a matter of five minutes all of the photos are transferred and now I’m hashtagging them onto social media. People are seeing what I just experienced and the faces of those people from around the world and I am still at the event. It was wonderful.

You definitely love to be sharing right away. Immediacy is very important to you?

Absolutely, absolutely.

It’s definitely a tool to have something that can communicate with the rest of the world because who wants to see just yesterday when they can see it right now?

That’s right.

We talked about those types of photos with the people. Are there any special moments that you remember, at the event, that you want to share?

There was a few special moments. On Saturday, the Pope had gone to Independence Hall, first, here in Philadelphia, Old City. Then he came up to the parkway but when he was in Independence Hall, he was making a speech. You could hear a pin drop. With all those people, occasional baby now and then or a child but other than that you could hear a pin drop. Then in the background, you heard this beautiful sound. Everybody was looking going “What is that?” It was Andrea Bocelli doing a sound check, very low, of the “Our Father,” which he was going to perform later that night.

Another thing, you can ask anyone who was in New York outside where the Mass was. Another thing, I heard that in New York when the Pope was giving the homily, during the Mass, everyone was looking up on a bright sunny day and there was a rainbow. The same exact thing happened in Philadelphia during the Mass outside the Basilica, except it was a rainbow that created like a halo. People were pointing, taking photos. It was beautiful.

The other moment, this moment I captured. During communion on Sunday, they sent out one thousand priests with communion, walking down the parkway. Each priest had a person appointed to them with the umbrella, yellow and white umbrella, and I have those photos.

I cannot wait to see those photographs. Would you be able to share those photographs so that we can share them with our listeners ?


Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like to share?

I do have some projects. We just completed a project on Saturday where we raised money for rescue dogs and rescue cats. It was called Save the Mutts and Mummers. We have something coming up in Philadelphia on October 17th in South Philadelphia, which is a very tight-knit neighborhood. If you remember Woodstock, this is Twostock. I’ll be capturing those moments and memories as well. It’s basically is local bands performing and lots of different activities for children as well. It’s to raise money for the events and the sports that the children are from the neighborhood are involved in.

You do a lot of volunteer work and you use your photography and social media for that? That’s fantastic.

Yes, absolutely. Do you know how many people we get just by continually posting? That’s how the word gets out on all social media.  Speaking of volunteer work, when I did some relief efforts, when New Jersey was hit by Hurricane Sandy; and New York, I should say. I heard on newscast on that Friday night of a cry out from Staten Island, saying “We’re the forgotten borough. Someone please help us.” That touched my heart, made me cry. I immediately posted on social media that I needed donations. We would have four trucks. We would be coming around to pick them up. Told people how to have them ready, separate by size. We needed diapers, we needed everything. By Sunday, midday, we had, I couldn’t fit a toothpick in those trucks. We were filled to capacity with donations. That is because of social media.

When the typhoon hit the Philippines, so sad. I did the same thing. We sent four boxes. They had to go by ship. They took sixty-some days to get to the Philippines. I connected with the local church there, that I met through social media. Someone in Florida knew the pastor. They volunteered their congregation to go out to the worst areas and give this. That’s how important … It’s not only fun. I have a blast on it. It’s not only fun and it’s not only a way to keep in touch with everyone that you know everywhere. I collect friends and I keep in touch with everyone that I work with. I don’t want to give people up.

It’s very rewarding and I just want to let you know that when I had met Joan, it was in her role for Panasonic as a sales support representative. I didn’t mention in the beginning because I was so ready to talk about the Pope, I just wanted to let you all know that she is a real gogetter. She’s International Lion’s Club. She’s a volunteer for all of these kind of organizations that she was telling you about. She’s also an animal lover like myself, right?

Yes, absolutely.

You’re a crazy avid iPhone user and definitely a social media extraordinaire. I want to ask you one question because I’m really, very curious about this. I know I hadn’t told you in advance about this question but I know that you’re going to rock this one. How many times do you post to your social media on your smartphone as opposed to desktop?
Which do you post on more?

My phone.

I’m in the field a lot, so I could drive two hundred miles in a day. Sometimes I’m driving, soon to Virginia, I’ll be driving almost three hours to go do an assignment. What I will do wherever I’m at, if when I want to take a break I always bring power food with me. I will allow myself just a little bit of time to check my Facebook or my other social media. Check my notifications, post. By far, absolutely.

Absolutely, So just like myself, you are always on the run. I thank you for keeping up with me to get this to happen.

I thank you for having me. It was fun.

Thank you so much for joining me today, Joan.  For people who want to reach out to you because you’re an amazing person, how can they reach you on Twitter?

They can reach on twitter with @rozconn  or my professional name is @SR_Conn.  Same on Instagram.

Excellent, that’s great. I know you’re on Facebook, people can look you up.

I would add this Vickie. If you want to go see some of the photos that all of the digital diplomats took, and they’re amazing. You can go onto Facebook and you can do #WMS2015. I would say start with that and I understand that they were going to put a slideshow together from all the digital diplomats and pick certain photographs out. Pope Francis himself will be seeing that.

That’s wonderful. Such a rewarding experience for everybody in the world, it was so big. I thank you so much and I appreciate you. Thank you, Joan.

Thank you. Bye everybody.


Event hashtags for Pope Francis 2015 U.S. event:






Event website:

Event Photos Taken By Joan Conn:

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Event photo taken at Pope Francis U.S. Event 2015 by Joan Conn.