(Photo: Obie Felton of Google.com at Women 2.0 2014 SF)
Ask has always supported women in technology – in fact, approximately 50% of managers here at Ask are women, a rarity among tech companies. Ann Semeraro, Senior Director of Consumer and Market Insights at Ask.com, attended the recent Women 2.0 conference in San Francisco and gives us a quick run-down of the conference highlights and some key takeaways.
Q: What was the overarching theme of the conference?
Ann: Women 2.0’s mission has always been to increase the representation of women in tech companies, especially at the executive level, and to increase the number of women who are founding their own companies. This year’s conference really honed in on the experiences women have founding their own companies and women who are actually a part of the investment stage of companies – either for their own companies or as part of VCs. While women founding their own companies has been happening for years, we’re now seeing an increased number of women participating on the investment side of the equation.
Q: What was your favorite session to attend?
Ann: I really enjoyed the talk Obie Felton gave about Google [X]. She spoke about how Google starts out by identifying big problems that affect millions of people, and then tries to solve for these issues using radical, almost unrealistic solutions. The group believes that by starting with the story they want to tell, they can then use those narratives to inspire their engineers and teams to conceptualize the solution, refining their ideas into something tangible.
Q: Who attended the conference?
Ann: There were many young women, early in their careers and some who were even in college! That was really refreshing to see the younger generations seeing the benefit of these types of conferences and making connections with today’s leading women. There was a mantra throughout the conference, “Give and get”, to help attendees get the most out of the sessions and the event. The thinking is to both give and get something out of each interaction. Give some information about yourself that would be helpful to who you’re talking to. Give an introduction connecting two women who might benefit from meeting one another. And get a new connection for yourself. Get information on the next event that suits your goals. Get a new mentor! This mantra is one that any women can apply to networking events, their own jobs and in other aspects of their lives.
Q: What was the key takeaway for you and for Ask?
Ann: It was great to get outside of our own company and hear how tech is being used to solve problems in different industries—healthcare, education, travel, etc. And it was inspiring to hear about the ideas and innovation being circulated through this network of WOMEN. The importance of having mentors and collaborating was emphasized throughout the conference. For Ask, we’ll definitely be looking for ways to get more of our younger and junior female employees to attend these types of events.
Calling a customer service hotline is frustrating—that is just a fact of life. You’re angry because something isn’t working, you can never find the right phone number to call, get re-directed five times, and somehow you end up paying more and getting less. However, consumers are increasingly turning to social media to get faster and more direct attention from brands when in need of customer support.
I kicked off 2014 speaking at a few conferences in Florida, San Francisco and Las Vegas about the importance of social media in customer interactions. It’s clear that brands are starting to think about social media and have dedicated resources to manage their social channels, but few are making the connection between social media and customer care. Unfortunately for brands, consumers are way ahead of the game and have figured out that if they post their complaints (and praises) to social media channels, they’re more likely to get the brand’s attention.
Below are a few of my personal examples that illustrate how having the proper social media customer support can help leave your users with a better impression of your brand:
What NOT to do: The following Twitter exchange shows an automated response from speaker manufacturer, an example of practically nonexistent social media customer support.
Auto responses are one thing, but they didn’t even address my question. Even worse than an automated response, this brand’s inefficient customer support is on display for all of Twitter to see.
What TO do: A quick and personal response to an unfortunate mix-up with United Airlines
It doesn’t take much to provide quick and personalized customer support through social media, and companies who have caught on to this practice have loyal and satisfied consumers.
At Ask, we’ve empowered all of our Customer Care Rock Stars to monitor and fully support our users’ needs – be it on email, phone, chat or through our social media channels.
- Eric McKirdy, Global Customer Care Manager, Ask.com
While two great football teams played a surprisingly one-sided game last night in New Jersey, advertisers went head to head on creativity and spend during the commercial breaks. Ask.com, a leading online brand for questions and answers, today released data culled from its 100 million monthly users to reveal which big budget Super Bowl commercials were advertising champs among Americans, and which advertisers went home empty handed.
Every year, the biggest brands bring out advertising’s big guns, vying for the winning commercial, with starting spend at around $4 million per 30 seconds of screen time. This Super Bowl Sunday’s ads did not disappoint, with surprise contenders Maserati and Oikos coming out on top as fan favorites, and usual darling Budweiser scoring big points, as expected. Of course not all ads fared as well, with companies like Volkswagen and Doritos surprisingly leaving something to be desired, despite initial buzz. And, against the odds, SodaStream bubbled in search volume on Game Day, even with last week’s censor concerns.
Oikos Connected to a Full House
Talked about for weeks before Super Bowl Sunday, Oikos’ “bromance” campaign, featuring the main characters from the beloved TV series, “Full House,” appealed to consumers’ nostalgia. The hype lived up to the anticipation come game day, despite the yogurt brand having to go up against Super Bowl advertising stalwarts. Leveraging John Stamos’ history with the hit show was a smart move for Oikos, as the ad represented 29 percent of all Ask.com’s Super Bowl commercial searches.
Maserati Steals the Show
Taking viewers by surprise, the high-end car company drove searches for Maserati’s Ghibli ad, accounting for 18 percent of all game day commercial searches and placing it in the top three brands searched for on Ask during game time. Featuring young Oscar nominee Quvenzhane Wallis, people everywhere were impressed by the stunning cinematography of the commercial.
Budweiser Is Still America’s Best Bud
Piggybacking on the success of last year’s “Best Buds” campaign with the Budweiser Clydesdale, the famous beer brand, known for its popular Super Bowl commercials, brought an adorable puppy into the mix for the sequel. Searches for the ad spiked during the week prior to the big game and remained high with 12 percent of searches going to the puppy love. The beer brand didn’t show its whole hand ahead of Sunday’s showdown however; its “Hero’s Welcome” spot, featuring Lt. Chuck Nadd’s homecoming, drove 15 percent of Ask searches during the game.
Volkswagen’s Initial Buzz Drowned Out
Playing with whimsical ideas of mythology, Volkswagen created a delightful advertisement that was expected to be a stand out contender, but resulted in a miss. Volkswagen was hardly noticed by viewers, taking home only two percent of all Super Bowl commercial searches the night of the game.
Doritos Fan-Created Advertisements Are a Dud
In keeping with tradition, Doritos’ annual Super Bowl commercial was fan-created. With five contenders released prior to game day, viewers were able to vote for their favorite. “Finger Licker” was the clear audience favorite leading up to Sunday but did not make the top two that aired during the game. The chosen winners were “Doritos Time Machine,” which only saw three percent of Ask.com searches, and “Cowboy Kid,” which fared better at seven percent.
Scarlett Johansson’s SodaStream Makes a Splash
Even though SodaStream was forced to censor their commercial featuring Scarlett Johansson due to a negative mention of the half-time show sponsor, Pepsi, its ad fared decently well in Ask.com searches, owning nine percent of all Super Bowl commercial searches on Sunday night.
Ask.com also took a look at the most popular questions asked around Super Bowl ads the night of the game:
1. Was that Maserati’s first commercial?
2. What is the hashtag for the Esurance contest?
3. Will there be a Full House reunion?
4. Why was there a Scientology commercial?
5. What is Jerry Seinfeld’s new show?
The Bay Area is just the best place to live. It’s a fact.
OKAY, maybe we’re a little bias because it’s our home sweet home, but come on; you have to admit it’s one of the coolest spots in the world. Any local will tell you that it’s fast-paced with tons of character, nestled between greenery and grapery (hello, Napa) with some of the most sought-after urban neighborhoods… Oh, and did we mention folks from the Bay Area also made Batkid happen? Just saying.
And people here are passionate about the area, its culture, and everything that happens here day in and day out. All you have to do is look at Ask.com users’ top questions to see that we are on top of breaking news, popular events and what’s happening with our beloved sports teams.
Now that 2013 is officially over, we’ve tallied the top local Bay Area search terms of the year from Ask.com:
1. Asiana Crash at SFO
2. New Bay Bridge
3. America’s Cup
5. New 49er Stadium
6. Oakland A’s Playoffs
7. Kanye and Kim engaged at AT&T Park
8. Limo fire on San Mateo Bridge
9. BART Strike
10. California Budget Surplus
What will Bay Area locals search for in the year ahead? Will Kim and Kanye continue to make headlines in 2014? We have a feeling Miley will be a contender on the list with her tour stopping at the Oracle Arena in February. And our sports teams have been kicking butt in and out of the Arena lately, too, with the Warriors’ winning streak and the Niners recent entry into the next round of the NFL playoffs. Super Bowl, anyone?
What do you think will make the biggest headlines in 2014? Tell us in the comments!
- Suraya Akbarzad, Ask.com
Ask.com is a popular website that people visit to get their questions answered. I had the chance to have my own experience at Ask.com through the Spark Oakland program – a national mentoring program for middle school students. I was matched with the public relations team at Ask because I like to write. My mentors were Valerie Combs, vice president of corporate communications and Suraya Akbarzad, senior PR manager.
My experience at Ask.com was unbelievable and I met a lot of new and professional people. I thought it was going to be boring and old fashioned. It wasn’t - the offices were decorated with cute and fun toys and the people look like they really enjoy their jobs. I also saw that Ask.com cares about their users.
For my Spark project, we decided to do a social media campaign. The first piece of the project was this blog post! Together we discussed the activities of each day and began writing the post. We knew we needed pictures to go with the post so we went to the roof of the Ask.com building and took pictures under the Ask logo. As you can see – I had a great time! We also worked on a Facebook post and a tweet to help spread the word. We came up with hashtags for the posts and tweet. An Instagram post will be coming later tonight from our Discover Night presentation.
My experiences throughout the mentoring program showed me how companies work on social media campaigns and other company announcements. My mentors showed me the different Ask.com sites and social media channels and taught me what their jobs are all about. I was even able to get a sneak peek of the company’s end-of-year announcements.
I really learned a lot at Ask.com and am excited to present my project at our Discovery Night showcase tonight!
- Angelica, Student at Bret Harte Middle School, Oakland
Who doesn’t love a good viral video? Ask ranked the year’s most popular viral videos and memes.
The Dove Real Beauty Sketches and Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield’s rendition of “Space Oddity” made the top video list while an unflattering Beyonce and a photo-bombing Bill Clinton were among the most popular memes of 2013.
Did your favorites make the list? Check out the full list at theKnow.com!
- Suraya Akbarzad, Ask.com
My first week working at Ask.com was also my first week working in any sort of corporate environment, so when I signed on to join Ask’s Customer Care team in Oakland, CA, I had no idea what to expect.
As a recent graduate with a B.A. in Psychology, my lack of experience in customer care and the corporate world at large left me wondering what Eric McKirdy, Manager of Global Customer Care at Ask, thought I could bring to the team. After my first week, I discovered that psychology, understanding how and why people behave, react and respond the way they do, has lent itself to my new job more than any prior training could have—which is exactly what Eric believed to be true when he hired me. Eric operates under the belief that rather than waiting for a user to file a complaint with our website, being proactive and interacting with users on a personal and one-to-one basis will create an overall more positive experience for each person that visits our website. This means getting rid of automated responses and instead, working individually with each person to understand how we can improve their experience. With thousands of people visiting the site every day, and with Eric’s unique approach, I understood why he considered a thorough understanding of behavioral psychology to be more valuable than prior experience in customer care.
I quickly learned to throw out all expectations I had of life in the corporate world. As I walked through the office, I discovered they were filled with bright pink inflatable unicorns, a life-sized chess board, and a kitchen filled with more snacks than I ever had in my own pantry. From the flexible dress code (“jeans and t-shirts if you’d like”) to the “take what you need” vacation policy, employee satisfaction seems to be one of the top priorities at Ask. The company policies emphasize the idea that people who are happy and excited to come to work each day are far more productive than those who feel restricted or micro-managed in the work that they do.
On my first official tour of the office, I was introduced to the company’s CEO Doug Leeds, who I’m sure had many (far more important) things to do. And yet, Doug took a few minutes to welcome me to the office and ask about my background, without giving any implication that he had somewhere else to be. Doug’s welcoming nature is the most consistent and striking aspect of my first week at Ask. Every coworker has offered me advice and encouragement, as well as a look inside the work that they do behind the scenes of the well-known Q&A website. As I am learning the ropes of my new job, I have found that I am surrounded by extremely intelligent and experienced coworkers who all have one thing in common—they are happy to be working at Ask.
Every day that passes is another day filled with new experiences for me—and I feel lucky to be joining Ask at a time when the company seems to have some exciting changes around the corner. I look forward to working with such a dynamic group of people, and will be sure to share more glimpses inside the unconventional headquarters at Ask.com!
- Amy Horowitz, Global Customer Care Technician, Ask.com
As another year draws to a close, Ask took a stroll down memory lane for a look back at the questions and searches that drove your curiosity the most in 2013. Babies reigned supreme in the search world this year, with top overall news and celebrity searches about North West and Royal Baby Prince George.
Ask users followed the buzz around Miley’s VMA performance and made sure to set their DVRs for the series finale of Breaking Bad. You also turned to us to answer questions about this year’s more serious matters like Typhoon Haiyan and the recent government shut down.
Check out the full 2013 list - did any of your questions make the cut?
- Suraya Akbarzad, Ask.com
Have you checked out theKnow yet? Whether you’re in the mood for a quick nugget of entertainment or something more intellectual, theKnow promises to deliver. And just in time for Hump Day, check out this recent viral video:
- Suraya Akbarzad, Ask.com
Content powers the web. Be it user generated, curated, professional, or marketing driven, content is usually what pulls you online, and if it wasn’t, compelling content is sure as heck the thing that will keep you there.
Search and content are continuously dependent and intertwined – search engines reward good content by making it easily discoverable to millions of people, while the explosion of digital content fosters growing demand for effective search tools. At Ask, we know this interplay well, hence our current strategy to embrace a more content-rich Q&A product experience. So, naturally, it makes sense for us to experiment with content from a branding and marketing perspective as well. Think about it: what better way to get folks to try out Ask than through compelling content that actually inspires questions?
Enter theKnow – Ask’s first truly unique editorial destination. Our goal is to offer users a different cut of the Ask brand – a different voice and an editorial point of view that (we think) is pretty unique in the marketplace. We strive to answer the questions you never knew you had, fulfilling our promise through intellectual dialogue and/or witty cocktail party fodder. In a nutshell, we aim to deliver the most fascinating and relevant info distilled from today’s headlines with clarity, intelligence and our own brand of humor.
In other words, we’re gonna have fun and we want you to come along for the ride! That might mean some occasional cat pictures, we won’t lie. But we’ll also go deeper. Why should you care about cronuts? Check.
An expose on the woman behind Siri’s voice? Got it. Details on the Woody Allen films no one pays attention to – but should? You’ll find that too. And don’t worry, as the brainchild of a world class Q&A brand, we also have a healthy dose of useful how-to’s, like how to master the perfect downward dog pose, or a guide for all the ridiculous ways you can literally blow wads of cash should you become a millionaire. Oh, and you can get your celeb fix too.
Ultimately, we hope to get those neurons firing and hey, if one of the articles from our fabulous contributors sparks a question, it’s a hop, skip and a jump over to you-know-where!
So take a cruise through theKnow and tell us what you think – the good, the bad and the ugly. What you want to see more of, less of or not at all. We promise you won’t hurt our feelings. And if you like something, by all means share the love on any social network of your choice. Speaking of social, feel absolutely free to like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. Just saying.
Here’s to the start of something special!
- TheKnow Team @ Ask.com