Google+ is on the move. After launching only a few short months ago, this newcomer social network has already made a major impact on social conversation, and how we approach search engine optimization. In the last few weeks, the importance of Google+ for the small business has gone from moderate, to severe. We need to be on Google+, but what do we do once we are there? Google has mixed in some unique features, such as Hangouts, that make Google+ a compelling offering for many brands.
What is a Hangout?
We all need a place to come together and chat – everyone needs a hangout. It’s almost impossible to think of a single sitcom where the cast of characters doesn’t have some kind of hangout. In Saved By The Bell, Zack Morris and the gang hung out at The Max. In Fraiser, the hangout was Fraiser’s apartment, and in Seinfeld there was the always charming RESTAURANT. Everyone loves a good hangout, so why should they be absent for social networks?
Since launch, Google+ has offered it’s very own equivalent to the the Seinfeld RESTAURANT, and it simply calls them Hangouts. This feature is essentially a video chatroom, and enables Google+ users to participate in live, and often times spontaneous, video chats. Hangout can be opened to any of your Circles, offered to friends via email, or left public so that anyone could choose to pop in. All participants are required to have a webcam, mic and a Google+ profile.
The public chat options available in Hangouts are unique to the service, and were recently used by President Obama to host a town-hall-style question and answer forum. The event was a success, and proved the value of hangouts for many brands and organizations.
Why Hangouts Matter
For the social business, there are a few ways that Google+ Hangouts can be integrated into our online marketing. How and why hangouts are used will vary by industry and brand personality, but we must understand the nuts and bolts of the services before we can really evaluate its potential.
Hangouts allow up to nine people per chat session, which makes them a great hosting option for online meetings. Many businesses are already using Skype to communicate with colleagues and co-workers all across the globe. While Skype only allows two people to share video with its free service, Google+ provides a way around this limitation while keeping it free.
With built-in support for desktop screen sharing, Hangouts are a potential platform for online customer support. While the hangout would have to be initiated by the actual business providing help, it could be a way to offer open-forum help for a certain group of users. This type of service could redefine the traditional helpdesk, and offer a fun new way to help customers.
Recently, Google has begun rolling out a new feature called Hangouts On Air. This new feature allows Hangout hosts to record the proceedings and automatically publish them to YouTube. We can see many examples of this type of recording on the video services. While a bit lack-luster, these recordings do provide an inexpensive and simple way for businesses to host and publish their own video show or vlog.
Perhaps Google+ Hangouts are the press conference of the future? Traditionally, large company announcements are reserved for some type of press conference, but Google+ brings this idea directly to the social network. While only nine people can participate in the Hangout, many more are able to watch and view the proceedings. This makes it a great platform for spreading news to the masses when the times comes. All the more reason for us to be investing time into our Google+ presence.