5 Creative Ways Businesses Are Using Google+ Hangouts

social media how to

Are you interested in adding a bit of splash to your social media marketing mix?

Google+ Hangouts has addressed this issue.

It might be the versatile platform you’ve been waiting for to help capture the attention of an even bigger slice of potential customers.

With Hangouts, you can:

  • Video chat instantly with up to nine people.
  • Share documents and other files with the group.
  • Watch a YouTube video together and chat alongside it.
  • Share your screen with others.
  • Record sessions for viewing later.
  • Broadcast the chat live to anyone.

How to Get Started

Starting a Hangout is easy (and free!). Just create a Google+ account, and click the “Start a Hangout” button. The technical aspects of Google+ Hangouts are extremely basic and intuitive.

starting a hangout

Starting a Hangout is simple. Click the green "Start a Hangout" button and decide who to invite.

Now you’re ready to get creative!

Check out these five creative ways businesses are utilizing Hangouts. Feel free to experiment with any combination of these ideas.

#1: Crowdsourcing

Do you often feel like you’ve got something important to say but nowhere to say it? Maybe you have a few like-minded associates with a similar desire to share their thoughts?

Google+ Hangouts is an ideal forum to share ideas for new services, products and even your expertise to a wider audience.

In fact, when you provide potential customers with expert and valuable advice, it often goes a long way in converting them into actual customers.

Every Friday morning at 8am Pacific Time, Los Angeles–based accountant Seth David displays a virtual shingle on Google+ that basically says “open for business.”

seth david

Seth David's "Accounts, Bookkeepers and Business Owners Hangout" is a great example of crowd sourcing a group's expertise.

David, with assistance from other accountants, crowdsources hosting duties for his weekly Hangout called “Accountants, Bookkeepers and Business Owners Hangout.”

“We provide business owners with valuable information they’d otherwise have to pay a good deal of money for,” says David. “You have a whole hour every week where you can take advantage of our collective knowledge for fun and for free. Ask all of the questions you want and we will give you the answers.”

And when these small businesses need more hands-on, complex accounting advice, guess who they’re likely to hire?

David says at first it was very lonely on Friday mornings. However, he remained consistent about the time his Hangout aired and the subject matter he covered. Perhaps, most importantly, he continually announced upcoming Hangouts across other social media channels—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.—and eventually small business owners began showing up in droves.

Another added benefit of crowdsourcing is you inevitably cast a much wider net. Not only will adding others make the online experience richer, but also they will certainly bring more people (their circles) with them.

For example, if you own a florist shop, find regular customers interested in sharing their experiences using your products, or someone to discuss what season is best for planting begonias.

Why crowdsourcing works:

  • Openly share your expertise to generate goodwill and provide value for your guests.
  • Working as a team will take a bit of weight off your shoulders and allow for a diverse range of expert advice.
  • The more people who share their expertise, the more people you will reach.

Crowdsourcing tips:

  • Choose a time that will be most convenient for the audience you are trying to reach.
  • Post your Hangout times and descriptions at GPhangouts.com.
  • Create a basic agenda in case the questions aren’t rolling in at first.
  • Wear your moderator hat and keep control of the conversation when it strays.

#2: The Question & Answer

Is white “chocolate” really even chocolate? Do you still use liquid milk in your products, and where does chocolate come from anyway?

These were just a few questions answered recently during the UK-based chocolatier Cadbury’s “Triple Chocolate Tasting on Air Hangout” hosted by one of the company’s official chocolate tasters.

cadbury

Cadbury "Triple Chocolate Tasting on Air Hangout" is a popular treat with Google+ users.

Yes, that’s a real job!

Cadbury’s Triple Chocolate Tasting circle is one of the most complete and rounded examples of how to use Hangouts to engage consumers in a fun and informative manner.

The key takeaway from Cadbury’s expanding social effort on Google+ is that opening up your business—even if you sell something less sexy than chocolate; let’s say garden hoses at your hardware store—can generate interest and ultimately stimulate further conversations.

Participants get a sweet sense of what Cadbury is up to these days.

Ultimately you can use the valuable information gathered during these Q & A sessions to help you improve the customer experience and your business.

Why Q & A’s work:

  • It’s easy. You’ve already got the answers because you know your business.
  • They provide customers (and potential new customers) an opportunity to learn more about you and your operation.
  • They allow you to ask your customers questions.
  • They provide a channel for you to listen to customer feedback.

Q & A tips:

  • Google+ Hangouts allows you to receive questions before you go live. Choose the best ones.
  • When you click “Start Broadcast,” the Hangout goes live and will appear in your stream. Ask users to link directly to the post that contains the Hangout. This allows for people (not among the nine) to post comments, give feedback, etc.
  • Make sure it’s not a one-way conversation. Actively allow others to give their input on a given topic.

#3: The Demonstration

Do you work in the type of industry that is practically made for the one-on-one demonstration? Or maybe you often find yourself sitting down to show customers how things work as soon as they walk through your door?

One of the best ways to give consumers value while promoting your business is to create a workshop or demonstration that shows off both your expertise and value. And Google+ is a platform well-suited to offering potential clients an inside look at your skills.

chef lee allison

Chef Lee Allison uses a special themed Halloween demonstration to teach Google+ users how to make some special dishes.

One particular group of early adopters of the demonstration technique on Google+ Hangouts is chefs. There are numerous chef Hangouts that offer cooking classes and food preparation demonstrations in real time, revealing how to go about making dishes from the pedestrian to the sublime.

It’s like having a personal instructor join you in the kitchen.

Lee Allison Hosts G+ Chef’s Round Table and teaches his audience how to make some tasty treats!

“Here at The Social Skillet, we offer you the opportunity to interact with the chef, learn new dishes, meet new people and gain valuable new kitchen skills… all from your own kitchen,” writes Lee Allison, founder and chef of the Social Skillet.

Allison uses his chef Hangout, G+ Chef’s Round Table, to drive traffic back to his business, The Social Skillet. And at the same time, he’s built a larger community around it. More than 13,000 Google+ users have The Social Skillet in their circles.

Hangouts should also be used to drive traffic to your other online properties, whether it is an ecommerce site or just an informational web page about how people can find your services.

Why demonstrations work:

  • Demonstrations help prove your products and services actually work.
  • A step-by-step demonstration is designed to teach viewers how to accomplish a goal. Viewers respond positively when provided something of value.
  • Demonstrations compel people to act (e.g., make a purchase).

Demonstration tips:

  • Use the golden rule: 90% preparation, 10% perspiration.
  • Try a dry run before you invite an audience.
  • If possible, use a moderator while you are presenting.
  • Provide more contact information and encourage viewers to follow up with any questions.

#4: The Giveaway

At the end of every year, do you find yourself with a storage room full of last season’s hot products? What if you didn’t use all of your billable hours? Do you feel you’ve cheated yourself out of time that could have been better spent?

The point I’m getting at is if you’re in business, you’ve got something to give away.

Take the example of Taylor Guitars and one fast-rising star. In March, musician Daria Musk added her one-millionth follower on Google+ after only eight months using the service.

“I was dreaming maybe there’s this wider world that I can sing for,” she recently told the Google+ blog. “Maybe my people are out there somewhere.”

daria musk

Daria Musk picks one lucky winner in the Taylor Guitar Giveaway."I was dreaming maybe there's this wider world that I can sing for," she recently told the Google+ blog. "Maybe my people are out there somewhere."

And boy, were they ever out there.

So it was only natural that masters of the Google+ Hangouts giveaway, renowned guitar makers Taylor Guitars, would team with the singer for a series of concerts and giveaways to generate interest in the company and the artist.

It worked.

Singer and songwriter Daria Musk picks a winner for the Taylor Guitars contest.

In the recent past, Taylor has given away guitars, tickets to TV shows and concerts, Beats by Dre headphones, as well as advice… Just about anything people might want, they offer it up. This definitely drives traffic and generates interest for the company.

And teaming with Musk was a no-brainer.

Why giveaways work:

  • Giving something away drives a tremendous amount of traffic.
  • People who test your product or service often recognize its value and become customers.
  • According to the “law of reciprocity,” giveaways produce psychological pressure for people to return the favor (purchase).

Giveaway tips:

  • Be innovative with social media promotions.
  •  Make an effort to engage with your fans, and give away something that suits your audience.
  • Announce the Hangout and the giveaway on your stream and let people know what you’ll be doing or discussing.
  • Follow up: After the Hangout and giveaway, post a summary on your stream.

#5: Pull Back the Curtain

You loved the Wizard of Oz as a kid, right? So maybe it’s time to take a page from that classic and pull back the curtain on your business.

President Obama certainly has.

If you want to learn more about social media best practices for any platform, you should check out what the White House is up to and try to emulate that. After all, President Obama’s historic victory back in 2008 is largely credited to his campaign’s innovative social media strategy.

And they aren’t missing a beat with the Google+ Hangout function.

The “West Wing Week” is featured on the White House Google+ page, and regular Hangouts with administration officials, White House staff and even the president provide an incredible look behind the scenes of the most famous address in the world.

president obama hangout

President Obama hosts a behind-the-scenes Hangout for some lucky guests.

Even if your address is a little more pedestrian, people still want to know what is happening inside the businesses on Main Street.

Why pulling back the curtain works:

  • If you can pull back the curtain and show people some of the interesting things that go on behind the scenes in your business and your industry, people will feel like they really know you and are part of an elite community.
  • Backstage passes have a strong appeal to consumers and convey an insider status that will provide a sense of value.
  • This will build both trust and gratitude.

Tips for pulling back the curtain:

  • For the first five minutes of your Hangout, run a graphic to announce that the Hangout is about to start.
  • Be cool. It’s OK to be casual and make mistakes. Viewers appreciate honest representation. Don’t worry about producing a show fit for Broadway.
  • Show off your personality. Leave the dry business stuff for your website.
  • Provide inside looks at new products or events in development. This is an easy way to attract attention and add value for your followers.

So there it is—five different ways you can use Google+ Hangouts to generate interest and provide more information about your business.

While these five are certainly a great starting point, there are many other ways Hangouts can grow the influence of your business.

What do you think? Please share the effective strategies you’ve used with your business and maybe a few things you might add to the list. Leave your questions and comments in the box below.

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About the Author, Tim Gray

Tim is a social media strategist with Blue Fountain Media and often writes about his marketing experiences on the company’s blog, The ROI Factor. Other posts by »




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