social media how toAs Google’s latest foray into social media, Google+ has brought some new tools to the digital table. My personal favorite is Hangouts.

Google describes Hangouts as a “front porch.”

Anyone can drop in and say “hi” just like anyone could drop by when you’re on your porch.

3 Reasons to Consider a Google Hangout

Your prospects are already here! Video conferencing has been available for a while, but Google+ Hangouts takes it to where people are.

Here are some ways you can use Hangouts:

#1: Part of the sales process: You could invite people who are already in your sales pipeline to hang out. Not to put a high-pressure sales speech on them. Just to further the relationship.

To make it more intriguing for people to join, try naming the Hangout “Overcoming _________,” where the blank is filled in with a key problem you know your prospects tend to have.

#2: Office hours: College professors have standing office hours—times students can be sure to see them at their desk. Why don’t you? You could set up a standing weekly or monthly Hangout as a way to increase customer service or to keep in touch with your staff.

#3: Fireside chats: Everyone seems to want time with the CEO, so why not give it? “Town hall”–style conference calls have been popular in recent years, but they are conducted over the phone. What if you were to set up a standing quarterly time for people to actually hear from your CEO? And more than hear, they’ll be able to see and interact.

Hangouts could be used by colleges to communicate with incoming students, or alumni, or even current students or their parents. Or you could use this as a way for your board and investors to interact with the CEO between meetings. If you have a circle of “investors” and only invite them, they should be the only ones who see the invitation.

This is an incredibly efficient use of your CEO’s time: she doesn’t have to leave her desk. No travel time means she can be doing work right up to the Hangout time and start back up when it’s done.

3 Steps to Start a Hangout

#1: Push the “Start a Hangout” button: Starting a Hangout is as easy as clicking on the “Start a Hangout” button on the right side of your Google+ profile!

start a hangout

Click on the button.

#2: Check your hair: The kind folks at Google even give you a virtual green room so you can check your hair before you go live!

check your hair

That's me looking into my web camera.

#3: Invite cool people: Hangouts are only as good as the people who join you on them! So even if you make your Hangout public (open to anyone), be sure to invite individual people too.

And then you’re ready to go live with your Hangout! The Hangout shows up on your timeline, and the timeline of those who have you in their Circles.

join this hangout

Google+ posts your Hangout on your live feed to everyone in the Circles you've invited.

In the Hangout

Here’s a video showing you exactly how to start a Hangout and what to do when you’re in there.

Once you’ve started the Hangout, you still have lots of controls. Along the bottom you have a series of buttons.

lots of controls

You have lots of control in the Hangout: inviting new people, chatting, choosing videos on YouTube and controlling your sound and video.

#1: Invite: While in a Hangout, you always have the option to invite new people. Just click on the “Invite” button on the far left to include individual people or entire Circles.

#2: Chat: Have you ever tried to share a web URL over the phone? It can be pretty challenging. The Chat feature is a great way to share web links and other information during a Hangout. Once you click on the “Chat” button, you’ll see the chat window for the rest of your time in the Hangout.

#3: YouTube: Google has already integrated YouTube videos into Hangouts. So now you can use the “YouTube” button to share a promotional video from your company or a video that illustrates a point. Find a cool video before you’re in a Hangout? Google now lets you start a Hangout right from YouTube.

#4: Volume and Video Controls: If you work at home or in a busy work space, the buttons on the right are very helpful! You can use “mute video” to turn your camera on and off whenever you want. Most people never use this but it is a nice feature.

The “Mute Mic” button allows you to turn off your mic. So if you get a call or someone pops into your office, you can still listen to the Hangout without him having to hear you.

And the “Settings” button allows you even more control. If you have more than one mic or camera, you can choose which one you want to use in the Hangout. And you can choose the “Echo Cancellation” option. That will allow you to use your computer’s built-in mic and speakers without bugging the rest of the Hangout participants!


There is a lot going on in a Hangout!

3 Things to Fine-Tune

#1: Your costume: If you’re using Google+ for business, you’ll need to decide how you’ll dress for a Hangout. When I speak, I wear bowties. Bowties are all over my social media avatars. But I don’t wear bowties 24/7.

I often work from a home office, so I have to consciously choose whether to don a bowtie or simply hang out in a t-shirt.


I chose to hangout in a t-shirt.

#2: Your background: What people see behind you is as important as the face they see. Do you want your business logo to show behind you? Or do you like the clean look of a blank wall?

Some people have found my office to be ideal: the books and degrees in the background speak of my commitment to lifelong learning. (I honestly hadn’t even picked up on that!)

In the picture someone took of a Hangout I was on, you’ll see that I have a trade show banner with my company name on it. Since I wasn’t in a bowtie, I wanted people to remember what I did.

#3: Your purpose: Are you just experimenting with a Hangout? Or are you holding a team meeting? Different purposes have different outcomes.

Google+ is still new enough that I’ve found it more effective to let people know I’ll be holding a Hangout so they can be on Google+ when I share the invitation. Starting a Hangout and having no-one show up is like having your tray of food in the high school cafeteria and wondering if anyone will let you sit next to them. It can feel a bit lonely.

Fortunately, Google has added a wonderful feature. Now, if no-one shows up for your Hangout, they remove the Hangout from your timeline. So you don’t have an embarrassing post saying you hung out with “0 people.”

Some Closing Thoughts on Google+ Hangouts

We all know that people only purchase from us when they know, like and trust us. That used to mean we needed to go to a lot of conferences to meet people. But a tool like Google+ Hangouts can help you do the interacting right from your desk. And as Google rolls out the ability to broadcast Hangouts, you’ll be able to extend your reach beyond the 10 people in the Hangout.

And as you do more Hangouts, and capture more images from those Hangouts, your company will stand out. People will know you’re approachable.

As I was writing this article, I popped in to a Hangout. A Google employee joined us as we were chatting, so we got to ask him lots of questions.

Why wouldn’t you take up this opportunity? The only thing it costs is time.

What do you think? How are you using Hangouts? Leave your questions and comments in the box below.

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  • Nice overview Marc.  What type of headset mic are you using and are you happy with it?  

    I think you need a bowtie in the background!

  • Sandra

    Can you record a hangout? Just wondering if I could use this to record interviews?

  • Nice read. I am currently facilitating small groups coaching sessions through hangouts. I have been beta testing it for a few months and will start my first “paying” group next week. It’s not perfect but it’s definitely more engaging than a chat box with a phone conference.

  • Google Plus = Fail 

  • I LOVE Hangouts.  As a matter of fact, I introduced Michael Stelzner to hangouts and he did one in my social media marketing class, sharing advice and tips to the class.  This allowed the class to ask questions. Recently, we did a presentation as part of DC Week and several Google+ friends asked if we could do it as a hangout, since they’re not in DC.  My initial thought was – yeah. But then I wasn’t sure how to integrate a hangout with our AV and sound system.  Anyone have ideas? As to recording, that’s not supported right now.  I used Camtasia to record my hangout with Michael and another one I did with Mari Smith.  Just beware of feedback from your speakers.

  • Hey Facebook Apps – Care to elaborate??

  • Sandra: Google isn’t offering a way to record hangouts. But you can use a service like ScreenFlow or anything else that captures your screen and converts it to video. 

    Recording the hangout can make the one time event have even more benefit!

  • Jeff: Thanks!

    Jack: That’s terrific! What a great format for coaching!

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  • Hangouts is changing the game, I interviewed Daria Musk who used Hangouts to build a 18,000+ fan base in 3 months.  She went from performing in front of 25 people to 200,000 people. 
    Not sure if i am allow to post links here, so I better not out of respect for this site =)
    Check it out if you like!

  • Hi Marc.

    Really cool and great tips here. Most definitive a strategy I will adapt.

    Chris Brogan and Guy Kawasaki touched in on this at Blog World 2011. And now that Google+ has opened their business pages this is a great tool.

    So I appreciated the step by step instruction here. 

    Noticed that Google+ plus also now opened for Chat with your circles. Really cool stuff they are doing at G+ these days. 


    Are Morch
    Hotel Blogger

  • Thanks Brian! That is impressive!

    Are, I know! I’ve loved the chat feature via Gmail. Glad it’s opened on Google+ as well!

  • I’m particularly interested in Hangouts with Extras — have you tried those yet? With the shared google docs and screensharing — seems like it is even more exciting to use.

  • Thats cool, I did not know you could share your screen on a hangout!

  • I’m super excited to hold a poetry reading / open mic session in the coming months.  Circle me to find out when it will be.

  • Kristin Fehrman

    I’ll keep using Skype, thanks.

  • Thanks! I’m glad to know that Camtasia works as well. Was it pretty easy to set up the recording?

  • They are cool. You can name the hangout, edit docs, share your screen.

    Here’s a blog post done using the notes in a Hangout.

  • That’s a terrific use of hangouts!

  • That’s cool too. How does Skype differ? Or what do you find more helpful with Skype?

  • Now THAT’S what I’m talking about — great functionality. Thanks!

  • Thanks for this informative article, Marc.
    I’ve been holding private Video Office Hours for my members for years using Ustream.
    This looks like a better way to go, though, because people can all see each other simultaneously.
    Looking forward to trying it.

  • It seems like they keep adding things too. Can’t wait until they make it so we can broadcast Hangouts.

  • I have found the ability to see each other to be an amazing benefit!

  • great feature but useless to many until mainstream people start using G+

  • I did not know they were going to roll out a broadcast version. How did you hear about this? What is the cost?

  • I heard the Microsoft 300 X is decent and good value. Depends on if you want  cord or not? Just my opinion as this is being picked up by Friday 🙂

  • I heard about her.. she is a musician right?

  • Thanks Preston – I’ll check it out.  Thus far I’ve used my usb mic with some success – and apple earbuds. Being mobile (cordless) would be nicer!

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  • Why useless?

  • The Google Team is very open about sharing information on Google+. It’s pretty cool.

    My understanding is that broadcasting will be another free feature. 

  • A great intro to Google+ Hangouts with lots of creative ideas on how to use.  I appreciate the application for a consultant type to use as “customer service hours” or in a corporate environment as a possible “state of the biz ceo address”.  It seems like you really are limited only by one’s imagination.  The hamster is now running full speed!  And served up by a fellow Maine-iac, thanks Marc!

  • Yup she is singer song writer.
    Bottom line is, we are all in the eyeballs business and fan/customer building business. In Michael Stelzner’s book “Launch” (Great book) he dedicated a chapter on “Finding Inspiration by Looking Outward”And there are lots we can learn from Daria on engaging and connecting with fans using Google+ hangouts no matter what industry you are in =)


  • Michael Tucker

    Hi everyone.

    Those who regularly use G+ hangouts will know what a complex piece of equipment we have been allowed to use. I know that I have connected with some very interesting people through using hangouts. This has changed social media into a face-to-face conversation. Many people have yet to comprehend this, take a look at the blank interface when signing up and promptly leave.
    There have been applications created to find the public hangouts(especially with Chrome).

    My particular interest though is being able to stream these live. This a technical mastery that has some current issues with syncing sound to video, particularly when each video/sound source is sent to a server to be cleaned and re-sent out again. The average sync delay though is less than 5 seconds.(This can affect a recording, as the sound requires “slipping” to match up with the video) 
    I have seen the hangout to YouTube in motion and it works well, but there are a minefield of issues attached, especially with copyright and in some cases FCC regulations.
    I have used the mobile app via iPhone/3G and that offers another perspective to being able to present a story on location. I have been in some incredible locations doing this!

  • Marc,

    Your video has definitely peaked my interest in Google + Hangout.  I am a chef/author/entrepeneur and have created my own website (okay… I’ll be honest with you, I had help with a very good “geek” friend of mine).  Anyway, I can’t stop thinking about how can I increase my sales (cookbook & seasoning blends) that are on my website by signing up with Google + Hangout?  Is there a business/marketing plan that they offer for newbies like me?  Please take a look at my website and give me your honest opinion.  Thanks Marc.  My website is:

    Chef Clay

  • Kat

    I’ve been using hangouts with extras to share my screen, take notes and share documents with my partners. I just used it for the first time last week for my first ever teleclass. We had a few glitches (some people couldn’t stay connected or had issues with the plugin, the screen recorder we tried didn’t work, etc) but overall I think it was a hit. We even had people from all over the world! It was great! Will definitely be using it again.
    Thanks for this article! After the teleclass, I’ve been considering your tip # 2 for having a weekly or bi-weekly hangout to answer client questions, see what else I can do to help them, etc.

  • Excellent article, Marc. I love your ideas for using hangouts and I didn’t realize that extras had been added. I think it’s time for me to start experimenting with hangouts with my clients…thanks for the inspiration.

  • Thanks for the tips! Hangouts are the great new way to connect! Brands should definitely cash in on this oppotunity.

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  • Hannah

    Thanks for this article! I just used Hangouts for the first time last week to hold a group meeting with other students in one of my classes. This is a great option for individuals that need to meet with others in a group setting but cannot be at the same location physically. I have to say I was really impressed by Google’s voice activation system, which automatically detects which user is speaking and switches to their video feed. To the best of my knowledge, this is the most intuitive and user-friendly form of multi-user video chat. My only complaint is that, like most new social networks, Google is a difficult to understand at first. Thanks to you for breaking it down in a step-by-step format! This was so helpful!

  • Is Google+ Hangout of any value if members of the hangout do not have a mic, or do not have a mic and webcam?

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  • It is a great informative post regarding Google+ hangout. I came to know some important concepts about it by reading this post.

  • this interlinked post about google hangout is pretty interesting.these tips are very nicely sumed-up in ths article. thanks for sharing it!

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  • Thanks so much for this comment. I can’t wait to try hangouts from my phone!

  • Hi Clay,
    I don’t know of a strategy per se. But I bet you could start a cooking show via Google Hangouts!

  • Terrific! You’ve got me thinking about having a regular hangout of the internet marketing course I teach!

  • Thanks Denise! Share with us how the experiments go!

  • I like the voice activation feature too. Although it is odd when folks make lots of noise without being on the screen! 🙂

  • You can do hangouts without a mic by using the chat feature. But without a webcam or a mic does make it a bit annoying for other participants.

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  • How many people can be on a hangout at a time? I haven’t had a chance to try it out yet, since we’re already using a couple conferencing programs- nobody wants to hangout w/ me and play 🙁

  • Right now, 10 people can hangout at a time.

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  • Annie Banannie

    This is such a clear article.  I love to have an overview of a new tool.  It makes it easy to get started and also gives me lots of ideas. 

    Some more ideas for use:  Any type of craft group, or any group that can benefit from sharing visually.  I’m a balloon storyteller, and both storytellers and balloon artists get together often to share ideas and get feedback.  This way I can more easily share with people from all over the world and not just one person at a time like I’ve been doing with Skype.  

    I’ll also be doing interviews on the road soon after some of my performances, and I’m excited to hear about the mobile app.  Has anyone here had a lot of experience with the mobile app?  I would assume that all involved should probably have the app and a mic even if they’re in the same room, right?  

    I’d also like to point out that Social Media Examiner has the most intelligent comments of any site I’ve seen recently. I make it a point to read the comments as well as the articles because I learn even more. I hope to be that helpful someday. 😉

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  • What a great article!  Can’t wait to start using this on my own site!  This would be a great way to offer one-on-one or small group mentoring to new homeschoolers – thanks so much.

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  • While searching for the G+ plus hangouts tutorial, i came across many articles but your article is different from others. You have explained it very beautifully. Keep it up..

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  • Wayne Rosa

    Hey guys
    Is it possible to invite say one or two people, and then broadcast so that only the one or two cab talk but the rest of the world can listen only? Just like doing an interview on Television???

  • Tamarah Rudisill

    How do you get a link to send to your email list directing them to a google hangout you are having?