How to Use Google+ Hangouts for Your Business

social media how toAre you using the Google+ video hangout feature?

Are you looking for some creative ideas to use hangouts?

Keep reading to discover how your business can connect in a personal way with your customers using this face-to-face video conferencing tool.

Hangout Features

Google+ has been updating the regular Hangout features. There used to be two distinct types of hangouts—regular and with extras—but recently some of those extra features have been added to the regular type.

Here are the current features for regular video hangouts:

  • Instant video conferencing with up to nine other people
  • Invitation-only or open to the public option
  • Connect many cameras to your hangout video, and easily switch between them. By switching between different cameras you can teach from different areas of a room.

    chef in kitchen

    The chefs of ChefHangout typically use two or three cameras in their hangouts.

  • You can join a hangout on your android or iPhone (but you can’t start one from there—yet)
  • You can upload a document to share (this immediately creates a shared Google doc with everyone in the hangout)
  • You can share your computer screen
  • You can watch a YouTube video all at the same time and be able to text chat on the side as you watch it

Current hangouts with extras give you the ability to:

  • Give the hangout a title or name
  • Create a shared whiteboard presentation
  • Make a call from inside the hangout interface

The biggest advantage of using the hangouts with extras is to give the hangout a name or title. Businesses that create public hangouts should consider using this one, unless it is obvious from the presenter’s name what the hangout is about.

name your hangout

If your Google+ username doesn't describe what the hangout will focus on, use the extras version so you can name the hangout.

Hangouts on Air

While Google+ Hangouts allow you to connect with up to nine people, the Hangouts on Air feature lets you live broadcast to an unlimited audience. Once the on-air hangout is completed, it automatically becomes a draft recorded video in your YouTube account where you can edit it and then publish on your YouTube channel, and then of course share it from there.

Currently, there is a still a bit of voodoo involved in creating a Hangouts on Air account. It seems you have to know someone, or be at the right place at the right time or be an A-list person who Google seeks out to have this coveted option. Even if you get to use this feature, it is still in beta. “Tech happens” on occasion where you might need to restart the hangout several times to get everything to work properly.

I interviewed Candice Hanlon who runs several weekly on-air hangouts including a cooking show, a mommy hangout and interviews with inspiring people. She has a website hub, Hangout Junkie, where you can see the schedule, and you can follow her on Google+ to look for her live hangouts.

She said the process to get the on-air status was just happenstance, as she was in another hangout with someone from Google. I’m a bit surprised that Google hasn’t at least created a place to join a waiting list for when it comes out of beta.

hangout junkie

Once your hangout is over, an automatic post shows all the people who attended the hangout.

This on-air feature will be released to the public soon (at least that is what is published on the Google+ site). Once this feature becomes public, I believe you will see a huge increase in the number and types of business-related hangouts.

Find Businesses Using Google+ Hangouts

The best way to see who’s using it is to go to the Google+ pageGoogle Shared Calendar Events” and scan through the posted daily list.

calendar

You can check this listing daily. Extra design points go to Google Shared Calendar Events for the use of the five images on their page.

There are also several Chrome extensions that provide a bigger view of scheduled hangouts. I recommend Hangout Canopy, as it seems to find more active hangouts than Google+ itself.

hangouts in real life

"Hangouts In Real Life" travels to conferences and events and live broadcasts from those locations. Recent SXSW hangout looks like it was a lot of fun!

sarah hill hangout

One of the first news stations to use video hangouts as part of its newscast.

For your convenience, I have created a Google+ circle with people and pages that routinely hold hangouts. You can access it here.

If you are a fan of Twit.tv, Leo Laporte opens up a Google+ live on-air hangout every now and again and invites a group of tech pundits to add to the already streaming (Livestream) show. If you are looking to advertise in this niche, you get so much more exposure with this double interface.

twit tv

Recent photography show on Twit.tv.

Ways to Use Google+ Hangouts

Here are some of the ways different types of businesses could use a public hangout:

  • On-the-spot customer service portal (Occasionally Google+ itself uses this model.)
  • Q&A on current news and how it affects customers
  • Book launches and giveaways
  • Talent show with prizes (This type of hangout is very popular on Google+. Several even have sponsors. Search Google+ for “talent show hangout.”)

Here are ways businesses use the live broadcast feature hangout:

  • News stations are soliciting suggestions for news items to report. Sarah Hill at KOMU does this really well.
  • Photographer interviews and training produced by Trey Ratcliff is top in this class. His business model has a nice attraction-based structure that leads people to his iOS app and books and his outstanding photography.
  • Combine the live on-air hangout with a Twitter chatfor double the fun like Chris Yates is doing.

    yates

    Double technology for wider exposure is gaining more popularity.

Here are ways businesses can use private hangouts:

  • Coaches and consultants—hangouts with extras allow for you to share document creation and share whiteboard collaboration.
  • Computer technical customer service—hangouts allow you to troubleshoot computer problems while screen-sharing.
  • Virtual assistants—connect with clients from all over the world for weekly meetings and sharing draft versions of content instead of sending in email.

There are so many possibilities for businesses and Google+ hangouts. Another way businesses can utilize them is to be a sponsor for some of these events. You could certainly use Google Ripples (as noted in this excellent blog post) to research the viral nature of the business’s hangouts before you contact them. I will really enjoy reading what you suggest in the comments!

Be sure to check out how ChefHangout is using Google+ hangouts. They are probably the first business of scale using the Google+ Hangout API, launching with two-dozen chefs who utilize hangouts as their sole source of revenue.

chef signup

Applying to be a hangout chef involves a personal interview.

How to Get Started

Make sure you already have a Google+ account (and optionally a company page), then follow these steps. Install (or make sure you have installed) the Google Talk plugin. Follow all of the instructions to install the plugin. Then login to your Google+ account (see image for placement of steps):

  • Click the link to “Start your own hangout” in the right column. Check in the top right corner and select the personal account or company page you want to use to host this hangout.
  • If you have multiple cameras and microphones connected to your computer, make sure you select the one you prefer to use first.
  • Invite an entire circle, individuals or select Public.

    start a hangout

    The interface to start a hangout has a clean, simple design.

Here some tips for successful hangouts:

  • Give yourself time to practice. I’m part of a group of women on Google+ who routinely test out new features privately before we open up public hangouts.
  • Create the list of people you want to invite by putting them all in a circle. Then just invite the circle.
  • Create any documents you are going to share ahead of time in Google Docs to easily add them to the hangout.

Note: Recently, Google released a new version of their hangout API. So if you are a developer, you can create your own apps built on that API. I can’t wait to see all of the amazing things that will be developed with this video hangout technology.

What do you think? I hope you explore all of the links and ideas in this article. I am obviously very excited about businesses using hangouts and I’m looking forward to reading your comments and questions in the box below.

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About the Author, Phyllis Khare

Phyllis Khare is the author of Social Media Marketing eLearning Kit for Dummies and co-author of Facebook Marketing: All-In-One for Dummies. She's a regular columnist for several physical and digital social media marketing magazines. Other posts by »




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  • $44796859

    Thank you for sharing! I particularly like the idea of hangouts as a promotional tool, and for engaging customers by sharing a live experience.

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  • http://www.cardhub.com/ Johnny

    I like the idea and do think that it could that it could work very well, but I dont really see how its different than any other video conference?

  • http://phylliskhare.com/ Phyllis Khare

    I think the promotional tool idea is a very good one, too. You could look at this as an extension of what many websites have in a Live Chat for customer service.

  • http://phylliskhare.com/ Phyllis Khare

    It’s true there are several good video conference systems (and some are using the technology that G+ is using). The main difference would be the Hangouts On Air feature. 

  • http://twitter.com/MorganBarnhart Morgan Barnhart

    Perfect timing! A friend and I are about to start a webinar series, but instead of doing the webinar through the same ol’ webinar company, we wanted to do it through Google+. We’ve been experimenting with it quite a lot lately but this article will definitely help us get along quicker. Thanks!

  • http://phylliskhare.com/ Phyllis Khare

    You are welcome Morgan. Depending on how much tech your brain (and computer) can hold, you could do both…at the same time… 

  • http://www.brittanybotti.com/ Brittany Botti

    Our @ShiftDM team uses Google Hangout for our team meeting every day. It works great for us…even though we are spread out all over the country we are still able to work like we are in the cubicle next door. 

  • http://www.jtdabbagian.com/ James Dabbagian

    I really see the potential in these hangouts….like free conferences, webinars, etc. I can think of a lot of businesses willing to utilize them. 

  • amarieperches

    This was a great article to read; my school recently decided to start trying out Google Hangouts after a meeting with someone from Google! I’ll definitely tweet this article to them. 

  • http://phylliskhare.com/ Phyllis Khare

    Great! I’ve read several articles about schools using G+ Hangouts. Have you joined one? How did it work for you?

  • http://www.maxminzer.com/ Max Minzer

    Thanks for the article! :D Using Hangouts and love them. A lot of potential for businesses.

  • http://www.denisewakeman.com DeniseWakeman

    Great article, Phyllis! I’m wondering what you recommend for recording hangouts? 

  • Charles Hogge

    Thanks so much for the promotions on our page 
    Google Shared Calendar Events! I’d like to add a few more things that I have picked up on over the past few months working on these productions.

    Be sure to check out http://www.hangoutapps.com to keep up with the newest apps that some have released for Hangouts. They include a Google Translator for the chat, volume control for individual guests and more! Unfortunately Apps are not currently working for Brand Pages yet. :o (

    
    Moritz Tolxdorff has created a website that generates free “lower third” graphics for Hangouts at http://www.hangoutgraphics.com as well as a program to do some neat producing effects at http://www.webcammax.com.

    Hangouts On Air are also broadcast now on 
    YouTube at youtube.com/live and can be scheduled there as well if you are a YouTube partner.  Our YouTube channel is youtube.com/charleshogge

    
    Google Shared Calendar Events offers not only the daily posts in streams but also coordinates many other events from around the world on publicly shared Google Calendars which are embedded on a website called http://www.sharedcalendarevents.com. We also offer the opportunity for hosts and producers to utilize our HOA access to create shows without having to do the work of getting the followers.

    A great circle to follow is this “On Air Producers and Hosts” circle: http://goo.gl/5CRp3

    
    Brock Predovich has created a great tool for Setup, Schedule, Promote and Sell your Hangouts using http://www.plushang.com

  • Alan Skyy

    Hangout has quite a few bugs with connectivity and video quality. One would think Google would have this fixed by now.

  • http://phylliskhare.com/ Phyllis Khare

    I’ve seen several On Air Hangouts that have to re-start to make everything work, but it is still in Beta. Are you talking about the regular Hangouts? Any problems I’ve run across seem to be a computer tech issue, not the Hangout itself. What have you noticed? 

  • http://phylliskhare.com/ Phyllis Khare

    If you can do an On Air Hangout – it automatically creates a recording. If you want to record a Private or regular Hangout you can try Camtasia, but recording the audio might need to be done separately. this is a big conversation right now inside G+ as there are some tools, but not an elegant solution right now. I would use screenr if it were a short hangout (5 min). 
     

  • http://twitter.com/MorganBarnhart Morgan Barnhart

    Both?! That’s crazy talk! LOL

    Seriously, though, that’s not a bad idea! I may have to wait until I get a better comp to accomplish that, though. Great idea, though! Thanks!

  • http://www.huddleproductions.com/ Chris Yates

    Thanks so much for including me in your article. I have enjoyed using Google+ Hangouts.

    Here is one of our shows that you were talking about. It automatically records to YouTube.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=doLXTONBCHE

  • http://phylliskhare.com/ Phyllis Khare

    Perfect use of the feature. Thanks for sharing that with us!

  • http://facebook.com/mikedibos Mike Dibos

    I’m definitely overdue to try this out.  And I see while I’ve been waiting that these enhancements have come out too.

  • KM Tu

    Actually one CAN start a Hangout from a mobile device (Android and iOS) through the Messenger inside the Google+ app. Reference: http://googleblog.blogspot.jp/2011/12/google-hangouts-going-beyond-status.html

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Smith-Amanda/100000495476355 Smith Amanda

    This is so good and thanks for the share and I am going to try that out. 

  • http://seoeguide.blogspot.in/ shashi kumar

     It’s a great feature of google plus and we can take too much benefit from this. We can contact with all of our friends with at a time and even it is more valuable for conversation for everyone whether in bussiness. Great way as you described one by one google plus feature because more than people don;t know exactly what are the benefits we can take from google plus actually.

    Thanks for sharing

  • http://www.cateringmelbourne.net/ Becca

    The best about hangout is the instant conferencing video  and can connect up to
    nine people. useful for business and friends hangout.

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  • Heinzgitz

    The Businesses Using Google+ Hangouts on Air shit go in Switzerland not.

  • Lindaegenes

    Thanks, Phyllis. I could really see using Google Hangout for a book launch. It would be an amazing way to reach people around the world without having to go there!

  • http://phylliskhare.com/ Phyllis Khare

    And with every week new things come out it seems! Even I learned a few new things between writing and publishing this article!

  • http://phylliskhare.com/ Phyllis Khare

    That’s one of the best uses of this feature! You can also have book club meetings (gaining popularity on G+) and random readings. I think this feature is built for authors. I hope you use it for your next launch! 

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  • Jose Jairo Ospina

    Gracias por el post es muy ilustrativo, cada dia mas usos de Google+

  • http://phylliskhare.com/ Phyllis Khare

    Thanks SO much for posting this! It was a great conversation on G+ itself yesterday about this article. I’m glad you brought the info here, too! This comment contains some of the most up-to-date info about using G+ Hangouts. I hope everyone reads through this and tries them out. 

  • http://phylliskhare.com/ Phyllis Khare

    Thanks Chris – I’m glad you posted this link – so people can see how the On Air features ends up. And thanks for bringing the conversation here to the blog.

  • http://phylliskhare.com/ Phyllis Khare

    Yes. NOW you can, but when I wrote the article you couldn’t! Thanks for reminding us.

  • http://www.ItalyRetreatforWomen.com/ Lenora Boyle

    Thanks Phyllis for such an in depth article.  I’m just starting with G+, so I like the idea of hangouts for teaching and maybe even an Italian Cooking class on hangouts.  This was like a college class. So much to learn and you make it possible.

  • http://startuplift.com/ Pranaya from StartUpLift

    Hi Phyllis,

    This is great news (launch of Hangouts API). I am expecting to see a plethora of applications that allow anything from teaching classes to conducting candidate interviews sprouting soon. 

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  • http://phylliskhare.com/ Phyllis Khare

    Thanks Lenora! Make sure you check out chefhangouts if you are thinking of teaching cooking classes! 

  • http://phylliskhare.com/ Phyllis Khare

    Yes. The possibilities are Huge! I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next. 

  • Charles Hogge

    Also feel free to contact me if anyone would like some assistance with getting the most out of hangouts.

  • Rachel Blankstein

    For user reviews of Google Hangouts, see the user reviews on Comparz: http://bit.ly/K0wt14

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  • http://ne1up.com/ Thomas O’Hearn

    Very interesting article, one of those most up-to-date on Google Hangouts. We’ve had enough interest at our website @NE1UP:twitter  to look at pivoting slightly in that direction. Groups like the ones highlighted above are really innovating how Google Hangouts is being used – and for the time being, going with Google is a pretty safe bet as they integrate themselves more and more with every part of the web…

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  • http://www.slimwares.blogspot.in/ Derek

    I sure as hell wud try this

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  • Charles Hogge

    Hey guys, I just got some updates that we should be seeing some live caption capabilities for Hangouts.  This is a big step in order to allow people from all over the world to watch live instead of awaiting the subtitle transcription.

    In addition we are about to update the scheduling platform to include many new features.  I will be sure to leave another comment in here to update everyone when the time has come.

    Come hangout with us sometime! :o )

  • http://www.ezinearticles.org.uk/charter-communications-buy-the-best/ Dawson_Rita

    I didn’t know that we have Chrome extensions t view the scheduled hangouts. I have to check out for the Hangout Canopy now. Is there any other extensions available? You have explained the best ways to Google+ Hangouts. Anyways, thanks for sharing.

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  • Mort73

    Is there a limit to how many users that can connect to a business pages hangout at the same time?

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  • Transformance

    Hi. Explain your comment  if you would about how technically you can use multiple cameras in the same room. I can’t figure that one out. Thanks. Jack Gill

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  • Kevin Douglas

    I prefer using Google+ Hangouts for social interactions. However, for business meetings, security and guaranteed attendance is what I need; hence I use RHUB web conferencing appliances. It works from behind my company’s firewall instead of outside of it.

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  • http://www.aquahabitat.com/ Spring Creek Aquatic Concepts

    A little tip for those who are not used to public speaking. Call in to a few radio discussion shows. After several calls you will learn to be more comfortable, slow down and perhaps even develop your inner golden radio / Hangout voice!







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