Small business people still seem to be in the process of catching on to Google+, the social network created by Google. Google has made a number of moves to encourage people to use Google+. It has tied in several applications to Google Plus.
One of those applications is Google Hangouts. Hangouts are a type of online group meeting using webcams so that each of the participants can see and hear the others. Think video conference and webinar all rolled up in one.
With Hangouts, you can hold group presentations online and automatically record them for YouTube, and archive them for later access. You can stream live broadcasts directly from your website, YouTube channel and/or Google+ profile with just a few clicks. Even better, you can save your recorded Hangout videos and post them on your site. If you wanted to try offering webinars, this is a no-cost way to do it – because Hangouts are completely free to do.
So what exactly can you do with Hangouts? Here are 4 suggestions:
1. Conduct Team Meetings
With so many teams having members spread out in different locations or working from home, just scheduling an in-person team meeting can be a challenge. Traveling to attend meetings can be costly and more importantly, time consuming.
Conference calls are the typical way of handling meetings when everyone cannot be present. But phone communication leaves a lot to be desired. When you can’t see facial expressions, miscommunication can arise. Worse, in today’s world, team members can succumb to distraction and start focusing on their smartphones instead of the team participants. When you can see one another, those issues are minimized. People tend to stay alert and engaged.
Need to share a Web URL to the team, or share your screen to show them something? With Hangouts you just push a button and you can do that.
With Hangouts, the person who happens to “hold the floor” and is speaking at the moment, has his or her video screen showing in the large view. Other participants’ screens are minimized until they speak.
And yes, you can restrict Hangouts to make them private.
2. Hold Webinars
Have you ever wanted to share expertise and have it available online, perhaps to establish yourself or a company executive as a subject matter expert? Or perhaps you want to start a webinar series as part of your content marketing repertoire. Or maybe you want to provide a question and answer session for customers or prospects, about a product offering either for sales or customer support purposes.
Hangouts are an interactive way to do all of the above. Hangouts normally are limited to 10 active participants (available to 15 participants with Google+ premium features). Their small size of active participants keeps them rather intimate and encourages participation and questions.
With Google Hangouts On Air, you can broadcast your Hangout publicly. You can record it, edit the recording, and share the recorded event online.
If the cost of webinar software has kept you from experimenting with webinars or customer Q&A sessions, then Hangouts are a low-risk way to experiment. Same with technology issues – if you have been concerned with the technical elements of holding webinars, hangouts are pretty easy. There’s a free Google video chat plugin you will be prompted to download and install upon your first Hangout – but it’s fast and easy. You don’t have to worry about trying to make recording software sync up. You simply start a Hangout, name it and you’re good to go.
3. Offer Consulting Hours
Remember when you were in college and your professor held Office Hours so students could get individual help? Why not offer the same feature as a consultant?
You could offer customized coaching services. A Hangout session with your client can replace phone calls and emails, or lengthy and expensive travel.
For smaller consultants and professionals, it can differentiate your business from competitors. You’ll look high tech, at no extra cost. And Hangouts can allow you to offer an expanded range of services, such as paid coaching sessions that can be advertised and scheduled on your website. Musicians can offer paid music lessons. Only your imagination is the limit.
4. Hold a Press Conference
Who says press conferences are limited to big companies? Recording artist Taylor Swift hosted a Google+ Hangout to announce her new album. During the live chat, Taylor answered fan questions from around the world, let them know what they could expect from her album, and debuted its first single. When her single was released on iTunes it went straight to number one, faster than any other song in history.
Have a big announcement – whether it’s a new executive hire, a new product, or simply to announce that you’ve won an award? A Google Hangout lets you tell the world and provide an interactive record of the announcement.
There are many ways for small business owners to use Google+ Hangouts to connect with their customers, build their brands, monetize their businesses, and create buzz. Check out the Google Live Events calendar to help spur some of your own ideas. You can also add your own events to the calendar to increase your reach. And check out this article with more ways to use Google Hangouts.