The Ultimate Guide for Using Google+ Hangouts for Business

Of all the features that make up Google+, Hangouts are by far the most widely successful aspect of the social network. Hangouts allow people to connect with one another through video conferencing on a personal level or through Google+ Hangouts on Air that allow a Hangout to be shared live with the public.

Google continues to take hold of the webinar and video conferencing industry through Hangouts, since the Google+ feature allows for anyone to quickly and easily setup up a video presentation for an unlimited amount of audience members for free. There are advantages and disadvantages to Google+ Hangouts as compared to a traditional webinar service like GoToMeeting, but overall, Hangouts are an effective and affordable way for businesses to reach their audience with video.

“Now suppose you want to do more than just have a video chat with 10,000 of your closest friends.  Suppose you’re a comedian who wants to hold a special performance.  Or a music band who decides to broadcast a concert from their parents’ garage.  Or a budding interviewer who wants to setup a TV show from his or her living room like Kramer did on Seinfeld.  Or, in my example, a small business owner who wants to explain how the fiscal cliff is affecting his business to 500 people who have nothing more exciting to do than listen to him on a weekday afternoon. That’s what Google+ Hangouts On Air does.  It’s like having a giant TV studio to broadcast to the world…from your office.” – Gene Marks for Forbes.

In an effort to continually unify Google users across their properties, Hangouts are an integrated aspect of the company’s ecosystem of products all centered on Google+. Therefore, there are many benefits for businesses active on Google+ through Hangouts and the platform’s other features.

Here’s where to begin when it comes to using Google+ Hangouts on Air for your business:

1. Where to Begin – How to Create a Google+ Hangout

Start by focusing on what the topic of your Google+ Hangout will be. To do so, create a discussion around a topic that relates to your business and its customer base. If you’re a fashion company, you might host a Hangout around the latest trends in fashion or if you’re a restaurant, you might invite your culinary staff to talk about how to make some of your most famous dishes at home. It’s best to start with a topic that your company knows really well to ensure you’re comfortable with the subject for your first attempt at Hangouts.

For some examples of what other companies focused on with their Hangouts, check out what Dell did on their Hangout, what Sephora did and what Best Buy did to drive engagement around their discussion.

Once you’ve settled on a topic, it’s time to prepare for the actual execution of the Hangout. Download the app on iOS, Android or Chrome to get Hangouts setup prior to the time of the event. It’s also required that you as the host and participants have a Google login id, as well as a Google+ account. This basically means that all attendees must sign-up for a Google account and setup an associated profile on Google+ as well.

After that, it’s time to iron out how the Hangout will be organized in terms of the content, guests and talking points for the Hangout as well as the technical concerns. This is probably one of the most important aspects to clarify from the beginning to ensure a well-executed Google+ Hangout on Air on behalf of your company. This extensive chart from Moz helps outline some of the most common organizational and technical concerns for hosts of Google+ Hangouts on Air. Ensure that each touch point is addressed prior to hosting your first Hangout.

It’s important login to the Google+ Page for your business, since it’s now time to schedule your Google+ Hangout on Air for another day or launch it now. Most of the time it’s ideal to schedule your Google+ Hangout on Air ahead of time to help give your company time to prepare, as well as build an audience for the event and visibility around the future discussion. Visit https://plus.google.com/hangouts and click on Start a Hangout on Air to begin organizing the event.

It’s now time to choose between hosting a Hangout now or later, select later to begin naming your Hangout On Air, adding a description, setting a time and selecting who the audience will be.

Be sure to be as descriptive as possible with your title and description to make use of the proper keywords as well giving potential participants all the information they’ll need to attend. Here you can include a preview of the Hangout as well any images you wish to add to the landing page for the event.

Here are a few examples of what this landing page looks like for your audience from Marketo, Cadbury or the Huffington Post. It’s also where your final Google+ Hangout On Air lives after it’s recorded, both here and on your YouTube channel. Once you’ve set everything up, you’ll be able to share this Hangout on Air with your Google+ audience from your page.

2. How to Build an Audience for Your Hangouts

Once you’ve setup how your Hangout is going to flow from a technical, organizational and timing perspective, it’s essential to begin promoting your event to let your audience know that it is happening in the first place.

    • Share news of the Hangout On Air with your email subscribers through a few reminders of the upcoming live event.
    • Use your Google+ Page to share updates about the Hangout with information on what people will gain from attending whether that’s knowledge, insights from experts or exclusive content.

                      

  • Use Twitter, Facebook and other social channels to share content related to the Hangout to encourage more sign-ups for the event.
  • Pay for your content to be promoted on social media to reach a large audience of users similar to those of your current followers and customer base with extensive targeting.
  • Write a few guest blog posts similar to the subject to be discussed in your Hangout on Air, then be sure to include a link to the relevant Hangout in your bio for readers to view.
  • Include subject matter experts in your Hangouts On Air to add value and a third party perspective to your discussions, plus the visibility of the event will increase when these influencers share their participation in your Hangout on social media and their other channels. Ask guests to share their attendance to ensure this happens.
  • Share content related to your Hangout On Air with your communities and other relevant communities on Google+.
  • Write a blog post about your upcoming Google+ Hangout On Air illustrating the subject of the discussion, its value, your guests and the time of the event.
  • Have your entire team add the link to the Hangout to their email signature, as well as encouraging them to share the news of your upcoming event on their social networks.

3. Launch Your Hangout

Once you’ve properly built an attendance for your Hangout on Air, it’s time to make final preparation before it’s show time. Make sure all equipment is in place for all participants, as well as the correct setting on their computer to help them properly partake in the conversation.

Many companies have the guests to their Hangouts on Air login prior to it going live by up to a half hour or an hour ahead of time to check audio, lighting and more. This way guests and the host can communicate with one another about what’s going to happen over the upcoming Hangout On Air and ensure all their setups are situated properly.

When hosting a Hangout on behalf of your business, try to have one person manage the technical side of the Hangout while it’s live like the social feed between all participants to ensure any questions or issues get addressed, ensuring each guest is setup throughout the Hangout and other technical concerns.

Not to mention, the plethora of Hangout apps that can be used throughout your discussion that should be tested by each guest to ensure they understand how to effectively use them.

These apps help make the experience richer for participants and viewers alike, such as the Screenshare App that allows you to share screens during the Hangout or the Hangout Toolbox app that allows you to setup a custom overlay for each presenter or a lower third to identify which speakers are speaking.

4. Repurposing the Hangout

Last but not least, your Hangouts On Air get recorded and published for later use on your connected YouTube channel, which is why it is important to connect this channel with your Google+ Page. Once the Hangout on Air is complete, the original landing page with the sign-up form will feature this video and it will also exist on YouTube.

This video can be used on your social media channels, embedded on your website or a blog post and even used as training material for future employees or customers. There are many options when it comes to leveraging this content for the future, experiment with using your recorded Hangouts On Air in a few different locations to see where this content resonates best driving long-term visibility and engagement with your company.

Bonus: Some of the Top Google+ Hangouts to Watch on Marketing

Here are some of the many series of Google+ Hangouts on Air to attend to learn more about online marketing, social media, SEO and more.

How is your business making use of Google+ Hangouts on Air? What benefits has your company seen from participating or hosting Hangouts? What are your favorite Google+ Hangouts on Air to attend? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Brian Honigman is a marketing consultant, speaker and freelance blogger for both startups and brands looking to articulate the right stories where their audiences are most active online. He’s also a frequent contributor to Forbes, the Next Web, Mashable, the Huffington Post and other publications.

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Comments (2)

  1. Devon DeMars 7 months ago Reply

    Hi Brian! Thanks for your awesome and very thorough write up. I’m wondering if it’s possible do to a private Hangout On Air that won’t be hosted on a Google+ landing page, nor on YouTube? I’d like to invite a group of people to a scheduled, private hangout for a business product launch without the after-video. Do you know how that can be done? Thanks!

  2. Brian Honigman 7 months ago Reply

    Hi Devon, thanks for reading and for the kind words. You can host a Hangout on Air with a specific circle if you’d like, which will limit your viewership to only those participants and it won’t be publically listed — only showing on Google+ & YouTube to that specific circle of people. First step, add each individual attending to a circle of your choosing. When viewing the Hangout on Air dashboard, remove public from the audience field and add in the circle of people you’d like to add to your Hangout on Air. I hope that helps.

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