By Chris Lee
The Google Hangouts feature on the Google+ social network has been used by the likes of Barack Obama and Gok Wan to create multi-party video and content sharing since the very first Hangout was led by the Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am on 21 September 2011. Google’s new Hangouts On Air feature enables users to create instant webcasts over Google+ and these broadcasts can be recorded for future retrieval.
So, how can business make the most of Google Hangouts? NMK delved into his contacts book to learn more.
For Kwai Chi, head of social media at media buying agency Total Media, Google Hangouts is a fantastic way for businesses to connect in real-time, face-to-face with their online followers – from anywhere in the world – without the cost of hosting lavish physical events.
“Businesses can use the platform to host, for example, focus groups. Cadbury UK have gained over one million fans on Google+ with initiatives like this,” he told NMK. “Google+ Hangouts On Air is taking this to a totally new level. It will put the company up against established video streaming social networks like stickam, blogTV and Ustream. Businesses can now broadcast their hangouts – such as an exclusive back stage event or a new product launch – to the entire world via Google+, YouTube or even their own website.”
Because of Google Hangouts’ association with the leading search engine in the world there is inevitably a search ranking benefit from engaging in a Google+ strategy, according to Kelvin Newman of search marketing agency Site Visibility.
“Google Hangouts’ new Hangouts On Air functionality is something I’d recommend companies think about. Not only will it give you a cost effective webinar solution but it also will be sending social signals back to Google that your company/account is someone who can be trusted,” he argued. “With the greater integration of Google+ and the natural search results I would suggest seriously considering any opportunity Google present to send them signals and ‘proof’ of your trust and authority. Early adopters who throw their hat firmly in the Google arena are likely to reap disproportionate benefits in the future.”
Good for Google+
“We need to remember that a value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of users and Google+ simply doesn’t have the volume yet for it to feel really social,” Devon said. “Many brands will wait for it to gain critical mass. But the more interesting stuff there is to do with Google+, the more users it will have, so there’s a chicken and egg issue there. As with all these things, it’s incumbent on the brand to have a purpose for whatever social platform they are using and then delivering against that (on an ongoing basis, rather than all guns blazing fading to nothing in two weeks). Even if Google+ proves to be a runaway success, a brand presence on a popular platform won’t guarantee engagement. Brands hold their fate in their own hands when it comes to a successful social initiative. This is the shiny new thing right now. Ultimately this is not about the technology per se, but rather how it is used by the brand to further whatever purpose they are trying to fulfil.”
Google Hangouts best practice tips
One company that has been using Google Hangouts to work collaboratively across multiple geographies is consultancy Dr Pete Inc. With offices in the UK, Asia and the Middle East, being able to share documents and videoconference has really helped business effectiveness, according to founder and chief executive Peter Chadha.
“The particularly interesting aspect of Hangouts is their open nature,” Chadha said. “This makes them quite different, psychologically, to Skype or GoToMeeting which can also handle multi-participant video calls. In essence, this is because you can think of Hangouts as a room, so, as long as you can see the room you can join it in a quite a casual fashion without necessarily needing a formal invitation.”
Chadha concluded with a few recommendations for businesses looking to use Google Hangouts:
1. Be careful to make sure you’re inviting the right people, especially in a business context like a presentation.
2. Sometimes colleagues will not see the Google Hangouts notification and you actually have to send them a mail or a text with the URL. This is particularly the case when you invite a mailing list like “All staff” or “project team”. It seems to be less of an issue when you are invited as an individual.
3. Ideally you do need good broadband and decent hardware. On the whole we have found Apple hardware seems to give the best results. We note that sometimes a rogue device spoils the enjoyment of the Hangouts for the other participants.
4. Google is constantly adapting and developing the product. While this is great and we get new features all the time, it can be a bit frustrating – especially if you are using it with a client – because you have to spend time re-learning the process.
5. It’s limited to ten participants. This has become a problem for our rapidly growing business.
6. Finally, while it seems to work in a wide variety of browsers, it’s probably best to run in Google Chrome, where Hangouts functionality seems to be smoother.