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April 3, 2013

Why You Should Use Google Hangouts

The much-maligned Google Plus has received copious amounts of attention in the past couple months after becoming the number-two social network in the world. A report released by GlobalWebIndex, a collection of market research on web usage conducted by London-based consultancy Trendstream, found that Google Plus had accumulated 343 million active users by January 2013, up from 90 million total users a year before. This massive surge means that Google Plus has passed Twitter (288 million active users) but is still a distant second to Facebook (693 million active users).

Features Are Responsible For Google Plus’s Growth

Speculation about Google Plus’s future growth, the end of the social network’s “ghost town” image, and rumors of “Facebook Fatigue” tended to be the topics discussed in the flurry of blog posts that followed GlobalWebIndex’s announcement. Unfortunately, little time was spent looking into the reasons why Google Plus has grown so rapidly and become a force to be reckoned with in an industry that has killed off many seemingly strong products in the past.

This is a shame. Google Plus should not be defined by the threat it poses to other social networks or the ways it relates to the rest of its parent’s services. Despite what many skeptics initially asserted, Google Plus is a superb social network that regular internet users can benefit from. This is largely due to the features incorporated into Google Plus; though many of these features are anything but novel, their simple design and integration with a larger social media platform add copious amounts of value to the network as a whole.

One of Google Plus’s most important features, and one the main reasons why it is coming to dominate the social networking world, is its Hangouts feature. This free video chat service is akin to Skype in that it allows users to talk face-to-face and voice-to-voice to anyone in the world. The similarities pretty much end there, however. Hangout’s features have allowed President Obama to hear and answer the questions of ordinary citizens from across the country and propel an aspiring musician to stardom in a matter of weeks. Many professionals, like real estate agents and consultants, use Hangouts to meet with potential clients. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish these feats with Skype.

Features That Makes Using Google Hangouts A Must

Video Chat With Up to 10 People

The fundamental purpose of Google Hangouts is to give anyone the ability to video conference from their home or work computer, laptop, or smartphone without buying any specialized equipment. Hangouts allows up to 10 people to participate in a single group chat session, making it easy for a far-flung family or work team to talk face-to-face and voice-to-voice in real time.

Hangouts’ video conferencing feature is hardly novel or mind-blowing; Skype, a video conferencing service with more than 30 million users, was released eight years before Hangouts was and supports up to 25 people in a single conference call. However, the way in which Hangouts’ video conferencing combines with its other features is causing many Skype proponents to switch. Read on to find out what these features are.

Collaborative Video Conferencing

The video conferencing needs of business people, students, and other collaboration-intensive fields often includes the sharing of documents. This need can easily be fulfilled with the Hangouts feature, as it seamlessly incorporates the applications found on the increasingly popular Google Drive. Hangouts allows users to open, view, and edit a document, spreadsheet, or presentation in real time, all while keeping the basic video chat function running.

Stream Webinars Live on YouTube

A recently introduced feature called “Hangouts On-Air” gives any user over the age of 18 the ability to broadcast their Hangout live. Simply pressing the “ON AIR” button after a Hangout has been started will allow people in your Google + circles and any of YouTube’s 800 million unique monthly users to watch it. These live videos can also be embedded on websites.

The ease with which you can communicate to the world via the “On-Air” feature makes it an acceptable substitute for GoToMeeting and other webinar applications. Organizations that want to communicate to more than 1,000 people at a time, the viewer cap that GoToMeeting has in place, should strongly consider switching to Google Hangouts.

Easy Posting to YouTube

Hangouts can be uploaded to YouTube with ease as soon as users are finished recording them. Important webinars or meetings conducted through Hangouts can thus be shared with potential clients and unavailable co-workers on the world’s most popular video hosting platform, making these videos easy to access for later reference.

Why Google Hangouts are Ideal for Businesses

Hangouts are useful for more than just entertainment and socializing; they have many practical business applications as well.

No Installation Required

Most video conferencing and webinar programs, like Skype and GoToMeeting, require users to have them installed on their computers before the programs can be used. This can be be prohibitive, as even the small time and effort investments installing such programs requires may dissuade potential video conferencing attendees from showing up.

Google Hangouts removes the installation prerequisite problem by only requiring a Google account and internet access. This means it takes only a couple of minutes for the more than 425 million Gmail users to log in to their account and go to their Google Plus profile (even if it has not been set up) in order to join a Hangout.

Simple, Free Collaboration

Google Hangouts allows co-workers located anywhere in the world to video chat, share images and YouTube videos, and view and edit documents, spreadsheets, and presentations in real time. Best of all, every task mentioned above can be accomplished in a single tab on a single browser. No other suite of applications makes collaboration this easy.

Gone are the days of lengthy email threads, awkward conference calls, and the opening, saving, and sending of an endless stream of Word documents and Excel spreadsheets. Hangouts allows workers to be more productive with less hassle – all at no cost.

Expansive Reach

Hangouts make it easy for businesses to connect with people and organizations that they have no preexisting relationship with. Skype and other video conferencing applications rely on users being connected before their conference begins, but it is not required for YouTube users to have even heard of your business before they stumble across and attend your Hangout. Daria Musk, the aforementioned aspiring musician turned star, can corroborate the fact that a “Hangout On-Air” can attract thousands of new viewers as it is being broadcasted.

Andy Fulton is a community manager for He has more than three years of experience with blogging, outreach, and managing social media accounts for a handful of companies and non-profit organizations in the Seattle area and enjoys soccer, biking and writing.

22 Responses to “Why You Should Use Google Hangouts

    I agree Google Plus is really a great social networking website and the features enrolled in it are really impressive and latest which are being loved by all. Though it is not as good as facebook but this is a really close competition.

    avatar Shilpi Roy says:

    Video chat with upto 10 people is a very big plus point. I completely agree Google Hangouts is a must to use with great features.

    lovely article, was actually wondering about google hangouts but can you tell me whether any hangouts are displayed in search results.

    This is a really good idea for getting customers to watch technical webinars instead of just skim-reading knowledge articles on our website and then ringing up with loads of questions.

    avatar pokeey46 says:

    Never held a Hangout but been to them. They work great!!! Great article!

    avatar Lee Kirkby says:

    One of the reasons for google +’s growth is the push that google has put on making you use it as your login for any of google’s other features. They are making google + a universal login for their products even their search settings.

    I am of a mixed mind as to whether this is good or bad but being forced to join a specific social media vehicle just to access their services seems a little ‘anti-social’.

    avatar ZeroMile says:

    Good article. Of course hangout helps.
    Good for SEO

    avatar Dan says:

    I am not surprised that G+ has done so well this last year.

    It has a simple, straightforward format that makes it easy to use and to add content to my page (Elderly Driver). And, it has made it super simple to add hundreds to my circle, many of whom are responding to my posts on G+ and to my website, as well as including me in their circles.

    I haven’t used all the features such as Hangout but I am wanting soon to host a Community on G+. Once the community is up and running, I hope to sponsor occasional hangouts

    My only fear is that G+ will become as unappealing and obtrusive as FB has become to me in the last year.

    I really like the feature of video chat for up to 10 people. Never imagined it could go up to this level. That’s a great progress.

    I think Google+ has already lost the battle to facebook, maybe it is too early to say though. One thing is for sure, Internet users are not fully aware of all the feature Google+ offers them though.

    avatar Joe says:

    Wow! How red is your Kool-Aid? Did you save any for Jim Jones? Google is a monster! It is a shame that no other company cares to try to compete with this privacy invading, copyright infringing, scrape box!

    avatar Nina says:

    Google+ is great it has a lot of good features and many businesses optimize it for their benefits

    avatar Lynne says:

    I’ve looking for a way to use webinars to deliver training to clients in remote locations. Google hangouts sound like a great solution. I am curious as to whether it allows live screen sharing of browser windows

    Google+ is more secured not nasty and dirty porn like Facebook. It even give links but participation and comments and likes are very less compared to Facebook. Wish Google+ Grows it has helped me but the limitation should be lifted.

    avatar Virginia Riley says:

    Thanks for the update on Google + I think G. is fast becoming the top means to communicate for people that want more than to be just entertained –

    Thanks Andy for this thorough analysis of Google plus hangouts. I haven’t yet explored every segment of Google Plus but this article has certainly intrigued me.

    avatar Michelle Morris says:

    Nice advice Andy. I’m slowly getting my head round Google+. That’s a very interesting point you made about using ‘Google Hangouts allows co-workers located anywhere in the world to video chat, share images and YouTube videos, and view and edit documents, spreadsheets, and presentations in real time.’ This would be a great feature for my business.

    avatar Kobi says:

    I think G + is a good site, which could use a bit more ease of use when combining accounts but I’m sure once I become more used to the new setup it will hopefully be a bit easier to maneuver around.

    Most of the posts made by people in my circles are to promote their businesses and I honestly don’t get much “social interaction” in the way I do on FB but that’s ok.

    Anyway, while trying to create a “page” on Google Plus I’ve found it wants to put in a profile pic….and is there any way to get rid of it?? 😉

    Nice article/post, really enjoyed it!

    I like their inactive account manager feature, which lets users tell Google what to do with email messages and other data if their account becomes inactive. I remember when old MySpace accounts could still be accessed using Google’s cache search feature. Don’t think that’s possible when Google plus users can delete profiles after three, six or 12 months of inactivity. You can even have specific people receive all your data after you go inactive.

    avatar Rameshwar says:

    It was really a good post. I believe still many of us do not have detailed features of Hangout and this Article helped to get good ideas.


    google hangouts is a great tool for both business and personal! We use it alot

    avatar B. Bop says:

    The reason Google Plus has so many people is that if you have an android phone you have to have a g-mail account. (I have one but I use Yahoo because I like it better). People, with less I. Q. points than the number of fingers they possess on one hand, gravitate to Google plus and Google hangouts. These platforms do not reach all other platforms like email. Anyone with an email address can email anyone. But not so with Google hangouts, they will not reach across all other platforms. That is why it is an inferior product. I know there are a lot of people out there that will disagree with me but they are probably the same people that have trouble using 4 syllable words in a sentence.

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