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June 7, 2013

Using Google+ Hangouts on Air to Make Your Business Interactive

You’ve probably already heard of Google+’s hangouts — a way to connect with a limited number of people on the social network in a shared video chat. It’s like Skype, but more accessible. There is no need to download a client or install any software, and typically the hardware requirements are lower. You may have even heard of their Hangouts on Air — these hangouts with an unlimited audience have been available to higher-profile companies, people, and brands for about a year. They’ve been used by likes of Lady Gaga and President Obama to hold group interviews and broadcast anything from concerts to conferences to talent shows.

And now, Hangouts on Air are coming to you, with some great new features that you could use to promote your business and impress your clients, for an always-exhilarating price: free.

Google+ Hangouts: Now a Broadcasting and Teleconference Tool

Live broadcasts have always been a big deal, involving multiple cameras, lighting, people running the switchboard and sometimes a studio audience. All of that is becoming obsolete. Now you can get the same effect with a laptop, a little tech savvy and Google+.

Hangouts on Air also has all the features of a basic teleconferencing service. You can switch between video capture and screen capture, and take advantage of a number of hangout apps such as Lower Thirds, Cacoo, and SlideShare to make your presentation more professional or informative. Lower Thirds is a tool for displaying details about the speaker(s), Cacoo is a drawing/diagramming tool, and SlideShare lets you bring your presentation into your hangout.

New Ways to Share Your Hangout

Perhaps the most exciting new feature is the ease with which you can share your hangout both during the broadcast and after you’ve finished. Hangouts are now broadcast live on YouTube. When you start the hangout, you can grab a link to share with others or embed on your website or blog. When they’re finished, they automatically upload to the video sharing service. From there, you can just make them public, or you can use YouTube’s video editing tools to add music, clip scenes and more. Then you can share the video on your website even after you’re done recording.

How to Use Hangouts on Air For Your Business

Google+ has given us a great new tool for our business that is 100 percent free. Now it’s up to you to figure out how to take advantage of it.

One of the most immediately obvious uses for the newly-improved tool is for a live expert interview or question-and-answer session. Invite a panel of experts from your industry (or just from your company) to answer everyone’s burning questions. This tool can be a great way to pull together geographically-distant speakers easily and inexpensively.

Your site may already have a blog, and you may even already have a podcast. Why not add a live video stream to your repertoire? Because of YouTube’s easy online editing tools, creating and sharing video content is easier than ever before. Plus, after you’re done, you can easily download the video from your YouTube video manager and repurpose the audio for your podcast. Don’t let a moment go to waste. Some people have seen great success from vlogging (video blogging) and you could be next.

If your company consists of a team of widely-spread out individuals, Hangouts on Air can be a great opportunity to brainstorm together, no matter the size of your firm. Instead of making your YouTube videos public, you can keep them as a record of the great ideas you came up with in that brainstorming session.

Why not set up a monthly how-to session about your products? Invite your customers to view the session and ask their own questions. If you sell software or online services, the screen sharing capability could be of particular interest to you. Next, upload your how-tos to YouTube and catalog them on your site or blog — ta da, instant content marketing.

Whatever your business, there’s almost definitely something you can use Hangouts on Air for. Got any other ideas? Please share them in the comments below.

Adrienne Erin is a blogger and Internet marketer for Sweeney’s, a company with great gopher removal tools. She has been featured on MarketingProfs, Content Marketing Institute and Search Engine People.