Whether you want to meet, chat or broadcast, Hangouts are the killer feature of Google+.
And since they will eventually integrate all of Google’s previous messaging apps, it’s a good time to learn how to leverage this technology for your business. But before you get to the Hangouts themselves, there are a couple of areas you need to look at.
Here’s how to get started with Google Hangouts.
Hangout Prep: Your Profile
First of all, you need a Google+ account in order to use Hangouts properly and the centerpiece of that account is your Google+ profile. You need a great profile because when you announce a Hangout, potential guests will check out your profile to see how you describe yourself and what kind of content you have shared. Our Google+ guide provides some useful tips for tricking out your profile including:
- Craft a killer introduction and discuss employment, education and places, using keywords selectively.
- Make connections with influencers so they will follow you and show up in the circles displayed on your profile
- Share great stuff – this will show up in your public posts and your +1s. Images and videos are particularly attractive.
- When you write content, pay attention to the headlines, not only for SEO but to pull readers in.
Hangout Prep: The Tech
There’s nothing worse than muddy sound and dim light when you’re holding a Hangout – and it won’t do your company’s image any good. To run or take part in Hangouts, you will need:
- Google’s voice and video chat plugin
- A good webcam (some built in ones don’t give the quality you need)
- A good microphone (ditto)
- Any Hangout apps that will help you do more on your Hangout. (There are other Hangout apps in this unofficial directory.)
Have a trial run ahead of time or join other people’s Hangouts to make sure that everything is working so you don’t get any nasty surprises. It’s also a good way to find out what Hangouts are really like so you can make yours even better.
Announcing Your Hangout
When is a Hangout not a Hangout? When it’s an event. The Google+ events functionality, released early this summer, allows you to create an event and invite people to it – and that works for Hangouts too.
Click on the events button in the Google+ sidebar menu to get started. If your event will be a hangout, select that event type from the drop down menu, then add an appealing title, date, time, location and details. Anyone who confirms attendance at your event will have Hangout information added automatically to their Google Calendar.
You can either hold a regular Hangout (with up to 9 people simultaneously) or a Hangout on Air, which you can stream on your Google+ profile. Hangouts on Air are recorded automatically and saved to your YouTube account so you can share them anytime you want.
If you plan to take questions, then ask people to submit these ahead of time via the events page, a post on your Google+ profile or your other social media channels. This will help you make final decisions on what to cover and may give you ideas for future Hangouts.
Prepare for your Hangout like any other meeting or presentation. That means gathering the resources you will need to make your Hangout memorable. First of all, get a banner or poster you can set up behind you to brand your Hangout – that’s far better than having people see a bare wall. This will subtly let people know what the Hangout is about.
As you would expect, Hangouts integrate with other Google services, making it easy to share documents and presentations in your Google Drive with your Hangout audience. You can also watch YouTube videos together or use some of the Hangout apps mentioned earlier for additional collaboration.
On the day of the Hangout, show up early so you can make sure everything is working. Ask participants to introduce themselves and use the built in features to bring the person who is speaking to the front if you need to. Remember to look straight at the camera so it looks like you are looking straight at the audience, then start your presentation.
After the Hangout
Once your Hangout is over, you can:
- share the video if you have done a Hangout on Air
- share the transcript (available through new Google+ tools)
- follow up with participants to find out what they thought about the event and what questions, if any, they still have
- start planning a new event to build on your first Hangout
Google+ Hangouts offer big benefits for your brand. They allow you to:
- get face to face with your target audience
- showcase the expertise you already have
- provide training
- launch products or services
- provide customer service
- become a broadcaster
All of this means that more people know about your brand and provide more engagement. Isn’t it time you held your first Google+ Hangout?