Google’s new social network has caused quite a stir since its release in June of this year, gaining over 50 million users in the first 3 months of its release. One of the standout features of the Google+ network is its inbuilt video conferencing function known as ‘Hangouts’. With the recent release of brand pages, Google+ offers businesses a unique method of connecting with their customers and generating visibility through the hangouts function. Brands should look to incorporate hangouts in to their Google+ social media campaign to increase visibility and be amongst the early adopters of the function for maximum exposure and engagement.
Google+ hangouts are a key feature of the Google+ network, anyone can create a hangout and invite other users to join or simply open a hangout and wait for other users to join in when they find it. Hangouts are likened to a “front porch” by Google who want the experience to be relaxed and as close to meeting in person as possible.
The Google community has enthusiastically adopted Google+ hangouts and there have already been a number of high profile hangouts broadcast worldwide by users such as the Dalai Lama, The Black Eyed Peas and Stanford University professors. The hangouts ‘on air’ function allows the feed to be broadcast live through the Google+ network and simultaneously streamed via YouTube allowing any number of users to view the event.
Brands have access to the hangout functionality from their Google+ brand page, although they are currently limited to 10 participants until the ‘on air’ function becomes more widely available. There are a number of ways in which this interesting function can be utilised to engage with fans. Hangouts lend themselves to a variety of functions such as customer service, live performances, product unveilings or question and answer sessions. The first step is to decide how your brand wishes to use the function.
Google+ users have responded favourably to the idea of hangouts being used as a means of customer services as computing brand Dell found when they announced plans to offer this service once the brand pages and hangouts function are more widely available. The post received hundreds of comments from users eager to have their queries and problems resolved in a face-to-face manner through hangouts rather than over the phone.
Hangouts can be used for external promotions such as product demonstrations/testimonials, reviews, exclusive content, competitions and how-to guides and many other possibilities. Furthermore hangouts can be used internally as a means of connection and communication. An example of which is how PR agencies could use a hangout to invite a number of product bloggers to discuss a new product for review, or to talk to journalists about a possible story.
Musicians have generated huge amounts of visibility by using hangouts to stream live performances through the network and other live streaming sites. Google+ user and musician, Daria Musk has carried out some of the most viewed hangouts on the Google+ network reaching 9,000 viewers in over 100 countries.
The scope for brands using hangouts is very large indeed, users and fans are keen to interact with the brands and business that they buy from on a more personal level. Social media has already proven to be a great medium for online PR and hangouts simply extend the possibilities and connections further.
At this time I believe that Google+ hangouts are still in their early stages of development in terms of functionality and as brand pages have only recently been released there will be a great deal of experimentation to ascertain how hangouts can best benefit both brands and customers. It would be wise for brands to start thinking about ways in which hangouts could be used to boost visibility and increase their engagement for by offering something unique, which is not present in such an accessible manner on any other social network. buy youtube live stream views