Google+ has taken the social networking industry by storm. That's because the search giant has developed a clever strategy that forces businesses to maintain a presence on the network. Google execs have made it quite clear that plus-ones and updates on its social media venture will have an impact on search engine results pages (SERPs).
On the consumer side, however, Google+ hasn't yet poached mainstream users from Facebook. Many have a profile on both networks, but Facebook still holds the throne in terms of active users. However, Facebook's new timeline feature (which will be mandatory soon for all users) could be the fuel for Google's fire. In the meantime, Google+ is offering users a unique set of features containing big possibilities for businesses, such as its hangouts feature.
Here are a few ways to make use of hangouts for business marketing.
What's a Google+ hangout?
A Google+ hangout can be compared to a video conference or a webinar. The hangout tool can be used to host live video conferences, so it's a useful feature for virtual businesses who want to have a team chat. (And, unlike many webinar and live meeting services, it's free!)
Two-way video conferencing is limited to ten people. However, Google+ now offers Hangouts on Air for unlimited users. That means up to ten total users can be using two-way video conferencing, and anyone else wanting to join the hangout will be a spectator. This is awesome news for teams who like to collaborate on formal presentations for large groups using multiple speakers. However, users should know that Hangouts on Air are automatically recorded and made publicly available, so presenters should avoid sharing anything they wouldn't want available to the world at large.
Hangouts with extras
If hangouts weren't cool enough already, Google+ has introduced a Beta version of hangouts, dubbed "Hangouts with Extras." This added functionality enables several additional features making the tool even more useful for business-minded users:
- Screen sharing.
- Google Docs sharing.
- Live YouTube video feeds. (GPlusInsider has a step-by-step tutorial on integrating YouTube feeds.)
Hangouts on Air is in development, so some users might not see the "broadcast and record" option when starting a new hangout. But Google+ is working hard to make this feature available to all users in the near future.
Finding cool hangouts
Since the hangouts feature is taking off, a few publishers have capitalized on its popularity. A number of websites, pages and search tools have made it their personal mission to collect, organize and display hangouts to enable users to find cool places to hang. And of course, Google+ has integrated a search feature enabling a hangout-specific search.
Hangouts make it possible for business leaders to interact with and engage like-minded professionals and potential customers. Marketers can search for industry-related hangouts already happening, or create a new hangout designed to discuss relevant topics. There are a few noteworthy resources for searching hangouts, including:
Immediate hangout launching
The news just keeps getting better: In December, Google+ announced the availability to launch a hangout directly from a post
. That means if a client asks a question, a marketer can immediately opt to launch a hangout (by clicking "Hangout" under the post), and any user commenting on the same post will also be able to join. This practice will enable many businesses to take frequently-asked questions to the next level.
Even?President Obama is hanging out on Google+
. On Jan. 30, the President will host a hangout as a follow-up to his State of the Union address
. If even the White House is embracing Google+ as a way to interact with constituents, businesses should follow suit.