When Google+ launched last summer one of its most interesting features was Google+ Hangouts, especially if you were a business owner. By utilizing Google+ Hangouts SMBs could stream live broadcasts directly from their Web site, YouTube channel or Google+ profile with just a few clicks and no additional software. Even better, they could save their Hangouts and post them on their site. If you were someone who wanted to experiment with webinars or live video, this was a great, no-cost way to do it.
But now that a year has gone by, how have businesses used these Hangouts? How can we all use them to increase engagement with our customers and to build our brands?
Below are a few suggestions.
1. Office Meetings
Meetings are the bane of many people’s existence. They’re often mindless, unproductive, and, if you’re not careful, can eat up an entire afternoon’s productivity. And that’s why at least one company has decided to use Google+ to change that.
In an article for Entrepreneur.com, Lisa Girard tells how InQuicker, a health-care IT company, began using Google Hangouts to revamp their in-office meetings. By allowing their 10-person team to use Google+ to share the screen, InQuicker found that the less formal meeting were both more productive and happier. It helped them to stop looking at meetings as a “speed bump” and let everyone stay focused on the task at hand – doing the actual work.
2. Brainstorming Sessions
We all have those moments when two (or three or four) heads would be better than one. In your company’s lifecycle this may include when it’s time to think up your next product, to decide what conferences you want to attend, to create your content marketing calendar for the month, or to dream up local events for your community.
By holding virtual brainstorming sessions it allows everyone to get together and pitch ideas in a rich, collaborative environment. You can invite staff members to participate, other business owners, customers, or prominent people in your neighborhood. By giving everyone the floor directly from where they’re sitting, you bring in more opinions than you could if had to squeeze everyone into your meeting room.
3. Record Webinars/Tutorials
Webinars are hot right now. They’re hot because they allow business owners to share expert-level information with their audience from wherever they are. No longer do we need to travel to meet with our audience; now we can do it from the comfort of our home office.
If you’ve ever thought about starting your own webinar series or providing video tutorials to go along with services/products on your Web site, Google+ Hangouts allow you to do this for free. There’s no software to master and nothing to download (note: the first time you will be prompted to install the Google video chat plugin/app if you haven’t already – but it’s easy and takes just a few moments). You simply start a Hangout+, name it, and you’re on your way.
And because Google will record and upload your Hangout+ to YouTube for you, you don’t even have to worry about recording software. Pretty awesome.
4. Subject-based Question & Answer
Webinars are great, but sometimes all customers really want to do is ask you a question. Why not hold a monthly Question & Answer Hangout where you invite your customers to sign on, chat, and bring their questions?
If you’re a financial planner maybe you want to hold themed Hangouts to invite people to bring their questions on certain topics. One week your Hangout could be about the different kinds of IRAs available and the pros/cons of each. Next week you can answer questions about the best stocks to invest in based on age/risk tolerance.
Having themed Question & Answer Hangouts can also help you to segment and bucket your customers for targeting later.
5. Offer Consulting Hours
Remember when you were in college and your professor held Office Hours so students could get individual help? Why not offer the same feature as a consultant? Maybe that means customized coaching services or it replaces daily emails and calls with a weekly 20 minutes video chat between your team and your client’s?
Set yourself apart from other vendors by offering virtual coaching through the help of Google+.
6. Behind the Scenes Interviews
As a consumer I love learning more about the people or businesses I’m already interacting with. And Google+ Hangouts gives us another way to invite people backstage into our business.
For example, maybe you’re a neighborhood café that prides itself on supporting the local community. You sell artwork from local artists and you host an open mic night for neighborhood bands to come in and show off their talent. As a way of promoting those events and getting more people into your café, why not host a Hangout where you interview the artists or musician? Or maybe interview your employees or your customers to introduce them to your audience? Or have a weekly chat where you preview what’s coming down the line for your business?
We like getting a more intimate look at that people we should to allow in our circles. Use Hangouts to do that.
7. Host a Class
Hangouts give you the ability to hold a live broadcast and invite as many people as you want to attend. You can hold your own online class without having to worry about fitting everyone into a single room or providing food for 50 people when only 10 people show up. Now that Google has removed the overhead involved with creating a class or workshop, why not start one?
Maybe it’s a writing class where everyone shows up with a short piece to read and others critique it. Or it’s a cooking class where you show off how to make your famous firehouse chili. Or it’s a Web design workshop where people come and you do live site audits for them. The possibilities for ways to engage and provide value to your customers are endless.
8. Make Announcements
Taylor Swift recently hosted a Google+ Hangout to announce her new album. During the live chat, Taylor answered fan questions from around the world, let them know what they could expect from her album, and debuted its first single. When her single was released on iTunes later that night it went straight to number one, faster than any other song in history.
Have a big announcement – whether it’s a new hire, a new product, an upcoming launch – now Google has given you the chance to host your own Town Hall event, free of charge.
There are tons of ways for small business owners to use Google+ Hangouts to connect with their audience and build excitement. If you haven’t already, you may want to check out the Google Live Events calendar to help spur some of your own ideas. You can also add your own events to the calendar to increase your reach.
Have you considered using Google+ Hangouts in your marketing strategy?
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