Google Hangouts provide\u00a0a powerful\u00a0communications tool\u00a0for business or personal use. \u00a0But outside of simple texting or video chatting with one of your colleagues or friends, are you getting the most out of this free and potentially invaluable tool? Google Hangouts can be confusing, because the term really refers to two different types of\u00a0tools: \u00a0Hangouts and Hangouts On Air. \u00a0Add to that the fact that\u00a0Google seems to be in a continuous state of evolving when it comes to Google Hangouts. \u00a0The use of the name has changed since it was first introduced, and product features have changed. Let's break them down into some key features and differences: Hangouts Hangouts give you\u00a0the capability to instantly communicate\u00a0with other Hangout users. \u00a0One aspect of Hangouts is like instant messenger on steroids. \u00a0You can do text chats, voice calls, or video calls using the\u00a0webcam on your computer. \u00a0Chats can be private one-on-one communications with people on your contacts list. Hangouts also refer to the ability to do group video calls with up to 9 participants, plus the organizer. Hangouts work on mobile devices, especially\u00a0Android phones and tablets (Android of course being the Google mobile operating system). See image below. Hangouts are particularly\u00a0useful for those who use GMail or Google Apps, because you can have the Hangouts capability sit alongside your inbox. \u00a0Starting a chat there is easy and fast. For Apps users, for instance, it replaces what was known as\u00a0Google Chat and Google Talk. \u00a0And if you use the Chrome browser, as of last week it got even easier. \u00a0You no longer need a special plugin to conduct video chats, as announced by Google developer Victoria Kirst. \u00a0Video chat capability now works seamlessly in Chrome by clicking\u00a0on the little video camera icon in your little Google Hangouts window. Hangouts On Air Hangouts On Air is a live streaming video service that allows you to broadcast directly to YouTube, Google Plus or your own website. \u00a0Hangouts On Air can be broadcast from an event you're hosting or even a live chat with your customers or the general public. \u00a0You can have an unlimited number of viewers of your Hangout on Air, although you are still limited to the speaking participants. To sum up the description of these two tools, Hangouts and Hangouts on Air are varied enough and feature-rich enough to be used for: Private internal communications with team members. One on one communications, or group communications. Public-facing communications for marketing and sales purposes. We've asked some experts for their top tips and tactics for how to use\u00a0Google Hangouts and Google Hangouts on Air for business purposes. Here's what they had to say. Pro Tips for How to Use Google Hangouts 1. ALWAYS Do a Test Run Before you decide to conduct any sort of public event via Google Hangouts, you will want to get the technology down. Once a meeting or public event gets underway, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Ron Cates, Director of Digital Marketing Education at online marketing company Constant Contact says, "To familiarize yourself, and ensure everything goes smoothly (especially for a Hangout on Air), I recommend doing a test hangout before you run your first one." Allow 30 minutes for pre-start testing, emphasizes Ivana Taylor of DIYMarketers\u00a0(pictured above in a live Hangout), even if you've done them before. She adds, "Go through all the buttons, links, and chat features to make sure you can operate the controls when it's time for the real deal. \u00a0Treat that 30 minutes like being in the "greenroom." \u00a0That simply means opening the Hangout window privately before the appointed time, inviting any\u00a0panelists and making sure that everyone looks and sounds the way they want to. Then when it's time for the event\u00a0to start -- click on BROADCAST -- and you are out of the greenroom and into the live Hangout." 2. Use With Your Google+ Business Page Hangouts On Air are good ways to promote your small business. So, assuming you have a business page on Google Plus, be sure you host it from there. "This ensures that you're getting extra exposure for your business during your Hangout, rather than your personal account. You wouldn\u2019t use your personal Facebook profile to promote your business -- the same logic applies here," Cates says. 3. Promote Before the Event With\u00a0Hangouts On Air, it's important to promote your event well in advance so that you will have people actually watching your broadcast when it happens. Hangouts expert and author at Start Up Gap Andy Nathan has several pointers for getting your Hangouts On Air noticed. The most important step in promoting your upcoming Hangouts On Air broadcast is to share it among your social media networks, he says. This includes people in your Google Plus Circles, those you are friended with on Facebook and your connections on LinkedIn. You can even invite up to 50 of your contacts via LinkedIn especially for the event. You'll also want to encourage your guests on an upcoming Hangout to promote it with their social media contacts, too. 4. Collaborate Better With Your Team Instead of seeing Google Hangouts as an event or broadcast, you can simply use it as part of your regular communications or collaboration with clients or partners. As Iska Hain, a member of Google\u2019s Unified Communications Team, explained to Small Business Trends last year: "It makes things like group communication better so you can easily toggle between a one-on-one conversation with someone, to a group conversation by adding someone\u2019s name or email address. You can also easily toggle from having an instant messaging conversation or text conversation, to a live video call by clicking on a video button. It automatically invites anyone that is in that conversation to Hangout." 5. Monetize Your Business By\u00a0Offering\u00a0Coaching Business coaches and consultants can take further advantage of Hangouts On Air by putting a premium on their services. Small business coach Sarah Santacroce, of SimplicitySmallBiz.com, told Small Business Trends that Google has recently allowed content providers to charge a fee in order to allow only select viewers of their content, both live and recorded. This opens huge monetization options, Santacroce says. For example, a coach with a training program can charge subscribers to get access to their exclusive content. Check out\u00a0Helpouts\u00a0(image below), a\u00a0monetization opportunity that is\u00a0yet another variation of Google Hangouts on Air. \u00a0We wrote about this new monetization opportunity for small businesses\u00a0not long ago. 6. Do Product Demonstrations Almost any business could benefit from hosting a product demo via Google Hangouts On Air. Some companies have addressed customer service issues via Hangouts while others have utilized the service to better inform their customers on proper use of their products. Santacroce says, "This personal approach takes customer service to a whole new level. A company that sells beauty products launched a new product by holding beauty classes prior to the launch." 7. Use That Video\u00a0After the Event Cates and Nathan say that once a Hangout is finished, it lives on in many forms. For one thing, your Hangout On Air has now become a YouTube video. \u00a0So now you can embed the code found on YouTube to include the recorded video on your website. \u00a0Share it via email. \u00a0And promote the video across all of your social channels. For those who actually find you through your YouTube\u00a0video channel, you'll maximize the visibility by optimizing your YouTube channel and video description and presentation. \u00a0For instance, be sure to include a link back to your business\u2019 website as a call-to-action in the caption below the video on YouTube, Cates says. \u00a0And add links to social channels, as well. Nathan adds \u00a0that clips from finished Hangouts can be used to promote future events. Now you can show people what to expect in future events. \u00a0If, for instance, you do interviews, you now have something to show others when you invite them, or show others to entice them to attend. 8. Increase the "Know, Like and Trust" Factor Hosting a Hangout On Air could allow your customers to get to know you, and thereby sell your company and your products and services more effectively. \u00a0People who watch the video get a better\u00a0idea what your business is all about. When potential customers see your business live in action - even if they're online - it helps increase their trust in you. Santacroce says, "We all know by now that people do business with people they know, like and trust. And for us, as small business owners, this means they need to know us. What better way is there than seeing us on video, during a live event?" 9. Increase Engagement Factor of Your\u00a0Website If anyone has ever suggested to you to\u00a0"increase engagement on your website" but you didn't have a clue how, then this point is for you. Simplicity Admin's Sarah Santacroce says another way to use\u00a0videoed Hangouts on Air is to increase the engagement element of your website. "Essentially what we\u2019re doing is creating content. And probably the most engaging type of content!" Today, content has become more visual, spontaneous and "real." \u00a0One of the best ways to create\u00a0a lively, engaging website and blog is\u00a0with video that has been recorded\u00a0live. Nathan notes that video generated from your Google Hangouts and Hangouts On Air can be used as\u00a0future content for your blog. \u00a0Simply create an article that gives some background about the live event you videoed, and summarize some of the points. \u00a0Embed the YouTube video, and now you have a blog post. Or embed the video in your homepage or side column where it is front and center for all to see. \u00a0Swap the videos out regularly, too, so that you have something fresh for repeat visitors. Adding a recorded Hangout video\u00a0may just\u00a0increase the\u00a0engagement signals to your website. \u00a0People who visit your site and view videos are likely to\u00a0stay longer and explore other parts of your site, if they like what they see. \u00a0They are less likely to leave immediately as they might with a\u00a0static\u00a0text-only website. 10. Increase Web Traffic Nathan reminds us that your Google Hangouts activity bodes well for generating more traffic to your website and social media channels. When you create video\u00a0content, it can be shared easily among friends -- and friends of friends -- across social media. To get the most out of that recorded Hangout video, however, don't just forget it on YouTube. \u00a0Take the time to write a full description of the video, using appropriate keywords. \u00a0Include links to your website, blog and social channels. \u00a0Respond to any comments you get on YouTube, also. \u00a0Also, be sure your YouTube display is on your Google+ Business Page and/or individual profile. Provided you describe the video on YouTube well, and include links back to your website, this will inevitably lead to a boost in Web traffic for your business, Nathan says. And quality videos will generate their own traffic, both through Google Search and on YouTube searches. For more tips, see How to Use Google+ Hangouts for Business. \u00a0While the technology has evolved since that article, the basic advice still applies.