Thursday, 23 May 2013

How To Use Google Hangouts To Help Your Business


At the I/O developer conference last week, Google announced that it had made a flurry of updates to its features, sites and services. One of the big changes was made to Hangouts, which has evolved from the Google+ feature it started out as into a cross-platform messaging, video call and conferencing service, replacing Google Talk on mobile devices. Anyone with a Google+ account can now call or video call their friends, colleagues and acquaintances for free, on both mobile and desktop devices.

Before the updates were made to Hangouts, it was already a potent communications service with numerous applications in the business world. Now that it has itself become an application, its versatility and accessibility make it a brilliant tool for anyone with a business. It is so easy to use that it may replace some of the services you use already, but if not, you can be pretty sure that creative business owners will find innovative uses for it.

I’m going to focus on Hangouts’ video chat capabilities in this post, but keep in mind that Hangouts now encompasses other Google communication services as well. Here are just a few ways you can use Google Hangouts to help your business:

1. Meetings

Unable to meet a new client or potential employee in person because they are too far away? Use Google Hangouts to hold a face-to-face meeting in the comfort of your office or home. Video chats are more personal than phone conversations and they can help you get a deeper understanding of the person you are talking to thanks to the numerous ways we communicate non-verbally, such as body language.

Google Hangouts can have up to 15 participants at any one time, allowing for large conference calls. If you have employees spread across the country, or even the world, why not host a meeting on Google Hangouts? Even if you are all in the same office, it might be far easier and more cost-effective to meet online instead of booking a room and hoping everyone arrives on time.

2. Q&As

Instead of writing templated, alienating emails to complaining or confused customers, why not invite groups of them to question and answer sessions, where you can talk them through the solutions to their problems face to face. Even if you don’t receive any complaints you could still run regular Q&A sessions to go through common problems within your industry.

3. Webinars

With Hangouts On Air, you can livestream your videos to hundreds, if not thousands, of people. If you are a public speaker, Hangouts is a great tool, allowing you to reach a large audience from the comfort of your office.


4. Showcases

Showcase some of your new products to a select group of customers first – maybe hold competitions for your Facebook fans or your Twitter followers to get exclusive access to some of your products.

You could even send your products out, have customers test them, and then run a Hangout where everyone talks about what they liked and disliked about the product, or how it can be improved.

5. Workshops

Use Hangouts to teach classes or run workshops, taking viewers through difficult tasks within your industry step by step. If you teach cooking, an instrument or a language (or anything really) why not use hangouts as a cost-effective way of reaching a large number of students at once, wherever they may live.

6. Presentations

Thanks to Hangouts file sharing and screen sharing features, you can use the service to pitch your work to your boss, or a new product to a client, without needing to email it, download it onto a memory stick or set up a projector. You can present your work from your own office or home without having to meet up with the audience.

7. Host a Show

Instead of running a weekly or monthly podcast, why not host a regular show on Hangouts? Hangouts are instantly saved so you can upload them to Google’s affiliate YouTube if people want to see it but can’t make the live show. In fact, you should upload all your best hangouts to a YouTube channel.

8. Interviews

Using Hangouts, host interviews with respected figures within your industry online and invite people to watch On Air. The UK branch of Cadbury, for example, ran a hangout with Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Adlington and another with one of their tasters, in which they invited fans to talk about their favourite Cadbury chocolates.


9. Networking
Many use Google+ to network with communities of like-minded people with similar interests, or with others working in the same industry. Hangouts is a brilliant tool for networking, as it combines real-time face-to-face communication with simple file sharing.

10. Be Creative

Above are just a few ways that you can network with customers and clients online, hold meetings easily and raise your brand’s profile using Hangouts. If something happens in your business that is interesting or exciting, share it with your fans live via a hangout. As long as you maintain an image that is true to your brand identity, there are dozens of ways you can use Hangouts to help your business.

How have you used Google Hangouts to help your business?  

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