Google+ can often seem like the redheaded stepchild in the social media family. But there's one feature that has brands embracing the channel and tuning in to see what others are doing: Hangouts on Air.
From music and food to dogs and fitness, business owners and marketers are finding Google's broadcast forum is a powerful content marketing tool. A live conversation allows brands to share their story to an unlimited audience. All you need is a webcam, microphone and decent Internet connection to get started. You can even use a tablet or mobile device. And just announced last week, Hangouts will soon be in HD. High definition quality will happen with Hangouts on Air initially, then to all desktop hangout video calls over the next few weeks. Note that HD Hangouts require an hd-capable webcam, more bandwidth and more processing power than standard definition.
Hangouts on Air connect Google+ and YouTube. Regular Hangouts are being used for video meetings and private chats. And with the price being just right (Free!), more people are choosing Google over Skype, Go To Meeting and traditional dial-in conference call services. The difference with Hangouts on Air is that they are live streamed to YouTube as a broadcast. Anyone can watch the Hangout live. It's then recorded and saved on YouTube, so it can be shared elsewhere.
Here are 5 ways brands are broadcasting content through Hangouts on Air:
1. Share News
Less than a month ago, Netflix changed the way they shared their earning news. Instead of a boring meeting where a press release was read out loud, Netflix released their Q2 earnings using Google+ using face to face communication with the company's investors and media.
The White House has been an early adopter of Hangouts, using the forum to answer questions following the president's State of the Union address in February. President Obama answered questions submitted via video, and also chatted directly with a group of the questioners. This summer, First Lady Michelle Obama used a Hangout to connect young people in South Africa with young people in the U.S. to discuss the importance of education.
2. Gain International Appeal
Singer/Songwriter Daria Musk has catapulted her music to a worldwide audience (she has almost 3,000,000 followers) thanks to Hangouts on Air. She performs live concerts, allowing her to tour the world without ever leaving her studio. Just like Lady Gaga and her Little Monsters, Daria has created her own brand evangelists called G+niuses.
Nathan Hague relies on Hangouts to work with his geographically dispersed team and provide product demos and training sessions of his AustraliaWOW! fitness software to clients all over the world. The fitness expert says there are numerous advantages to being able to connect live. "Most people who are out of shape are being constantly put under pressure to join gyms and studios - but why? They're often self-conscious to start with, and we're asking them to get sweaty with jiggly fat bits on public display: Hardly a recipe for longevity. The Hangout training method allows for them to train in their homes and a certain degree of separation from real world bias and prejudices," said Hague.
3. Educate Live
Cooking is a natural fit for Hangouts on Air since they provide an opportunity for people to watch a chef prepare a dish and be able to ask and get their questions answered live. Recreational cooking school The Chopping Block hosts monthly Hangouts to teach cooking techniques such as grilling fish and canning/preserving to enable people to cook more at home. Chefhangout.com goes a step farther and features a wide array of cooking classes for purchase. You get a list of ingredients and prep "to do" list ahead of time. When it's time for the class, attendees cook together with the chef in their own kitchens via Hangout.
AnimalSense Canine Training & Behavior educates dog lovers about positive reinforcement dog training techniques using Hangouts on Air. A panel of dog trainers discusses a topic, such as appropriate behavior in dog parks, while answering questions posted by the public. "The beauty of Hangouts is that they are recorded and posted to your YouTube channel. So, even though someone may not be able to join you live for the conversation, you still have that content available to promote in other ways. We always include our Hangouts in our email marketing and post them to other social media channels," said Lindsay Rapp, owner of AnimalSense.
4. Share Helpful Content
WHOA! Network, an online video network focused on and featuring women at midlife and beyond, creates 99% of their content through Hangouts. Through video conversations, interviews and vlogs, WHOA! is pioneering the next level of connection to women on the Internet.
Co-founder Lynn Forbes prefers utilizing the recording feature of Hangouts rather than broadcasting live. "Most of what we do now is pre-recorded and edited. The live shows can be very time consuming, and it's hard to find a time that is good for women in all time zones." She also stresses the importance of educating your participants. "We have developed a step by step guide with everything from how to install the plugin, correct lighting, importance of using earbuds, etc. We do a practice hangout with every person who is using it for the first time."
5. Peel Back the Corporate Curtain
Veterans United is an excellent example of a brand utilizing Hangouts to be transparent. The VA-approved lender uses new technology like Hangouts to open up and give an inside view to their company. "Face to face connection trumps any asynchronous text based social media post. Hangouts are real time engagement... living, breathing human media," said Sarah Hill, who hosts Veterans United's Hangouts. Cool fact: she was the first journalist to use a Google+ Hangout on TV.
Hangouts have also led to growth in support businesses like Ronnie Bincer's Hangout Helper. He offers one-on-one training on Hangouts, guided set up and execution of a Hangout, even video SEO. Circle this guy to stay on top of all things Hangout related.
In next week's post, we'll walk you through you the specific steps to take if you are ready to tell your brand's story via Hangouts on Air.