Last Tuesday, Google launched Helpouts, a new service built on Google’s Hangouts that provides an outlet for users to search for and connect with experts via live video chats. Google Helpouts creates a new marketplace for brands and experts to instantly provide one-on-one guidance for paying customers.
Searching for help videos on the web is nothing new; in fact Google has been in this game for a long time. Whether it’s trying to figure out how to play the latest John Mayer song on guitar, mastering the lasagna dish from that cooking show or fixing that leaky faucet, many times the first place people go to for help is YouTube. Google’s launch of Helpouts provides a centralized platform for those searching for the expertise of others they may not know in real life.
This new service will undoubtedly excite brands and marketers eager for a new and personal touch-point along the customer journey. In fact, fashion and beauty brand Sephora already has a presence on Helpouts, offering free sessions with plans to sell products within the platform. The platform launches with HIPAA certification, opening up the door for healthcare brands and health professionals to provide their own services to a large audience.
As with any new platform, there will certainly be a concerted “testing and learning” phase to determine how to best utilize this new service. That said, there are a few things brands should know about Helpouts:
- Google search results will likely favor those using Google+ channels. Content shared across the Google+ network (including Helpouts) will likely appear higher in search results.
- For effective Helpouts sessions, brands should understand search behavior in their category to better understand the needs of their audience. Know what your customers are asking and searching for before engaging with them in a Helpout.
- Helpout sessions will live and die based on ratings. Those featured on the front page of the website all feature no less than four out of five star rankings. Users, especially those that pay for a service, will expect the highest quality from credible, trustworthy sources.
With consistent positive experiences and an increased presence on Google+, brands on Helpouts have a tremendous opportunity to learn from their user base and increase advocacy. Built using similar features and tools as Google Hangouts, Helpouts is sure to entice brands and users alike to play in the Google ecosystem.
Google Helpouts is a striking departure for a company that has relied so heavily on the power of its sophisticated algorithms, search tools and machine-based answers. It’s a signal that human answers are extremely valuable and irreplaceable. Clearly, the biggest question for Google Helpouts is ‘will it scale?’ Currently, Google has vetted 1,000 brands and experts to participate in the Helpouts program but if the platform takes off, will they have a hard time reviewing and approving new talent to expand its offering?
During a short strategy meeting in the Social@Ogilvy DC office, our minds were racing with potential ideas for our clients. There is no doubt Google has created a great new product with tremendous applications for brands and experts but will users find value in these paid helpouts?