The Google+ Hangout is one of the most notable differences between Google+ and Facebook. Hangouts offer brands an entirely new communication tool and make brands more accessible than ever before. Finding what works best for brands and their audiences is an important part of designing a Hangout session and a handful of brands have already started experimenting with this feature. With a concrete strategy and direction, Hangouts can be leveraged in a variety of fun, interactive and informative ways.
We recently hosted a Google+ Hangout during a brands product launch. The Hangout was structured around the product introduction presented by the event hosts and followed by a Q&A session. Overall, the Hangout was a success in that our team learned how Google+ users wish to engage with brands in Hangout sessions and we gained some key takeaways for future sessions.
Public vs. Private Hangouts: In order to maintain conversation control, private hangouts are more effective than public hangouts.Due to the intimate nature of Hangouts and participant limit of 10, opening a brand hangout to the public can potentially sidetrack the Hangout intent and the individuals participating may not be the desired audience. Private hangout sessions (great tutorial on creating a private hangout session here) are the safer route for brands while still offering the unique opportunity for influencers to gain exclusive access to the brand. Some ideas for brand Hangouts are using contests to award seats in Hangouts with brand leaders or related public figures. Hangouts also offer an excellent customer service opportunity that brands can leverage. Check out how brands such as Dell and Macy’s have used Hangouts here.
Hangouts are for Engagement-Not Reach: With the participant limit of 10, clearly reach is not the objective of a Hangout session. Reach beyond the Hangout comes from subsequent content distribution and influencer sharing as a result of a quality Hangout. Participants want to discuss and converse rather than listen to one speaker for an extended period of time.For the first time ever brands are in a position to speak directly with their audiences. Transparency and accessibility are perhaps two of the most important pillars of brand survival in today’s market-Hangouts give brands the exclusive opportunity to leverage these pillars to customers.
Clear Communication is Required: Hangouts are a completely new form of communication, therefore setting expectations of how the Hangout will work in the beginning of the session is important. The Hangout schedule should be articulated and also displayed via chat when initiating the Hangout and welcoming participants. Another great way to foster conversation and create a comfortable environment is to start the Hangout with an introduction of the Hangout leader and all participants.
Have a Plan for Engagement: As mentioned, Hangouts are social in nature. Participants want to get to know who else is in the Hangout and are open to meeting others in the Hangout setting. Therefore, there needs to be a plan for how the host can encourage and cultivate group sharing and involvement.
Overall, Google+ offers brands a fresh way to communicate and exposure to new audiences. Hangouts are a valuable new outlet to engage with customers, making brands more accessible than ever before. Instead of treating Google+ as a second Facebook, brands should take advantage of the platform’s ability to foster new relationships.