The Google+ hangouts feature is one of the most unique aspects of using the Google+ social platform, especially when compared with others like Facebook and Twitter that do not offer anything similar. Using them creatively can distinguish your brand or company from many others competing in the social media marketing world. This could potentially be a marketing strategy to capture a new audience and involve your users on a highly interactive level.

However, figuring out creative ways to use them can be tough. You have to really think outside the box about how they can work for you and what you can do to set yourself apart from the rest. Once you know a few of your options, you’ll find that getting creative isn’t so hard after all.

What are Google+ Hangouts?

For those who are unfamiliar, Google+ hangouts allow you to chat with up to 9 people at a time in a video-conference setting. Within this online conference environment you can share documents and files with the group, watch YouTube videos together (while still having the ability to chat), and record sessions for later viewing. Most significantly, you can broadcast the chat live—allowing customers to see and experience a live virtual panel or talk to engage them with your product or service.

To get started all your business needs is a Google+ account. Once you are signed up and logged in, you can click the “create a hang-out” and begin a live chat. What is really nice about Google+ hangouts is that they are easy to use and the control aspects are very basic.

4 Creative Ideas to Use Google+ Hangouts

Below are some creative ways you can use hangouts to your advantage:

1. Question and Answer.

You can use the broadcasting feature (either as an individual or with a panel of up to 9 people) to go on air and answer questions submitted by customers or users. What is nice about a question and answer broadcast is that it is easy, you already hold the answers to many frequently asked questions. Secondly, it allows your audience to engage with information you are providing.

Google+ allows you to have questions submitted before you go live, so that you can prepare answers ahead of time. Some tips to keep in mind:

  • Ask users to click the link you provide to access your live broadcast (this can also be promoted on other social platforms).
  • Users (that are not in the 9 or less on your panel) can comment with questions or feedback during the broadcast.
  • Make sure you allow others to participate, as this is what makes Q&A such a great tool for marketing and gaining user involvement!

2. Crowdsourcing.

Crowdsourcing involves setting up a scheduled session that will be broadcasted to share knowledge about your industry, ideas, or information about products and services with a wider audience. This can be accomplished with a panel of your colleagues or even featuring different speakers. The goal is to provide valuable advice that your brand or company wants to share.

This may start out slowly, as you will need to promote your scheduled hangout over other social media sites, but the key is consistency. If you have a scheduled time and regularly promote then you will eventually gain interest from customers or other business professionals. Some tips:

  • Feature clients that have had a good experience or a unique story with your business.
  • Offer expert advice about various situations or need-to-know skills relevant to your field.
  • Have the intention of bringing value to your followers, so that they want to share your expertise and therefore attract more followers and potential clients.

3. Demonstration.

If you work in an industry that is particularly interested in one-on-one demonstration (cooking, fitness, arts, etc), the Google+ platform is a great fit for offering potential clients a personal look at the skills you have to offer. Online workshops or demonstrations are one of the best ways to give customers value and promote your business.

There are a couple of ways to offer a demonstration. One option is a live broadcast as mentioned in crowdsourcing. The other option is to make it more exclusive and offer a slot in the video chat to interested clients—if you are the only one conducting the demonstration this would leave 8 other positions available in an exclusive workshop environment. Demonstration ultimately helps support that your products and services work, and they compel people to act and get involved. Some tips:

  • Make sure you are prepared before hand! Treat this as if you were teaching a class in a professional environment.
  • Allow for questions and participant involvement, especially if you make the event semi-exclusive.

4. Virtual Meetings

Probably one of the more obvious, but nevertheless creative uses of Google+ hangouts is holding a virtual meeting. While you most likely have access to your direct colleagues in an office space or other local environment, virtual meetings allow you to connect with other industry professionals and network online from a distance. For example, if you host an event for other industry professionals with a theme or topic, everyone can be involved and engaged in sharing ideas. Some tips:

  • Again, just like with demonstration—make sure you are prepared and know what the topic or issues you would like to discuss are before hand.
  • Invite people or market the event well in advance (this will likely create a better turn-out)
  • Send out an email blast to colleagues and industry professionals to see who may be interested (this may have a better outreach than a Facebook or Twitter promotion).

What this means to you

Google+ hangouts have an endless amount of potential. They can be for exclusive groups, or promoted to display for the masses. In either case, preparation and treating this like any other social campaign with organization will serve your business well.

Do you have any suggestions for creative Google+ hangouts that have worked well for your business? Let us know about your own success!