With new social networks like Pinterest popping up on the scene and stealing the spotlight, it seemed like Google+ had been falling by the wayside over the past several months. But a new announcement may help put it back on the radar, at least for marketers. Yesterday, Google announced that Google+ Hangouts on Air would start rolling out to all users worldwide.
What Are 'Hangouts on Air'?
Hangouts on Air isn't a new feature; it's just been unavailable for the majority of Google+ users. Launched last September, Hangouts on Air enable users to launch Google+ Hangouts (live video chat sessions with up to 9 other participants) that were broadcast live for all to see. Think of them like livestreamed broadcasts with the added bonus of multiple participants. While users could join and view others' Hangouts on Air, only a select group of beta test users were given the authority to start one ... until now.
Hangouts on Air include the following key features:
- Public Broadcasting: Now you can broadcast your live Hangout for all the world to see either via your Google+ page, your company's YouTube channel, or a page on your business' website where you embed the Hangout.
- Engagement Tracking: As the host of the Hangout on Air, you can see how many users are viewing the Hangout live at any given time during the broadcast.
- Recordings: Once your Hangout ends, Google+ will upload a recording to your YouTube channel and your original Google+ post so you can easily share your video content even after the live event ends.
For a better idea of what Hangouts on Air are, check out Google's promo video below:
How to Launch a Hangout on Air
Interested in testing out the tool in your marketing efforts? We'll discuss some great ways to leverage Hangouts on Air in your marketing later in this post, but here's a technical tutorial on how to create and launch your own on-air Hangout.
Step 1: Start a Hangout
In Google+, click the yellow Hangouts icon on the left, and then click 'Start a Hangout.' Or you can click 'Start a Hangout' at the top right when you're on your profile/page.
Step 2: Name Your Hangout and Invite Your Audience
Give your Hangout on Air a name, and invite the people you'd like to participate. These are the people who will actually show up as part of the video, and you can have up to 9 other participants. You can either specify particular users, Circles, or choose to make it public. Then click 'Enable Hangouts on Air.'
Step 3: Review/Agree to Legal Terms
You'll only have to do this the first time you launch a Hangout on Air.
Step 4: Connect Your YouTube Account
The first time you launch a Hangout on Air, Google+ will ask you to connect your YouTube account. This will enable Google+ to record your Hangouts to your YouTube channel. Click 'Start Verification Process' to set up the integration.
Step 5: Click 'Hangout'
Once you click 'Hangout,' don't worry -- you won't immediately be broadcasting your Hangout on the air yet. Use this time to adjust your camera, lighting, etc.
If you're driving traffic to a web page to host your Hangout on Air, this is the point where you can grab the embed code for your web page.
When you're ready to broadcast your Hangout on Air live, click 'Start Broadcast.' Once you do, your Hangout on Air will be broadcasting live on your Google+ page, your YouTube channel, and wherever you've embedded the video on your website.
Your viewers will be able to see the very same thing you do, except for your chat conversations and the number of people who are tuned in to the Hangout on Air. As the host of the Hangout, you will also be able to mute people in the Hangout or click on a particular participant's individual video screen to feature it as the main video.
Once the Hangout ends, a recording of the live Hangout will automatically post publicly, so people who were unable to attend the live Hangout can catch what they missed. You will also have the option to edit the recording
For a video rundown of these steps, check out Google's official video below:
Smart Uses of Hangouts on Air for Marketers
If you don't seem to have access to Hangouts on Air yet, sit tight. Google says it will be gradually rolling out the feature to all users worldwide over the next few weeks. And as a marketer, the availability of Hangouts on Air can be a powerful asset at your disposal. Here are some great uses of Hangouts on Air for the marketers of the world:
1) Press Conferences/Company Announcements: For company news announcements, hold a virtual press conference hosted by your business' executives and invite members of the press to participate. Broadcast it for all to see!
2) Webinars: Use Hangouts on Air to host your next educational or product-focused webinar. Or, if you're a software vendor, hold live, group-style demos of your product.
3) Industry Expert Roundtable Discussions or Interviews: Invite industry experts for a sort of digital roundtable to discuss an important industry-related topic. Or invite an industry expert for a one-on-one or multi-person interview-style broadcast.
4) Virtual Conferences: Host a virtual conference! Organize and run a series of presentations from various speakers at set times over the course of a day or two.
5) Livestreaming Live, In-Person Events: Hosting a live event? Livestream the footage of your speakers' presentations for those who can't attend in person.
6) User Groups: Organize Hangout sessions featuring your most successful customers, and invite other customers -- or even prospects -- to view and ask them questions.
7) Q&A Session: Plan Q&A sessions with your business' thought leaders. Consider it like a Twitter Chat, but with video!
Marketing Best Practices for Hosting a Hangout on Air
1) Promote it Ahead of Time: Just as with any event you host, your Hangout on Air will only be successful if people show up to watch it, so promote your Hangout well in advance using your other social media accounts, email marketing, your blog, etc. Create and promote a hashtag so you can track and monitor the conversation leading up to, during, and after the livestream.
2) Follow Video Marketing Best Practices: Don't overlook the production value of your Hangout on Air. Consider video marketing best practices: use high quality video cameras and remember details like lighting, location, and sound.
3) Consider Embedding the Video on Your Website: One of the most valuable features of Hangouts on Air is the ability to embed the livestream on any web page. When you organize a Hangout on Air, consider creating a dedicated page on your site to embed the Hangout, and promoting the link to that page, not your Google+ page. This will enable you to drive the traffic to your own website where you have more control and influence over what page visitors can see and do, especially if your goal is to use your Hangout to support lead generation. (Note: There are some cases where driving traffic to your Google+ page may be a better option, particularly if you're trying to increase your reach on Google+. In this case, you might want to forego the web page.)
4) Optimize the Web Page With CTAs: If you do choose to embed the Hangout video on your website, optimize the web page with calls-to-action to help support lead generation. This will help you convert Hangout viewers into actual leads for your business.
5) Schedule a Dress Rehearsal/Dry Run: As with any new tool, there will likely be some kinks to work out. Test the tools ahead of time and consider holding a dry run that you don't broadcast to the world.
6) Leverage Hangouts with Extras: Hangouts with Extras offers you with the functionality you need to execute a lot of the Hangout ideas we listed above, such as the ability to share your screen.
7) Share the Recording: Don't stop promoting your Hangout on Air once it's over. Your Hangout will automatically convert into a recording (that you can edit!) once your live Hangout ends. Share it with your audience so those who couldn't attend live can still access the Hangout after.
If you still don't have access to Hangouts on Air, consider tuning into other users' public Hangouts to get a better sense of how they work. Google has also listed a few upcoming Hangouts on Air here.
Will you experiment with Hangouts on Air? How else could you leverage them in your marketing efforts?