How to Use Google+ Hangouts for Business

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It seems like Google is always cooking up new and interesting products for users. One product that’s gotten a lot of buzz is Google+ Hangouts. Let’s discuss this innovative product and some ways you might be able to use it in your day-to-day work at the office.
What is Google+ Hangouts?

Essentially, Google+ Hangouts is all about connecting people. Google talks about creating conversations, and that’s at the core of this product: you can connect with a group of people across devices via text and voice and video calls (with up to 10 users at a time for the video calls). As Google says, “Talk to the whole gang at once.”

It works whether you’re in Gmail or Google+, and it syncs across desktops, tablets, and smartphones. So if you’re “hanging out” on your desktop, for example, but you suddenly need to head out to your car, you can grab your smartphone and connect with the conversation without missing a beat.

But you know what? Google explains its Hangouts best. So watch the short video we’ve embedded below, and then we can discuss how you can use it for your small business.

So you use it to talk to people?
Primarily. But Social Media Examiner points out that you can also use Hangouts to “share documents and other files with the group, watch a YouTube video together and chat alongside it, share your screen with others, record sessions for viewing later, and broadcast the chat live to anyone.”

How do I get Google+ Hangouts?
According to Google, “You’ll need a full Google+ account to get access to all of Hangouts’ features including group video calls, sharing photos, and using Hangouts with Google+ circles.”

(Mashable walks you through setting up a Google+ account here if you don’t already have one.)

What are some practical ways my small business can use Google+ Hangouts?
Here are some quick-hitting ideas on how a small business could use Hangouts.

  • Use it to connect with anyone who couldn’t make it into the office that day.
  • Use it to connect with people who are spread out among different branches.
  • Use it if you’re a virtual company. What a great way to have those weekly meetings—you can see people’s faces!
  • Use it for customer service. Maybe a customer has a question that requires a visual: Is that mold in the bathroom? What type of plant is this? Hey, you delivered the wrong blouse—now what? The customer can show the service rep the “issue,” and the service rep can provide more effective and efficient help.
  • Use it to conduct interviews with local reporters/bloggers. Or use it for a big press announcement. Invite a small group of reporters, writers, and bloggers to attend.
  • Use it to do basic training. Do you want to show folks in the office how to do something, but you find that getting everyone together is impossible? Create a Google Hangout and people can join from wherever they are.
  • Use it to conduct interviews. It’s another great way to have valuable face-to-face time with a potential job candidate.

So Google+ Hangouts can do all that? There’s no catch?
There’s no catch, but wait, there’s more! Earlier this year, Mashable reported the following: “However, as useful as Hangouts are, they’re basically a standalone service, and they don’t play nice with conference room systems or regular phone lines. That’s where Vidyo comes in. The company, whose back-end technology helps power Hangouts, is launching a tool that will fold Google+ Hangouts into existing systems, finally bridging the gap between Hangouts and the boardroom.” (Mashable notes that Vidyo’s service isn’t free, but it does have different pricing options.)

OK. So Google+ Hangouts sounds cool. Anything else?
Yep! Here’s another exciting product that you should know about—one that’s related to Hangouts. Last fall, Google announced the launch of Helpouts. Google describes it like this: “Helpouts is a new way to share knowledge and expertise over live video. Connect with customers in a one-on-one video call.”

And the best part? You can monetize Helpouts. For example, you could hold a training session that you charge people to attend. (Google handles payments through Google Wallet, making it super easy.) This video really captures what Helpouts is all about.

You need a Google+ profile to create a Helpout and, at the writing of this post, you need to request an invitation to join Helpouts, which you can do here.

Wow. Google+ Helpouts sounds fabulous!
Indeed. The possibilities are seemingly endless. See how three big brands have been using is so far. But let’s not overlook the possibilities for small businesses either.

Let’s say you’re a personal trainer, and your client needs a new series of exercises. Guess what? You can show her what to do—and watch her repeat the exercises to make sure she’s doing them right. And you’d do all this from the comfort of your home (or wherever you are). Also, suddenly location no longer needs to be a limitation. A personal trainer could have clients all over the country, or even the world.

Or let’s say you’re a handyman. You could hold some “how to”  Helpouts, like how to replace a doorknob or how to fix a cabinet hinge.

Or let’s say you’re a hair stylist. You could hold a Google Helpout on creating five types of braids.

You get the idea. And you could charge people to attend these Helpouts. Say hello to another income stream!

Where can I learn more about the ins and outs of Hangouts and Helpouts?
Google is the best authority, so we recommend starting there. It has an excellent help section on Hangouts here, and another excellent help section on Helpouts here.

Have you used Hangouts or Helpouts in your business? We’d love to get your insights! Share in the comments below.

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