Take your biz on air with Google+ Hangouts

Brand. Inform. Connect.

Question: Do you know a simple and effective way to generate great marketing content for your business, connect with customers, personalize your brand, and more?

Answer: Google+™ Hangouts!

Google+ Hangouts are becoming more and more popular among businesses of all sizes, with larger brands like National Geographic, The New York Times and Cadbury using them for special events. At GoDaddy, we host Hangouts to help small business owners and Web pros in a variety of areas — including search engine optimization, website hosting performance and social media. Hangouts also are a great, interactive way to share information about new products and services and to discuss industry trends and news.

But you don’t have to be big to get big benefits from Google Hangouts.

“Social media and Google+ Hangouts, in particular, have really allowed me to establish myself as a thought leader in my industry.” ~ Laurie Laizure, CEO of Customized Walls

To smaller businesses such as Customized Walls, Hangouts provide an amazing opportunity to establish credibility, build relationships with a target audience, and promote products and services. Customized Walls CEO Laurie Laizure says she’s leveraged Hangouts to successfully make the transition into a new industry, following her passion into the home decor sphere from a background in printing. She hosts regular Hangouts about interior design topics.

“Because my show is about the business of design, it has helped me make connections with designers, manufacturers and distributors. The results have been pretty fantastic for my business. I’ve landed wallcovering jobs with interior designers, gotten press on television and print, and formed collaborations that help my company grow. Over the past two years, our audience has laughed with us, learned from us, shared with us. The sense of community and deep relationship building is just not to be matched.”

Stoked to get started?

Getting started with Google+ Hangouts

GoDaddy’s Hangout initiative started small back in December 2013. Our equipment was about as basic as it gets: a standard Web cam, speakerphone mic and empty conference room. We were just getting our feet wet and didn’t take advantage all of the features that Google provides for Hangouts. Since those early days, we’ve hosted more than 17 shows and participated in many more. We’ve put together a permanent studio, upgraded our audio quality, and experimented with many of the offered Hangout features to maximize our viewers’ experience. In essence, we started small and grew over time with our audience.

I think that’s a great starting strategy for small businesses. You want the experience to be fun, not stressful. You don’t need to make big investments in equipment to get going. You do need to listen to your viewers’ feedback and keep improving — just like you do in other aspects of your business.

Good news! Hangouts are easy

Hangouts are meant to be a casual platform. All it takes to get going is an idea (more on that below), microphone, Web camera and genuine smile. You can learn more about the process of setting up your Google+ account in preparation for Hangouts here. (It is important to note that you can’t do a Hangout on air until you’ve verified and linked a YouTube® page to your Google+ Business Page.)

While you don’t need to get stressed out about setting up the perfect Hangout, it doesn’t hurt to consider some basic production points — including lighting, camera angle and background noise. I’ve put together a brief slide deck on how to set up a Hangout On Air (from your brand page), start and stop your broadcast, get a lower-third name and title displayed on screen, as well as how to upload a trailer to the event. Hope it helps. You can view that here:

So, what should your Hangout cover?

This is a chance to personally connect with viewers about your passion, strut your stuff, and educate your audience. Share your expertise. Include guests relevant to your brand. The sky’s the limit, really. If you’re a chef, you could give a live cooking demo and leave viewers with a special recipe. You could invite customers to your Hangout for a culinary Q&A.

The goal is to engage your audience and to learn from each other, to share new and useful content.

You shouldn’t be trying to sell your products or services during your Hangouts. That’s a turn-off to viewers. And, in general, it’s good practice to limit Hangouts to under an hour. With consistency, that’s plenty of time to show people that you’re an expert in your field, that you’re interesting and, hopefully, a bit entertaining. Keep working to improve, and you’ll see your audience grow with this unique social platform.

“There’s  a lot of noise online now,” Laurie Laizure says. “This is something different — and different helps to set you apart.”

That’s priceless. If you want to get more insights from folks who are using Google+ Hangouts effectively, check out GPlusSpotlight with hosts Stephan Hovanian and Ben Fisher. They regularly interview businesses that “get” Google+, and I was honored to appear on their show in April:

Colby Villa
Colby has spent the past four of his more than six years at GoDaddy with the Social Media Team. He specializes in customer advocacy and social productions, producing a majority of GoDaddy's Google+ Hangouts. He loves meeting new people and making personal connections. In his free time, Colby enjoys golfing and working on his art.