Engage Your Audience with Google Hangouts

By Brandee Sweesy August 18, 2014

As described by Google, Hangouts are a unification of video, voice and chat. But there can also be a psychological impact to your audience: the humanization of your brand through authentic conversations.

Authentic conversations really began with blogging several years ago. From there, we went to teleseminars where you could actually hear people’s voices, followed by the combination of voice and visual that webinars offered. Now video marketing is big, but has gotten so elaborate with intros, outros and jump cuts that they seem less authentic. They have basically broadened the empathy gap—and Hangouts can help you close that gap with your audiences.

During one Hangout that I hosted, a backdrop fell on my head—and I actually got hired by a big client right after it. There are no guarantees that things won’t go wrong in Hangouts, but that’s the beauty of them. It allows you to be more real and more connected with your audience.

Don’t treat Hangouts like a webinar replacement and rely on slides. Use the opportunity to actually hang out with your people, engage with them, have a good time, answer questions and give value. And if the value is good, people will buy your product or service.

There are many other benefits of Hangouts as a platform too:

  • They are free, regardless of the number of viewers.
  • They are multipurpose, allowing you to build authority and engagement with regularly scheduled web shows, product announcements, one-on-one video conferencing and panels.
  • They are multifaceted, streaming live to your YouTube channel, linking to your Google+ page and offering embed codes that you can use on a Facebook tab, website or blog post.
  • They have long shelf lives. When the broadcast is finished, the video is available within minutes in your YouTube video manager for you to edit as you like.
  • They outrank other content in searches, because videos rank higher—but they will also outrank a standard YouTube video because Google ranks on what is current and relevant.

Getting Started

I’m a firm believer in driving everything to your website, rather than sending people to your Google+ and YouTube page. Your content will be available at those other locations for people to come across. But if we’re actually sending people in all those directions, they won’t know where to engage with you. It gets confusing, and we all know that the confused mind never buys. Sending everyone to one location also improves search rankings and is easier to manage.

I have a threefold process for setting up Hangouts that are embedded on my website:

  1. Send teasers using my website domain and a “watchlive” extension followed by a number of the episode (for example, www.hangoutsforbusiness.com/watchlive-2). 
  2. Add the embed link Google Hangouts provides after hitting “Broadcast Now” to the website.
  3. Include a commenting system to enable interaction. I use a Facebook plug-in, because everyone knows how to interact with it.

Once you are up and running, remember that Hangouts are about the humanization of your brand, engaging with your audience and providing value. Here are some best practices to ensure both you and your audience get that value:
 
Practice makes perfect. Hangouts are not entirely intuitive, so get in there and play around. You can always delete the video.

Customize. The Hangout Toolbox allows you to brand your Hangouts with custom overlays. I include my hashtag and my trademark. You can also include pattern interrupts (a pop-up slide), such as “brought to you by” if you have a sponsor or “go buy my stuff here” to inspire people to take action. I usually do five or six of those.

Remember to engage. I let my audience know they can start posting any questions they might have right at the beginning, and it doesn’t have to be driven by what I’m saying. (There’s actually a 45 second to one-minute delay between what you’re saying and what your audience is hearing, and I also inform them of that.) People love to be included in a Hangout, and I say their first name and actually read their questions out loud before answering.

It’s in the name. Be aware of how you name your Hangout, because your audience can come across your Hangout several different ways. Something like “Episode 37” won’t make sense without context. You want to title it so they know what to expect and then include branding.

Don’t get discouraged by smaller live audiences. A big thing to remember, since we are so programmed for instant gratification, is not to be discouraged if you only have three live viewers. I know of one Hangout that had 400 live viewers, but then had 40,000 views within four days. So keep on pumping out that content.

Make the most of marketing. I love the humanization of the brand and the live interaction that Hangouts provide, but it’s also what I call “marketing on nitrous.” It’s basically rocket fuel for your brand because they are easy to promote and there are many ways to repurpose the content afterward to continue to spread the word.

Start promoting your live event four days in advance. I send them to a landing page, capturing their first name and email before sending them to the “watchlive” page. I keep promoting over the next few days through my other channels, and do one last promotional push on Facebook five minutes before the Hangout starts.

After the Hangout, it’s really important not to just end the broadcast and call it done. Optimize the YouTube video afterward, using keywords to tag it and include in your title and descriptions. (Another tip: Identify the keywords before your Hangout, and mention them several times to get search credit for closed captioning and transcriptions of the video.) Also, include calls to action above the “show more.”

Take the content and repurpose it like crazy. I take two compelling minutes out of the video, sometimes adding an intro and outro, and promote it separately with an external annotation taking them to the longer version. (If my Hangout is on the longer side, 30 minutes to an hour, I’d pop out four or five of those to get traction on YouTube.) You can also transcribe the video and make it a blog post, strip the visual portion and make it a podcast.

If you are strategic with your optimization, you can skyrocket to the first page of Google searches on a topic. So Hangouts not only portray your brand in a very human light with your current audience, they give you the opportunity to spread that light over new audiences. 


A FEW THINGS YOU’LL NEED TO GET STARTED WITH HANGOUTS:
  1. A Google+ account with at least a profile picture, since that picture will show on your screen if your camera stops working
  2. A linked YouTube channel that has been verified (otherwise it can’t allow uploads that are longer than 15 minutes)
  3. Webcam (many people just use their laptop camera)
  4. Headset (to avoid feedback)
  5. Hard wiring (versus over Wi-Fi) for improved quality
  6. Good lighting
  7. Google Chrome browser, since Google tends to play better with Google
Brandee Sweesy

Brandee Sweesy

Brandee Sweesy has been dubbed the “Hangout Marketing Expert” by some of the top names in the industry. Her passion and 20 years of experience in marketing, branding, strategy and most of all engagement with communities has led her to help people
with live video and Google Hangouts. She can be reached at Brandee@BrandeeSweesy.com.

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