12 Ways to Connect, Create, and Collaborate Using Google Hangouts

Image of Google Hangouts Player

You’re a content marketer, and you care about connection and collaboration. But you live in a remote village in Alaska, and you can’t just hop down to the local Chamber of Commerce when you need to pick up a little extra business.

Flying to conferences isn’t an option, either — your local airport is snowed in nine months a year (and when it’s not snowed in, it’s too expensive to fly to major cities for the best networking events).

You want to connect, and you need to do it virtually. So you need a connection tool that’s easy, fast, user-friendly and highly accessible. 
Google Hangouts are about to become one of the best tools in your online content marketing toolbox.

Picture a Google Hangout as an online gathering place where you can facilitate a virtual chat with nine of your closest pals. Then, imagine you can invite the entire world to take part in your conversation.

Or if you’d rather keep things private, you can have personal conversations, too.

Getting started with your own Hangout

Want to start your own Hangout? Just visit plus.google.com/hangouts.

From the Hangout home page, you can make sure your microphone and camera are working correctly, invite other people to your Hangout, and enable a live broadcast of your chat by enabling “Hangouts on Air.” Remember that everyone who wants to join your Hangout must be signed in to a Google account in order to participate.

Google Hangouts are quick and relatively easy to use. They’re also an incredibly powerful part of the Google+ tool suite. You can use Google Hangouts for everything from one-to-one connections to huge virtual chats, and everything in between. But what are the best ways to use them as a savvy content marketer?

Here are twelve ways to leverage Hangouts to make you a more productive (and better connected) content creator.

1. Use a Hangout to connect with your community

Warren and Betsy Talbot of Married with Luggage recently hosted an On Air Hangout to have an informal chat with their community. Participants could ask them questions via chat, and the Talbots’ vibrant video presence made the Hangout a total success. Married with Luggage fans are united by their drive to achieve their dreams, and the online chat allowed Warren and Betsy to have a deeper conversation with their community members about topics like motivation, taking action, facing fears, and The Art of the Ask. Their Hangout was automatically posted to the Married with Luggage YouTube account within minutes of the conversation’s completion.

2. Create video interviews as content (or research) for your blog, book, online products and membership sites

Facebook expert and social media consultant Andrea Vahl interviews online celebrities and thought leaders using Google Hangouts. Joining her for an interview is simple and painless, and she integrates the YouTube videos of her conversations into blog posts and email newsletters. Andrea is a thriving author and entrepreneur, and her valuable interviews are a big part of her success.

3. Provide valuable online coaching sessions

Sean Cook of HigherEdCareerCoach.com offers online coaching sessions using Hangouts. In his coaching sessions, Sean helps his clients work on their resumes, negotiate career changes, and use social media as an effective part of their job search strategies. Hangouts have become a regular part of his coaching toolbox, and he likes the Hangout technology so much that he’s considering using it to completely replace Skype (his previous choice for virtual coaching).

4. Offer online critique sessions

Guy Kawasaki recently started offering Makeover Critiques as part of an ongoing marketing effort for his latest book, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur — How to Publish a Book. Self-publishers in Guy’s community offer up their book projects (including book covers, titles, and social media presences) for critique and helpful feedback from the APE panel of experts. Check out Guy’s latest critique on the APE blog.

5. Hold meetings

Get back to basics by holding online meetings using Google Hangouts. If your team is scattered all over the world, a Hangout can provide a simple way to come together to discuss ideas, collaborate, make decisions, and share documents.

6. Launch an online game

Take your virtual meetings a step further, and create an online contest like Tea Silvestre, the host of the online reality show Prosperity’s Kitchen. Tea uses Google Hangouts as the main collaboration tool for this 12-week series, which teaches online entrepreneurs how to market themselves.

7. Provide killer customer support

You can use Hangouts to troubleshoot problems and provide great customer service. Using video chat can help build trust and rapport with your clients — they will love being able to see a real person on the other side of the call. You can even use the screensharing function to view your customer’s desktop, which is a huge plus for technical support reps, graphic designers, and web developers.

8. Host online launch parties

Use Hangouts to hold virtual launch events for your latest books or online products. Hangout parties are a fun and interactive way to let your long-distance fans get in on the fun! To add a little more excitement, throw in some contests (with great prizes, of course) and invite special surprise guests to join your Hangout. You can even create a virtual guestbook in Google Docs, so the partygoers can sign in and send you their congratulations and best wishes.

9. Solidify your expert status by holding live classes on your topic

The experts behind ChefHangout.com are using Google Hangouts as the primary tool for holding virtual paid cooking classes. Chefs from all over the world lead cooking classes for at-home students. Budding chefs can interact, ask questions, and cook right along with their instructions. With the technology of Hangouts, ChefHangout.com is transforming the way cooking classes work — a smart (and very profitable) undertaking!

10. Get accountability

If you’ve got an accountability partner for your business, and the two of you don’t live in the same city or town, Google Hangouts can be a great way to meet, discuss progress and problems, and brainstorm solutions. You can collaborate using Google Docs during your Hangout, or just share your screen to show your partner your latest project.

11. Give presentations

Need to give a virtual presentation to a client, and want to add a little flair? Use Google Hangouts to have interactive conversations with your prospects, share your screen, and integrate videos from YouTube that you can watch together during your Hangout.

12. Hold virtual office hours

If you teach an online course and you want to hold regular online office hours, Google Hangouts are the perfect tool. Facetime with you (the instructor) is a big selling point when you’re marketing an online course, so make sure you let prospects know you’ll be available for coaching and Q&A!

Your turn …

Here at Copyblogger, we’ve spent the last few weeks showing exactly why you should turn your attention to Google+ as part of your content marketing strategy. Author Rank is here, it’s real, and it’s incredibly important — so getting your Google+ presence off the ground might be the smartest thing you do this year.

If you’ve been dragging your feet about taking our advice, perhaps Hangouts can be a painless way to get your feet wet in the Google+ pool.

So fire up your account, invite a few friends, and let it all hang out. We’ll see you there.

About the Author: Beth Hayden is an author, speaker, and social media expert who specializes in Pinterest marketing. To get more traffic-building tips, download your free copy of Beth’s e-book, The Definitive Guide to Driving Traffic to Your Website or Blog with Pinterest.

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Comments

  1. G+ Hangouts ARE cool. Yes, there’s a teensy bit of a learning curve, but once you’ve done two or three, it really begins to flow and you think, “Why did I wait so long to try this out?” I actually really LOVE this tool, now.

    Tip for those who are new: if you use an external mic (vs the internal one that comes pre-packaged with your computer) make sure you change your microphone settings or it will default to the internal one and the sound will be lousy.

    • Thanks Tea!

    • Thanks for the mic tip, Tea! Appreciated! :)

    • I am thinking to “get my feet in the water” and try having a google hangout on air (I’ve been watching some, and I have a group of friends / bloggers that want to try it). Sounds like fun!

      One more question though: do you really need an external camera also? Many say you do. Also: can I just connect my iPhone 4 and use it as an external camera?

      • Hi Stefan – I have no idea about the iPhone external camera idea, but I know that I use the built-in camera on my Mac laptop for my Hangouts, and it works just fine. Good luck!

      • Stefan, you do not need an external camera… I use my Mac’s HD built in webcam about 15 times or more a week to do hangouts… it works great.

  2. These are excellent ideas, but I still think the issue with G+ is getting people to show up and participate (obviously someone like Guy Kawasaki isn’t going to have this problem). Any tips for how someone “small time” can persuade her audience to follow her over to G+? Or would I be better off cultivating a following that is already on G+?

    • Hi Kerry! I’m definitely small time compared to Guy K., and would say that depending on your project, using a hangout isn’t really that different from getting people to attend a webinar or a teleclass. You can promote these events on ALL social media channels, so the same efforts apply. When I started my endeavor, most of my audience was on Facebook and new to G+, so it CAN work.

      It also helps to have some “orientation time” so that you can get newbies up to speed on how to participate — but just watching from the audience isn’t any different from watching any other webinar or live stream event.

      • Thanks for the tips! You’re right it’s not much different than a webinar, it’s just that “learning curve” I worry about… but the orientation is a great idea. :)

        • Kerry,

          I’m one of the contestants on Prosperity’s Kitchen and can totally relate to the “learning curve” aspect of learning Google+ Hangouts. Let me reassure to say that you’re correct in saying, “it’s not much different than a webinar” but add on that once you tryout a Google+ Hangout, you’ll be spoiled for life.

          I stumbled through the first webside of Prosperity’s Kitchen as a Google+ Hangout virgin. I didn’t know ANYTHING about Google+ our Hangouts. So, to get over this fear before the next week’s webisode, my team (two other contestants) together on a “practice” Hangout where we poked and prodded around until we were all comfortable. No fuss, no muss and no pressure to perform. Now, 8 weeks later, it’s old hat and we’re all super comfortable with the platform.

    • Hi Kerry

      We did our first Google Hangout with a GPlus Community manager and some microbusiness owners who are using hangouts really well in their business. You can watch it here…http://www.womenunlimitedworldwide.com/google-plus-for-business/ … I found it fascinating and I was leading the hangout! Hope that helps

  3. Isn’t there a limit on the number of participants on a Google Hangout?

    • 10 people can appear with you on-air, but you are unlimited in the number that can just watch and chat on YouTube and/or your G+ event page.

    • Hi Lakshmi,
      The limit within a Google Hangout itself is currently 9, though I’ve seen rumors that they are increasing this. However, how you would manage more screens is a mystery to me.

      What you can do is have up to 9 participating in the video sharing side and then broadcast it via Google On Air so an unlimited number of people can watch it live, but not directly participate. This is then recorded and saved to your YouTube account.

      • Do you know if it possible to record using the On Air function but control who can watch it?
        I want to have a hang out for my paid course members and have the content restricted to them and I want a record for those who can’t make it to the live event.

        • Jo, I think On Air Hangouts are public, and there’s no way to control who watches them once they’re out in the world. If you want control over participants, it’s best to have a private Hangout.

        • I do Private Hangouts (non-HOA ones) all the time and use 3rd party video/screen capturing tools to record them. When the hangout is an HOA (Hangout on Air) it is visible to the public by default, we can’t change that (yet)… But after the live HOA broadcast is finished being auto-recorded, you can turn the recorded YouTube video into a Private video if you like.

    • Lakshmi – you can include 10 people in a Hangout (you and 9 friends). I’ve seen lots of people do Hangouts where they’re talking to one person via the video link, and then they have other attendees participate in the conversation via chat, or in the YouTube comments.

    • A Hangout On Air is what you do if you want to broadcast to a mass audience.

  4. I REALLY want to use Google Hangouts. I work with a team that is scattered across the U.S. I was surprised to learn, though, that my computer isn’t up to speed to work with Google Hangouts. Argh.

    For now I use Skype, but it doesn’t seem to compare to Google Hangouts.

  5. Great article,
    One more for you is online education.
    Here is an article I wrote for the E-Learning Guild on Hangouts for Education.
    http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/772/google-hangouts-six-practical-uses-for-online-education

  6. I have been experimenting with On Air Hangouts because I want to start an interview series but I’ve been having technical issues. The video quality is very poor and the connection sometimes lags or cuts out completely.
    Do you have any tips?

    • Julie – From what I understand, you want to be on the fastest possible Internet connection that you can get on – if you use a wireless modem and can hook into an actual WIRED connection, that can help. You can also try closing out any downloads, programs, etc. that you’re not using (like Skype). But even with all that, the video quality of the finished product isn’t perfect, and it’s not as good as what you can get when you’re just using a video camera to record yourself. I’m hoping the quality improves as the service expands, but for now, it definitely has its limits.

  7. How I would love to do this! I could have a hangout with my buddies that are scattered across the U.S. so we could see the new things each of us create and discuss techniques, even learn new techniques from each other.

    BUT–the problem with living in rural areas, truly rural areas, is that we don’t have access to high-speed internet connections and unlimited bandwidth. The nearest telephone pole or electrical pole is 15 mi. in one direction, 22 mi. in the other direction, and we won’t even talk about the other 2 directions. There is no 3G network. Cell phones only work if you have a unidirectional antenna and a booster–and that’s iffy at times. Internet is by satellite receiver with a 5 GB limit, and they cheat like crazy on that.

    I hope the promise of having the same access as those in 3rd world countries will eventually hold true for us also.

    • I hear you Katherine! I had to deal with satellite internet (and the stupid high price of it) until AT&T brought DSL to our “neck of the woods” in Mississippi in July, 2011. Do you love where you live? If not, the lure of high speed internet and being closer to civilization might be up your alley.

      • Hi Colleen, sorry I missed your post. DSL is a distant dream as the nearest power/phone lines are 15 miles away. These are required for DSL. We don’t have 3G or 4G coverage, as the nearest cell tower is 33 miles away and we can only get reception by a booster and a home base modem with a unidirectional antenna. I would say we do love where we live, since we’ve lived here for more than 30 years. We don’t plan on moving to a town until we’re no longer able to keep the place running. We enjoy watching the wildlife–antelope, deer, elk, grouse, eagles, falcons, hawks, coyotes, badgers (not so much the bunnies), being able to take a walk even in the middle of the night, or sit outside and watch the stars in our PJs, without neighbors thinking we’re nuts. I think I’ll just have to be patient a while longer for technology to catch up with us.

  8. I’ve just recently discovered the value of google hangouts. I am a member of an accountability/mastermind group and we live all across the U.S. We’ve tried several different video conferencing platforms, including skype and a few others, and nothings has worked as well as google hangouts. We keep going back to it. The sound quality is really good and it doesn’t drop our connection. The only slightly weird thing is that is goes back and forth between who’s being displayed based on who’s talking (including if you cough or something, lol). Overall, I’m a big fan. I will keep using it.

  9. Thanks for this article — I love copyblogger!

    You provide a sometimes overwhelming sea of information, but the quality and value is unsurpassed. I was pleased to see this email because there are so many ways to use Google+ Hangout On Air my head starts to spin. I’m glad you started a list of suggestion.

    I’m a singing chef and I just started doing Google+ Hangout On Air (HOA) live cooking demos. The technology curve has to be learned, but the beauty of the Google+ communities is how helpful everyone is considering they are strangers.

    I did my first HOA cooking demo for Super Bowl and I’m doing one on Friday for St. Patty’s Day. I too question getting folks over the learning curve to participate on your panel and getting them to log in and watch. I promote them via my social media channels. But two cool things is HOA become YouTube video once they are over and people from around the world, that you don’t know, can log in and watch — so you never know what’s going to happen as a result. So create value content and it becomes evergreen there.

    I’m also going to be hanging out to promote my upcoming Kickstarter campaign — CHOCOLATE tasting set to music. The possibilites are endless!

    THANKS!

  10. Beth,
    Fantastic list! I work with a company that uses Google+ Hangouts for all of our internal meetings since the team is split between two cities and it works very well.

    Another advantage is the mobile integration via the G+ app. We frequently have guys on the road or in transit who are able to take part from their phone so there is seldom any reason someone can’t participate.

    A tip for newbies… if you want a persons screen to stay up (say they are screen sharing one of their windows) click on them at the bottom. That way when others start talking and the main windows tries to jump to the speaker, you can stan on the screen you want. To undo it just click again on that screen thumbnail.

  11. Great article, Beth.

    As a social marketer for a Fortune 500, I’m pleased to report that Google+ is becoming more widely accepted as the platform of the future. While Google+ Hangouts are one reason for that shift, there are many other advantages over the other heavy-hitters as well. Not so say everyone should ditch FB, Twitter, Pinterest, etc., because clearly that would be foolish. But it’s my opinion (among many others) that Google+ needs to be a major area of emphasis for social marketers going forward.

  12. I’m having fun exploring G+. But I’m wondering how you feel about creating content on someone else’s real estate? Is this a potential or future problem in your opinion?

    • Hi Pamela – I think that as long as you’ve got your own self-hosted site at your own domain, and that site is at the center of your online marketing strategy, I think using tools like Google+ and Hangouts is totally okay. If people start using their Google+ profiles as their main websites, I think that’s a problem.

  13. Excellent Beth,

    I was curious about who has been able to use Google+ for business effectively and now I know.

    I’ll have to check out Tea Silvestre on G+.

    I see people posting stuff and getting lots of shares and plus ones or whatever but the point should be converting prospects into leads and then finally clients, right?

    If you can do this with Google+ I’m definitely interested.

    PS – I’m sharing this tip for #SoMeSa

  14. Thanks Beth for an awesome post. Loved it! Really liked the idea of troubleshooting problems and provide great customer service. It really goes beyond time boundation & distance & also cost saving.

    I like having hangouts in a separate room with fact wired internet connection. Actually when you are hosting hangouts you want to be far away from any disturbances whether it’s technical & others.

  15. I only recently signed up for Google+, so I have yet to check out Google Hangouts. I’ve heard nothing but good things though. It’s one of the major advantages Google+ has over Facebook, which is still very limited in its interactive capabilities. I can see it totally revolutionizing the way we conduct business and education. Very cool!

  16. I love the idea of Google+ Hangouts. However, whenever I’ve joined a Hangout, I get a “loading” icon, and nothing else. Either the problem is the network, my browser, my connection… Who knows? I’d love to get them to work for me, even as just a participant.

    For now, Hangouts are more of a challenge for me than they’re worth. However, that could change — once Google+ becomes more popular, and more of my target audience are on it.

    • Angela try a different browser. I’m running a Mac and FireFox tends to be a bit temperamental at times. Chrome always works fine.

      • Good advice Chris. I’m on an iMac running IOS 10.5.8 and use Safari as my main browser. However, when I joined my first Hangout as part of Tea Silvestre’s Prosperity’s Kitchen, everything worked fine other than my built-in camera. I switched over to Firefox and wa-la! It worked just fine. But alas, these last two weeks I’ve started to have issues when I click the “Record Broadcast” button. I’m thinking I need to take the Chrome plunge since you’ve said it works fine.

  17. Thanks for a great article! We love Google hangouts for the flexibility that they offer. You could have a coaching session or a meeting via live hangout, record it directly to YouTube and just list it under a private setting so you can refer back to it but don’t need to worry about it becoming public. A great way to connect with the team from all over the world.

  18. Thanks for the insight. Definitely seeing more and more of this… Great post and very relevant.

  19. Great article Beth.

    We recently switched from GoToMeeting to G+ Hangouts for meetings. Started as a test but it worked so well we switched for good.

    The collaborative functions are excellent. Plus we rarely seem to have issues – amazing, considering it is a free service and we have team members with low quality internet service.

    Andrew

  20. Great post Beth. Hangout are great – uncomplicated & has all the functionality you really need. It would be great if we could get over the 10 person limit though. Also thinking of dropping my goto meeting for hangout. Thanks for sharing this practical information.

  21. I’m looking for someone to train me on a google hangouts. Learning the tool, creating landing pages, etc.
    I will pay them for their services. Can you recommend an expert?

    • Hey Kim, not sure if it’s allowed to post external links in the comment area, but I have some upcoming training for getting started with Google Plus. Similar to this article just a bit more detail and video.

  22. This one was right on time!

    I’ve been pondering utilizing Hangouts more (along with Skype interviews) and this post may have just pushed me over the fence.

    I see all pluses!

    Thanks again

  23. Good stuff on using Google hangout to get connected.
    .Thanks

  24. The possibilities are endless with Hangouts. Until now I have found it challenging to be able to meet customers face to face each time to discuss projects, go over reviews, etc. But with Hangouts all this is not too easy. Can’t wait to see how Google will expand its features further in the coming years.

  25. My friend, Nick, just received over $1500 worth of Google gear for a huge “Google hang out” for his business.

    Google paid for; the projector (they actually sent him two), food for 50, speakers, a screen, and Google give away gear.

    The Google hang out was to teach his “potential clients” about Adword advertising. (NICK RUNS BUSINESSES ADWORD ACCOUNTS, that’s his business).

    Google loves Adword runners!

    I had no idea that you could have a hang out and have everyone and anyone watch. That’s powerful!

    You gave me some great ideas. I never thought of the idea of having it for customer support.

    Thanks a million Beth,

    Alexander John

  26. Excellent article Beth, I love Google Hangouts! I chat and hold sessions with my mentor online and will attend my first VA hangout in a few weeks and it will be great fun.

    I plan on holding my own hangout very soon and think it is an excellent tool for just about anything!

  27. Hello All,
    Thanks Beth, very thought provoking article. Anyone have any thoughts on how to use HOA to promote an affiliate product? Interview the author comes to mind. How are real estate agents or authors using HOA? Thanks. Mike Logan

    • Mike, I think a lot of these would apply to affiliate product marketing. Doing classes, teleseminars, interviews, etc. Unfortunately I don’t have any knowledge on how real estate agents are using HOA, but you might want to keep your eye on what’s happening with AgentPress – that team is doing all sorts of cool things with content marketing for real estate agents.

  28. Very important –> Solidify your expert status by holding live classes on your topic

  29. Nice and informative post! Really appreciate the efforts you have put in to research these facts. Probably will help out a lot of readers! Cheers!

  30. I, too, am a HUGE Hangout On Air fan. I did have one technical issue. I’d love to incorporate youtube videos into the Hangout, but the youtube app doesn’t seem to do the trick in terms of making it viewable to the rest of the HO or those watching it publicly, and a screen share would probably be poor audio quality because it would rely on my internal mic.

    Any tips?

  31. Is it possible to use an external camera for a google+ hangout? Anyone have any experience with this?

  32. Hi, Adam – I haven’t tried this myself, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t be possible. I would test it out before you go on a live Hangout with participants, though! Good luck!

  33. Thanks for your article here Beth, looks like you got some good interaction here in the comments re. your suggested uses of Hangouts… the Magical Communications Tool. Great Job!

  34. Beth,
    Thank you for the great post and information about G+ hangouts. We have a great idea for a series using them but we are having an issue with the wifi in Thailand. It seems that others have the same problem. We will keep working to figure it out!

    Lisa
    We Said Go Travel

  35. I really appreciate these 12 tips. I was struggling to get a grasp on how to use hangouts. I just know that I need to catch-up and begin using them. I’ve always used skype, but hangouts are looking like skype 2.0

  36. Andrew Richard :

    We run Google Apps for business and I’ve been pushing our gang to take advantage of hangouts. Our head office is in Calgary, Canada we also have a guy that works right across the country from his house and another office about 3 hours away. Hangouts (I believe) is part of the managed services SLA so we might as well use it. There are a few people that are nervous about it however all the chats are searchable afterwards from your gmail search so if important info was sent via a chat you can always find it. I’m actually heading over to Spain for a month and then will be there 3-4 more times between now and Christmas so I’ll be Hanging out with my group every morning (my siesta time). It’s an incredible tool for “shrinking the world”. I’m in Project Management and it’s very easy to bark commands/demands of people over email and then for those emails to get “lost” or missed. However a face to face discussion increases the accountability of both parties (point #10). I think a persons comfort level with the tool is important so I’ll continue to work with the gang here in the office to get it working optimally. I do know there are a few computers in the office that Hangouts just refuses to work on. But those people (myself included) rather use our phones.

    Basically where it doesn’t work it says the proper plugins aren’t installed. However they are…… I suppose I just need to call Google.

    Great Article Beth! Thanks for sharing!

  37. I believe Skype, Google Hangouts etc. are quality online collaboration tools in addition to WebEx, gomeetnow, gotomeeting, on premise RHUB appliances etc.