Should You Be Using Google Hangouts for Business?

by Cassady Sharp on September 20, 2013
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You’ve used Google Hangouts to gloat about your NFL fantasy football draft picks. But did you know that these free video chats pack some serious small-business potential?

Whether you run a consulting firm that’s collaborating on a client project or a restaurant that’s hosting online cooking demonstrations, you may be able to use Hangouts to your advantage. Here’s how they work — and what they can do in a professional setting.

The Basics

Google rolled out Hangouts with the launch of its Google+ social network in 2011. Up to 10 people may join each “hangout,” or web-based video chat. (With Google+ Premium, you may invite up to 15 participants and restrict access to specific users.) All participants must have a Google+ profile, a webcam, and a computer or mobile device (Android or iOS). They’ll be prompted to download a browser plug-in the first time they use the feature.

For best results, ask all users to mute their microphones when they aren’t speaking. This will reduce distracting background noise and the dreaded echo effect.

There is also a chat feature while the Hangout is live so if you need to share a link or sensitive information, you can just pop it in the participant chat window.

Webinars, Demos, and Press Conferences

With Hangouts On Air, you can broadcast a video chat to more participants. The tool allows viewers to not only watch your live webcast, but also comment and ask questions during it via text chat. In addition to a Google+ account, you’ll want to create a YouTube account to record your broadcast for later viewing.

Beyond webinars, let’s say your business is launching a new product or service — and you want to formally announce its arrival to your clients and the media. If people don’t have to leave their desks, they’re more likely to attend your (virtual) press conference. Simply share the URL, no RSVP required.

Many companies also use the feature to demo new products. Nabisco recently held an On Air Hangout to make banana pudding with their key branded ingredient, Nilla Wafers.

Plop your charismatic CEO, board member, head chef or main artist front and center with Google Hangouts. Allow your existing and potential clients to connect with a face and a personality of your company. If President Obama can do a Google Hangout with the entire country, you can certaintly pull it off.

Connect With Your Team

Why bother with expensive videoconferencing software when Google Hangouts let you meet and collaborate for free? Unlike many apps, web-based video chats are accessible from any operating system and most devices. During a hangout, participants may share screens to present slides or pull up a document to edit together.

Another potential use for a Google Hangout that the Google’s recruiters use themselves is in conducting job interviews. Google Hangouts facilitate a timely face-to-face interview without either party having to spend money on travel and lodging. The interview setup also requires candidates to effectively communicate and adapt since there may be technical issues or lags on the connection. Using a Google Hangout for a job interview also requires candidates to showcase their comfort with a technical interface, a skill for which you may be hiring.

Of course, your Hangout doesn’t have to include multiple people. You can also use the service to connect one-on-one with a remote employee or a client. Perhaps you conduct business with multiple vendors or have a sales team with representatives all over the country. Google Hangouts is a quick, easy and free method of communicating with your broader team, answering questions and facilitating face-to-face meetings.

Cassady Sharp is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.

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