There is a social network out there that is quickly outpacing the growth of Twitter and if you don’t have a presence on it, you are missing out on potential customer engagement, revenue and exposure for your business. In existence for just two years, Google + is on track to surpass Twitter as the No. 2 most popular social network, behind Facebook according to GlobalWebIndex, a London-based internet analytics company. GlobalWebIndex reports that Google + has 359 million active users. That’s 33 percent more than the 269 million users the social network had at the end of June 2012.
As a small business owner, you probably haven’t had time to explore the ins and outs of this growing social network just yet. You might want to make time because there is a free feature of Google + that you have to try at least once. It’s called Google Hangouts. Hangouts are video chats that you can have with friends, relatives and colleagues over the Internet free. It’s akin to Skype in the way it functions.
If you’ve got Google +, you simply need to log in to your account and click “Start a Hangout”. From there, you get a series of prompts that take you through the steps you need to get schedule and start your Hangout. Be sure to check out Hangouts on Air, a feature that gives you the opportunity to broadcast your Hangout to others on your YouTube channel, on Google + or on your website.
And while it has got a lot of pros, Google + does have its cons. One of which, is that you’ve got to have a Google ID to use it. That also means that for people to join your Hangout, they’ve got to have one too. And the more apps you add to your Hangout, the slower your connection speed, resulting in lag time.
So how you use Google Hangouts to market your small business? Here are seven ways to help you get started.
• Hold a product demonstration.
Use Google Hangouts to hold a demonstration of your product and how to best use it. Offer to hangout one-on-one with anyone who wants more information. You can invite up to nine people to hang out with you at once. Take your nine best customers and give them an exclusive look at your new product.
• Use Google Capture.
Capture is a new app that allows you to take photographs of a Google Hangout in progress. It’s a great way to share moments with those who couldn’t be there to see it for themselves.
• Provide customer support.
Use Google Hangouts to provide face-to-face customer service support. This gives your customers the opportunity to connect with you to discuss their problem from the comfort of their home or office.
• Host an online launch party for a product.
When you launch a new product, use Google Hangouts to give people who can’t be there to host an online launch party. For customers who can’t attend or people who live in other countries, it’s a way to be a party of the action.
• Create a sponsored Hangout.
While there are currently no ads on Google Hangouts, there are creative ways to make money hosting a one. In April, Glamour magazine recently launched a week-long series of Hangouts that incorporated chats with celebrities and readers alike. They strategically placed new products from major brands like L’Oreal and Pantene. Each brand sponsored the Hangout that their product was featured in. Think about teaming up with other companies to create a Hangout that can result in revenue for all involved.
• Create a standing Hangout.
Let your customers know that every week at a certain time you’ll be hosting a hangout just to connect with your customers. You could tie into a weekly promotion. For example, you could give out a password or online coupon code during the Hangout and when customers use it, they receive their reward. Be sure to check out the website Google Plus Hangouts ( www.gphangouts.com) to see what other permanent hangouts are happening related to your industry.
• Join other Hangouts to promote yours.
Spend time checking out other Hangouts and promote your own while you’re at it. Try to find Hangouts in your industry and be a vocal participate. At the end, when it’s time to sign off, take a second to plug your Hangout as well.
Want more information on Google Hangouts? Check out http://www.google.com/+/learnmore/hangouts/