While Google started out for personal reasons, they have since grown their empire to assist business-savvy people every single day. Now Google+ is considered one of the more important social networks for promoting your blog or business, and exciting new features such as Hangouts are encouraging enterprising business owners to capture the imagination of their audience in new ways.
The History of Google+
Google has a history of getting involved in all aspects of using the internet, and social networking is no exception. But Google’s first few attempts at building social networks failed miserably, and the attempt that didn’t fail, Orkut, never grew to prominence in the United States. With social networks booming left and right, they felt the pressure to create a social network to keep up with their competition – Facebook and Twitter. Google+ was born.
Google+ began as an “invitation-only” social network on June 28, 2011 for those who had established Google accounts. However, due to high demand by those who had newer accounts, Google decided to suspend early invites and gave out 150 invitations between August 6, 2011 and September 20, 2011. After September 20, 2011, Google Inc. allowed everyone over the age of 18 to start a Google+ account. It wasn’t until January 26, 2012 that Google lifted the restrictions for everyone over the age of 13 in the US and over the age of 14 in Asian countries.
The new social network grew like wildfire, accumulating a strong, steady growth in users each month. Google+ became the second largest social network, behind Facebook, in history – surpassing Twitter in early 2013.
Google+ currently has a total of 500 million users, 359 million of whom are active each month.
Features of Google+
Google+ has slowly opened more features as users begin to utilize it more. These features include:
- Circles – When adding people to your Google+, Circles allows for users to organize their contacts into specific circles of their choosing. These circles allow for targeted group sharing.
- +1s – Comparable to Facebook likes, +1s allow you to vouch for content on the web and share it with your circles. +1s have a small impact on search results, putting related content that those you follow +1ed higher up in the results.
- Steam – Allows users to see updates from members of their circles.
- Hangouts and Hangouts on Air – Allows users to stream video and share information. Hangouts on Air are a public broadcast which can have 9 other participants and an unlimited streaming audience.
- Messenger – An instant messenger, also available from your Gmail inbox, that allows for users to chat with people within their circles. It can be used through Gmail, downloadable app on the computer or through the iTunes and Android store for cellular devices.
- Sparks – Allows for users to search topics that might be of interest to them.
- Google+ Pages – An official Google+ profile for your business, which can be “circled” or which can add others to circles similar to a personal account.
- Google+ Badges – Widgets you can add to your website or blog to let your readers know you’re on Google+.
- Google+ Events – Put together a Google+ event page for your real-life event or gathering to promote it or let people know all the details.
- Google+ Communities – The Google version of an industry forum, Google+ Communities allow you to connect with others who have similar interests.
- Ripples – Shows what +1s are hottest in your circles.
- Helpouts – An upcoming service that will allow businesses to connect directly with their customers to give advice and sell their products.
Features of Google+ Hangouts
Google+ is not just a place for friends and family – it is now a large social network for businesses to interact with one another. Hangouts, a communication tool that lets you talk with friends and colleagues using text chat, audio, video, and/or screen sharing, is seeing prominence as a promotional device. Whatever you use it for, here are some of the features that make it stand out as a business tool:
Instant Messaging – Group chats are easier than ever with Google+ Hangouts. Instant messaging features include emoji support and photo sharing. In addition, users can be notified when someone reads their messages and if they are responding back. Additionally, users can scroll back through old conversations, to look up something they missed.
Video and Voice Features – If you need to reach someone from your computer, easily voice or video call them. You can even place calls to phones in the United States and Canada for free, and for low prices to other countries. Video chat with up to 9 other people at once. Holding business meetings with multiple people has never been so easy.
Live-streaming – When it comes to streaming online, Google+ Hangouts make it easier than ever. Hangout on Air allows users to stream live to the world. So whether you want to host a conference with multiple people, a concert or anything stream-worthy, Google+ Hangouts allows for you to do so.
Automatic Upload – When you’re all done with your Hangout on Air, it is automatically uploaded to your YouTube account, where you can make it live and share it with anyone who didn’t make it to your Hangout.
Using Google+ Hangouts for Business
Unsure on how you can utilize Google+ Hangouts for your business? Businesses are beginning to realize the potential that Google+ Hangouts have as each update continues to gear itself toward business usages.
Conduct Business Meetings
Conducting business meetings is difficult, especially if you are always on the go. Google+ Hangouts have features to allow for proper business meetings without having to go through the hassle of purchasing extra features, unlike Skype, which forces users to pay a membership fee.
Google+ Hangouts allow for up to ten users to communicate with one another on video, giving you peace of mind knowing that people are paying attention to the conversation. Phone calls tend to be misleading and Google+ Hangouts eliminate the need for conference calling when video chats can be utilized on computers, phones and tablets.
Hangouts also have some great features you won’t find elsewhere for free. Easily share your screen with others to explain a technical issue, walk through a process, or watch a presentation together. In addition, third-party apps created with the Hangout API allow for a virtual whiteboard where you can collaboratively sketch out plans or ideas.
Feature Webinars for Business Associates
If you own a large company and want to get information out in a fast, effective manner, webinars are the way to go. Businesses can use Google+ Hangouts on Air for their webinar needs, without the need to put much money into the overall cost of these webinars. Recording, editing and streaming online has never been so easy for business entrepreneurs and companies these days with the assistance with Google+ Hangouts.
Webinars are also a great, efficient way to boost leads and gain more exposure for your company. You can embed your Hangout on Air on your website or blog so that your readers can tune in without ever leaving your site. Your Hangout will be listed in the public directory for anyone interested in your industry to tune into, and the automatic YouTube upload feature creates a piece of content you can share on your blog after the fact.
Build Better Customer Repertoire
Google+ Hangouts allows for you to make a more personalized connection with customers. Consider offering private Hangouts as a customer service option. Your customers can speak with an associate face to face, without ever leaving their home. Screen sharing makes this a no-brainer for technical issues. The customer can share the problem they are having with their project management software, for example, and in turn the customer service agent can share their screen to walk them through a solution.
Having on-the-spot feedback gives the customer a better sense of engagement. Engaging with customers on a face to face basis makes them feel valued and can ultimately boost your sales as a result.
Teach a Class or Give a Demonstration
Sell your products by showing them in use, and teach your customers a thing or two at the same time. A demonstration is a compelling way to make a case for a certain tool or piece of equipment, especially if the focus is on how much easier it is that way. Leave time at the end for any questions your viewers may have about the product or the technique taught in the demonstration.
At a loss for what to show? Your customers probably have an idea or two. Ask your customers what they would like to see and work to make it a reality.
Google+ Hangouts are a great resource for business owners, but they are being underused. That’s why your blog or business can make a big splash by jumping into them today!
[Image – Flickr/Steve Rhodes, Creative Commons Licence]