Over the weekend I was wanting to speak to my brother, who lives in London (a three-hour journey from me). His phone was getting repaired so we needed another means of chinwagging! We started using video calls on Facebook, but that was a bad connection and blurry. Then, we moved to Skype – same issue. That’s when he suggested using Google Hangouts because he used it for his work. Admittedly, when he said it, I thought, ‘What’s that?’. Of course, I didn’t ask him this as I knew I’d get stick for not knowing a digital platform even though I’m a Digital Marketer. So, I kept my lack of knowledge quiet and we used Hangouts. This triggered me to want to learn more about it.
I’ve done some extensive research, and a little experimenting, and I want to share with you exactly what I’ve learned. Plus, why I really believe Google Hangouts can benefit your business.
Google Hangouts is basically a digital service, launched by Google in 2013. It is mainly used for video calling, screen casting and messaging. Although it can be good for personal use, it is more tailored towards businesses. And the best thing about it? It is completely free to use with others who have Google accounts!
What can you do with Hangouts?
First of all, you’ll want to know what you can actually do using Hangouts, right? Well, they’re pretty useful, to say the least; and there are a few different ways you can use this Google+ Feature…
Conferences and Meetings
You can actually video call, voice call or screen share with up to 15 other people for free, which is why it’s absolutely ideal for meetings and conferences. By literally just scraping the surface of Hangouts, we can already see a platform a lot of business might want to use. Hosting any business meetings or conferences on Hangouts means that you can potentially cut certain costs out that you wouldn’t have been able to before. For example: Meeting room hire, employee’s time away from their computer and company resources (i.e. coffee, heating, air conditioning, literally anything you need to pay for during a meeting or conference).
The video conferencing idea is one I really like. Those who work from home or those who cannot actually be there in person still have the option to be involved in the conference. As well as this, those businesses out there who are big and have a lot of employees can pool them all together without having to hold multiple meetings to fit everyone in.
But Hangouts isn’t just for speaking to your colleagues and employees. You could also be having video calls with your customers or even potential customers! If your business gets a lot of FAQs, you can answer them all in a Hangouts call. It’s personal, and a lot more effective than just answering their questions on your website or writing a blog about it. Plus, your customers can actually see you or your team in action and put faces to names. People love putting a face to a brand and seeing any inside conversations you and your team have.
One of the best features of Hangouts is that you can actually live stream videos as well. That could be a screen cast of you showing potential customers how to use a certain piece of software, or just streaming a video of you all in the office having a chat about something completely random. When setting up a live stream, you can either send it straight to YouTube or Google+ as a video for anyone to watch. You have the option to save your video too if you don’t want to stream it. You could then save it for good content to share at a later date!
The Negatives of Hangouts
Obviously, like most things, Hangouts has its flaws.
You know I mentioned earlier, that you can only have up to 15 people in a hangout at anyone time? Well, that’s not quite true… You can get the ‘Business’ or ‘Enterprise’ G Suite packages which will mean you can have up to 25 or 50 participants respectively. But they come at a cost. But hey, nothing is free in this life! (Well, apart from our free courses of course!)
Sign Up or Miss Out
Another annoying thing is that you have to have a Google account in order to use it. This means everyone you want to be participating in your Hangouts calls will have to create an account. This isn’t that drastic, and probably isn’t that much of an issue but is still a hindrance.
The Google Funnel
Granted, whilst it probably isn’t too much of an inconvenience for everyone to set to a Google account, that is exactly what Google want you to do. They are the probably the best company in the world for getting people to fall into their sales funnel.
They provide fantastic digital services for both people and businesses, but to use them, you must have a Google account. And once you have an account, they have your details. And once they have your details, they will be sure to let you know about all of the fantastic benefits you can get from various paid services or products throughout your life.
But when you’re that good at it, why wouldn’t you!
The Benefits of Hangouts
Hangouts are so easy to access, for everyone in your business. It doesn’t matter what device you’re on or where you are located, you can join a hangout. To put it into perspective, hangouts can be accessed via the app on smartphones, Gmail, a desktop browser plugin, Google+ AND the actual Hangouts site! This means everyone you want in the call can participate through whatever means is most convenient for them.
A feature of Hangouts that the leaders of your team will appreciate is the fact that you can monitor productivity. Like social media and other online platforms, on Hangouts, you have a list of contacts. This contact list could consist of all your employees and colleagues. Typical to any calling/messaging platforms, you can see the little green circle next to your contacts names which indicate that they’re online.
For managers and leaders, you can monitor any of your staff who work from home. If you can see they’re online, that means they’re either working on Hangouts (I.e. calling other colleagues, in a meeting etc) or doing other work on their computer/laptop. If they aren’t online when they’re meant to be working, you know they’re slacking!
Would We Recommend it?
Definitely. For large businesses, the cost implications of upgrading to the paid packages shouldn’t be an issue. And the free version is all that a startup or small business would need.
There isn’t a great deal of good, free screen-sharing and video conferencing software out there either. So, considering how accessible and versatile Hangouts is, it gets a thumbs up from me.