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What Is A Google+ Hangout On Air (HOA), And Why Is It Good For Business?

Written By: Mike Allton in Social Media | December 23, 2014

What Is A Google+ Hangout On Air (HOA), And Why Is It Good For Business?

Google+ has an integrated chat system called Hangouts. With Hangouts, Google+ users can send and receive text chats, make voice calls, send images and video, and join into video conference calls. Video conference calls can be private, but they can also be aired publicly and streamed to YouTube. A publicly aired video conference is called a Hangout On Air or HOA.

HOAs are fantastic for business.

First, businesses can use Hangouts to create great video content remarkably easily. Hangouts are free and starting one is easy (we’ll review how in a moment). Since the video is automatically saved to YouTube, they can then be shared or even embedded on the business website or a blog post for distribution and long term viewing.

Some specific ideas for how a business might use a Hangout On Air include:

  1. Interview an Expert
  2. Interview the Business Owner
  3. Host a Panel Discussion
  4. Spotlight a Customer or Vendor

Here’s an example of an interview:

And here’s an example of a live panel discussion hosted by Hangout expert Ronnie Bincer:

And as part of +Post Ads, businesses will be able to use Hangouts as display ads within Google’s content network to bring added visibility to the business.

We will spend a significant amount of time in future posts diving into a lot of these uses, but for now, let’s go over some of the basics.

How to Start a Hangout

Hangouts

To start a basic hangout, and I highly recommend you start here before delving into public HOAs, log into your Google+ profile and in the upper right corner of the window, just below your profile image, look for the quotation mark within a thought bubble icon. Click that, and the Hangout chat window will pop out from the right of your window.

Start-HangoutYou can chat with any of your Google+ contacts or, at the bottom of the list, click on Start a Video Hangout.

When your hangout initially starts, you will be prompted to invite others or share a link. This is so you can either invite specific people into the hangout, or just open it up to whomever is interested in joining (or perhaps email the link to specific people). You can close the invitation window if you just want to poke around yourself – or invite others later.

Within your hangout, you’ll see two menu bars – one across the top and one to the left of your screen. The top menu bar (which only appears if you mouse over the screen) is for inviting more people to the call, hanging up, increasing volume, and accessing basic hangout settings.

Hangout-Controls

The left bar is for in-call options like Chat, viewing comments left on Events, and more.

We will be reviewing many of these advanced options in future posts.

Hangout-Tools

Finally, along the bottom of your screen you will see a filmstrip that displays thumbnail video feeds for each other person on the call. You can click on any individual to make them the focus of your main video window, or allow Hangouts to automatically select whomever is speaking. (During a live HOA, if you are the host, the audience will see whomever you select, so you can better control whom the focus is on.)

Pro Tip: When participating in a Hangout, whether it’s private or publicly streamed, you will be tempted to watch the video filmstrip and pay attention to all participants, not just the person speaking in the main screen. The problem is that if your eyes are looking at the bottom of your screen, it’s likely they aren’t looking at your camera! To get around this, simply reduce the size of your Hangout screen by dragging one of the bottom corners up. I make my screens relatively small, so that even if I’m looking at the filmstrip, my eyes are still just a couple of inches below my camera and therefore look, to the audience, as though I’m looking at them.

 

Hangouts for Business

Jumping into a Hangout initially is as easy as choosing to open a video chat with someone. However, when a business is planning on using an HOA, particularly for one of the purposes above, a little more planning is needed, particularly if you’re hoping to bring in public viewers. For that, you need to start with an Event Page. By creating an Event, you will provide yourself and your followers a mechanism to both plan for your event and a vehicle to share the Event and garner more interest.

In our next post, we’ll review how to start an Event around a Hangout, and share some best practices you can employ for your business.

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Mike Allton
Mike is an award-winning blogger, speaker, and author at The Social Media Hat, and Brand Evangelist at Agorapulse where he strengthens relationships with social media educators, influencers and agencies.

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