How to Build Your Brand with Google+ Hangouts On Air

If you’re like most businesses today, you have accepted social media as a necessary part of a content-based marketing strategy. On Twitter you can communicate short-and-sweet deals, tips, news headlines, and pictures of the flavor of the day. On Facebook you can run contests, post pictures, and link to blog posts. But how many businesses realize the opportunity that is Google+?

More than just another social platform, Google+ offers SEO, branding, and audience-engagement benefits. Its Hangouts On Air (HOA) feature, in particular, can be a real game-changer that helps brands build traction and expertise in their field faster and more cheaply than any other way.

Hangout On Air window
Hangouts On Air give brands visibility and interaction opportunities, both as host and attendee.

First Things First: Why Be on Google+?

If your brand is not on Google+, you’re missing far more than just social interaction. Now the second most active social network globally, Google+’s integration with search and other Google products brings undeniable SEO benefits beyond those of other social media platforms.

“Google+ is really the unification of all of Google’s services, with a common social layer.” – Vic Gundotra, head of Google+, in his recent presentation at Pubcon

“You just need to do it. It’s a top ranking signal, and I think you’re dumb if you don’t do it.” – Danny Sullivan, editor of Search Engine Land, speaking in an HOA this week

Plain and simple, if your brand cares about being found in Google search, it needs to be active on Google+. There’s at least one obvious SEO benefit: Articles posted or +1’d by someone a searcher has circled in Google+ can appear in that searcher’s top 10 results in the SERP. Google sees this as an endorsement from someone the person trusts, which creates ranking potential for your content in people’s personalized results.

Businesses actively engaged on Google+ can join communities, comment on posts, give +1s, and post their own content in a conversation-friendly environment that was designed to mimic the way people build relationships in real life. But brands can also use Google+’s free Hangout On Air (HOA) feature to find their audience, network with influencers, and gain or establish expertise.

Hosting Your Own Hangout or Hangout On Air

Any Google+ user can use the Hangouts feature to start a video conference with up to 10 followers anytime. This is already a money-saving tip, because Hangouts give companies a completely free and easy way to do teleconferencing. Your video conference Hangout will be private, just between participants, if you use this method:

Start Hangout

Alternatively, you can start a Hangout On Air — a live video conference available for any Google+ user to watch and comment in, and forever after saved as a publicly viewable video on your brand’s YouTube channel.

Hosting an HOA or a series of HOAs on subjects relevant to your business can quickly:

  • Position your brand as a thought leader in your field
  • Demonstrate your expertise
  • Communicate your brand’s culture and personality
  • Strengthen your relationships with other experts you invite to speak
  • Give your brand a human factor that people can relate to
  • Increase brand recognition and build a following

To Schedule a Hangout On Air:

  1. From the main pull-down menu, choose Hangouts, then click “Start a Hangout On Air.” (Note: You must have your Google+ profile linked with your YouTube account first.)
    Start Hangout On Air
  2. Next, fill out the form:
    Hangout On Air form
    Use the name and description fields well, as they need to entice people to watch. They also serve as the Title tag and Meta Description of your event page (important for search).
  3. Be sure to tag your speakers in your description. If you invite well-known authorities to be your speakers, you increase the reach and the quality of your HOA. When they see you have mentioned them, they will probably share your post and help promote the event to their own large circles.
    Hangout On Air details
  4. Also include a hashtag or two at the bottom of your description, such as #SEO, to indicate the subject and help people searching for that hashtag to stumble upon your HOA.
  5. To schedule the event, choose “Later” and set a date and time.
  6. For the audience, you can leave it set to “Public” to invite all your followers and also allow others to join.
  7. To publicize your upcoming HOA, post about it on your Google+ page. Share the post with particular circles or specific people. Link to it in a conversationally appropriate way in relevant comment threads.

TIP: If you set up a public HOA at least 5 days in advance, Google can include it in a schedule of upcoming HOAs so that more people can find it. You’ll need to follow a few guidelines to make that happen.

Attending a Hangout On Air

You don’t have to host your own HOAs to use them for branding purposes. Just attending a Hangout On Air lets you:

  • Meet influencers: HOAs feature experts who are influential authorities on a subject. Watching HOAs related to your field helps you get to know these experts on a more personal level — how they pronounce their names, what they look like, how they talk, and other details they may share about themselves — and meet new people you’ll want to research and network with.
  • Don’t be invisible – speak up: If you just silently observe a hangout, you’re missing an opportunity to let people get to know you. Use the comments to type in questions and useful bits of information during the hangout, and participants and speakers will see them in almost real-time. Commenting has two benefits: 1) The speakers may respond to your question directly, even mentioning you by name. 2) Other commenters may interact with you.The first time I attended an HOA, I noticed one commenter being super helpful. When I typed a question about something the speaker had said, he clarified it for me. He also posted links to things the speakers casually mentioned. I thanked him there, circled him, and later mentioned his name in a post — and so a relationship began. Every time you post something of value, people see your name. Over time, you build more connections and your name becomes known.
  • Increase your expertise: When you listen to experts, you’re bound to learn something! HOAs communicate a ton of free information. Watch hangouts related to your field and be an active listener: take notes, look up the extra resources mentioned, and so on. Learning from the best and being able to quote them helps you become more of an authority yourself.
  • Build your circles: Be sure to circle the speakers and participants whose comments add value. (Just moving your pointer over a name pops up a hover card where you can click Add.)

How to Extend the Value of a Hangout You Attend

If you host a hangout, you will want to promote it in advance through all your social media channels. But even when you’re just attending someone else’s HOA, if it’s related to your brand’s subject matter you should try to spur conversation and interaction. Consider these actions to generate engagement before and after the event takes place.


  • R.S.V.P.: For upcoming public hangouts, be sure to specify that you are going to watch by choosing either “Maybe” or “Yes”:
    RSVP for Hangout
    Once you do this, it will be added to your events and you’ll get reminders. In addition, your name and thumbnail image will appear in the list of viewers, creating another subtle point of exposure in the community:
  • Help promote the HOA: If you’re excited about an upcoming Hangout On Air, share it with your own circles by clicking the share button (circled below). Be sure to write a brief recommendation in your own words and tag the hangout organizer and/or speakers. They’ll be grateful for the extra publicity and might even thank you with a +1 or a comment.
    Google+ share button
  • Comment in advance: On the event page (click the hangout title to get there), you can type in a comment even before the air date. Your comment introduces yourself and seeds conversation, especially if you tag people. Once you’ve commented, you’ll be notified about every subsequent comment so you can easily jump in and interact with the event organizers and others. Comment ideas include: 1) express your interest in the topic and/or the speakers; 2) ask a question to clarify what the HOA will be about; 3) respond to the event description in some way; 4) respond to an earlier comment in the stream; 5) mention a related resource on the topic.


  • Thank as appropriate: Use the event comments to thank the organizers and speakers, tagging them by name and giving specific kudos as appropriate.
  • Write about the hangout: Did you get a lot of value out of the hangout discussion? Often the event organizer will post his/her own summary, but everyone’s perspective is different. You know what’s valuable to your specific audience — write a recap, summary, action item list, or other and post it on your Google+ page. In your post, link to the event page where readers can watch the replay if they want to, and tag all the speakers. If you write original content tailored to your audience, giving credit to the hangout participants by name, that’s content curation at its best.

P.S. Need more help getting started? Circle these people for a continuous stream of top-notch content on how to use Google+ and Hangouts:

Paula Allen started at Bruce Clay Inc. in 2008 as a senior technical writer and now manages the company's content and documentation. An English lover at heart, Paula enjoys working in a team where grammar is frequently discussed and in an industry where there's always more to learn.

See Paula's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (25)
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25 Replies to “How to Build Your Brand with Google+ Hangouts On Air”

I think Hangouts are one of the coolest things that Google has done in some time and just like podcasts after a couple of years they’re going to really have explosive growth. So articles like this are awesome for those of us who want to get started now. Thanks Paula!

Paula Allen

Ark, you’re welcome! I totally agree it’s one of the coolest features. Glad you’re jumping in and taking advantage of Hangouts On Air!

Thank you for this information. I’m really glad that you’re sharing this information with us. Google+ really veri interesting and helpfull for everyone. While they use Google+ for his/her personal use or his/her business related use. Google+ is very effective for SEO. Google+ Hangout is also very interesting. With Google+ we can easily share our data or our content in public.

Hi, Paula! Thanks for sharing the link to this post during our recent HOA interaction. Comment sections are an engaging, informative forum! Terrific how-to you’ve written here. Thanks again!

Paula Allen

Kim – Welcome to our blog! Thank you for commenting; I’m glad you enjoyed the post. We’ll no doubt meet up in another HOA comments section again soon. ;)

Do any more posts highlighting the benefits of SEO/HOA need be written?
The answer is no. Paula Allen of the Bruce Clay blog has set the standard on the topic. Thank you Paula. Very very helpful.

Paula Allen

Wow. Steve, you really know how to make a writer’s day! Thank you for such a wonderful endorsement of my article, which is indicative of the work we’re doing here at BCI to educate and inform the SEO community.

Paula Allen

Anikita: It is a “handy meeting tool,” for sure. And so much more due to the relationship building and SEO benefits.

Adam – SEO Consultant: Usage statistics show that G+ has surpassed Twitter to be second only to Facebook, so it’s surely growing. One goal I had in writing this article was to give marketers everywhere something concrete to take to management that would help “make the case” for a brand’s getting involved on Google+. It’s not a set-it-and-forget-it platform; you have to invest time and TLC to the content and interactions. That’s why I like it best among the social media platforms.

SEO Consultant London: Thanks for your comments. It’s true that Google+ contributes to rankings, especially in light of personalized search results. May I say that I disagree with your focus on “links built within the description”? If linking is unnatural, if it doesn’t build value for the user or isn’t relevant, it can get you into trouble. One of my favorite things about Google+ is that it seems almost spam-free. Let’s keep it that way. :)

Great tips and I very recently found that Hangouts are getting a massive optimization effects and the links built within the description to the site we want to rank ranks even easily.

Thanks for sharing.

Google + hasn’t made the impact that it should, but it seems that more and more companies are starting to accept its viability.

Awesome article. I really appreciate the detailed steps. Here your given tips for getting started the right way with Google+ Hangouts on Air. Awesome!

Well, it is advised that before you actually set up your brand on a social media platform, you get your website hosted. There is absolutely no point setting it up if the website isn’t going to be functional when your audience gets redirected.

Great Thanks for very Informative post. I did’nt look at Google+ from the perspective of the value it is offering in the form of Hangout(beside SEO). Much of this useful cycle has started and been solidified via the handy meeting tool called Hangouts

This is certainly the most comprehensive post. I’ve read about the value of Hangouts on Air. I really benefited from what you had to say- thanks for sharing your expertise.

Paula Allen

Thank you sscsworld, but it would be much better to see a face and have a name. Remember, we’re in the time of authenticity! :)

Very well written, easy to follow and great information Paula. I’ll use it as a reference time and again. Thank you!

Paula Allen

Thank you for your comment, Sheila, and for sharing my post on Google+ with your followers. I look forward to seeing your content and getting to know you better. :)

Hi Paula,
Thanks for sharing this post. I did not look at Google+ from the perspective of the value it is offering in the form of Hangout(beside SEO). Google is certainly ensuring that Google+ becomes a platform for business while adding a social layer.

Great post, I tried out google hangout for the first time the other day and I had never thought of using it to build a brand. Thanks for the ideas!

Paula Allen

Tom & Rohit: You’re very welcome, and that’s exciting to hear! Yes, Hangouts have wonderful potential for brands to connect with people and make an impression.

Paula, very well written article on my favorite tool of choice from Google Plus. Hangouts on Air, as you mention, are useful to brands and people from both sides. If you are presenting via them, then others learn about you and your expertise… if you are interacting as a viewer, you are in a fantastic networking environment.

It is a win-win situation. Since this is such a wonderful tool for building relationships which encourage us to reveal more about ourselves in the public space, Google has got to love how this all works out… we get more comfortable connecting with others, and talk more freely about ourselves, which in turn allows Google to gather more relevant information about us so that they can 1) market to us via search/ppc, 2) offer us more relevant search results, 3) group us along with others in our relevant space which leads to more relationship building and useful information sharing.

Much of this useful cycle has started and been solidified via the handy meeting tool called Hangouts. I love how it works, and am happy to help others learn the magical communication tool that Hangouts and HOA have become for many.

I certainly will share this article on Google Plus and will point out some of the very valuable observations you have come up with about my favorite Social Layer tool on Google Plus and beyond.

Paula Allen

Well said, Ronnie Bincer! You are a go-to resource helping many take advantage of the HOA tool. I have been on a short vacation, otherwise I certainly would have responded sooner. Thank you for such warm praise and contributions!

Paula Allen

Totally agree, Ammon, and I appreciate your commenting here. Hangouts do facilitate connecting and collaborating. How fascinating that Google developed it as an internal tool! I didn’t know that history, but it doesn’t surprise me. Bruce Clay developed some of the earliest SEO software because he needed to use it himself (way back in 1996), and only later did he market his tools for others to use.

As always, your ISOOSI Tuesday Chats are PACKED with valuable information. When I heard Danny Sullivan say so succinctly “you’re just dumb” not to use Google+, I grinned. What a great quote! :)

Glad you enjoyed the ISOOSI Tuesday hangout with Danny Sullivan and got a nice quote from it.

Hangouts are a fantastic tool and the crearest example of all of just what sets Google apart from other social networking sites. Facebook is about knowing what your existing social circle are doing. Linkedin is about your career. Google+ is a platform for collaboration. Everything about Google+ shows how it developed as an internal social tool for the Googlers allowing them to more easily to connect and collaborate.

Thanks for the reference in the article as The Hangout Helper… that’s what I do! I look forward to fully digesting what you’ve done here and passing it along. Hangouts are Truly Magical.


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