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.
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:
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:
- 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.)
- Next, fill out the 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- To schedule the event, choose “Later” and set a date and time.
- For the audience, you can leave it set to “Public” to invite all your followers and also allow others to join.
- 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.
BEFORE THE HANGOUT:
- R.S.V.P.: For upcoming public hangouts, be sure to specify that you are going to watch by choosing either “Maybe” or “Yes”: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.
- 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.
AFTER THE HANGOUT:
- 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: