Google Hangouts - And What They Could Mean For Business

Angelo Benito Fernandez - Spadaro | @angelobfs

Over the past few years there have been amazing advances in video-related technology that now allow us to easily produce videos and have live conversations via video mediums. People are becoming more acceptant of the idea of using video to communicate with businesses, friends, celebrities, co-workers and whoever else is online at the time. Today you can join a "Google Hangout" to video-chat live with up to 9 other people and it allows anyone in the Hangout to share their computer screen.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MlfAUt1qhK8[/youtube]

What makes Google Hangouts such a great tool for the work place is also how simple it is to use. What these Hangouts mean for business on the most basic level is that conference calls or video conferences just got a whole lot easier (and it's free). Having a robust video-service for meetings and chats will set you apart from all your competitors.

These video chats can easily be recorded for anyone who missed out on the meeting or if you want the meeting to be available later for anyone who wants to look it over. That feature is great for future employees who want to know what a typical meeting/chat is like before they participate in one.

The "Hangout with Extras" also makes brainstorming sessions and group project meetings much easier because you can share and edit documents at the same time. This is wonderful when you've got different co-workers that are in different places whether it be another floor of the same building or on the other side of the world.

Other ideas:

  • A simple example would be the traditional interview process we have in use today. When interviewing a potential intern or employee you could video chat the first time around instead of a phone call.

  • Virtual training for in-house and external use would also be a breeze using Hangouts because of the real-time screen-sharing capabilities so you could show employees or clients how to get something done while they follow you and can ask questions along the way.
  • For external use these Hangouts could also end up being the future of customer service. Much like with the virtual training people could call in with their issues or troubles and actually "show" the representative what is going wrong instead of trying to describe it over the phone or through chat.

  • The Hangout could also be a great marketing and advertising tool because of the inherent exclusivity with the 10-people maximum. You could run various contests and promotions for and make it only good for "first 10 people" kind of thing. Perhaps they could get a sneak peek at a certain product/announcement your company is going to make or maybe they get an exclusive interview with a person of interest.

This is only the beginning though, Google is already toying around with Google Hangout On Air which will still only allow 10 people to participate on the video-chat but anyone else who wants to see what's going on can watch the live stream of the video chat going on which will open up even more possibilities. The Hangout feature is already available on Android phones and will soon be available on the iPhone meaning that these video chats and conferences will be even more convenient than they already are.

In 5 years maybe Google Hangouts will be obsolete, but video-chatting will not. Video chatting is simply the next step in the evolution of communication, we've gone from the telegraph to the phone to online chats and now video chats. Every step in that chain has made communicating faster and/or more personal to better and more closely recreate a conversation in person.