Though the technology certainly isn’t new, Google Plus Hangouts has proven to be a sleek, easy-to-use feature brilliantly integrated into Google’s new social media juggernaut, and it is bringing some serious benefits to a variety of small business owners. Aside from obvious business meeting-type usage, here are 7 creative ways small businesses are using Google+ Hangouts to take their businesses to the next level:
1. Face-To-Face Customer Service
Any serious marketing professional will tell you that one of the biggest factors that drives sales and customer satisfaction is the customer’s experience buying and using your products or services. These days, when competition abounds and customer patience and tolerance are at all-time lows, that experience is even more vital. Many small business owners have already been using Google+ Hangouts to handle customer complaints, questions, and other issues, offer training, request customer feedback, and to update clients on a project’s progress.
2. An Interactive Class Or Webinar
Some small business owners are looking to Google+ Hangouts as a vehicle for small, interactive classes, and webinars. A well-known example is that of chef Lee Allison, who uses Hangouts to conduct instructional cooking sessions. You can try experimenting with informational, interactive web chats hosted on your Google+ business page.
3. Co-Working Session For The Home-Bound
One of the biggest challenges to working from home is the isolation, and it’s helped to fuel an insurgence of co-working communities where aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners work in shared office space. But for those of you who cannot (or don’t want to) join such an off-site communal work space, yet still long for some human interaction, you may want to start a co-workers hangout. That’s what writer Mary Robinette Kowal did, and she wrote down some helpful tips on how to start a writers’ hangout for anyone else who may be interested.
Though collaboration and web conferencing software has been around for some time, and frugal small business owners have already been using the likes of Skype for meetings with colleagues and clients, the level of seamless integration and ease packed into Google+ Hangouts is unsurpassed. There are many features of the web conferencing platform that make collaboration easy. First, up to 10 people can join in, you can stream a YouTube video, share documents (via Google Docs), and conduct screen sharing and collaborative document editing. Though the platform may be a bit informal, it has all the basics for small businesses owners to collaborate with co-workers and clients.
With Google Hangouts, you could host a live contest or giveaway directed at your customers where the “entry fee” is showing up in your hangout. You’ll end up with more than just seeing your customers face-to-face. When a hangout session has finished, you can look back in your stream to see who showed up and then target them for follow up communications.
Want to know how your customers feel about your product or service? Set up a hangout session for customers to air their questions and comments. The advantage of this approach as compared to having your customers fill out a customer satisfaction survey, is that you will be able to assess a range of visual cues that will tell you more accurately how your customers are really feeling. You could also enlist the services of free tools, such as these, for recording your Google+ Hangouts sessions.
7. Conducting employee interviews
Even if you use the services of a recruiting company, hiring new employees can still be an expensive and time-consuming process. With Google Hangouts, you don’t have to expend as much effort to get your applicants and your interviewing team in the same room. You could conduct initial interviews in a hangout session, and even use a session to discuss the applicants’ performance among the members of the interview team. Google hangouts can also help you to weed out candidates for virtual assistant positions.
Key Take Away
Google Plus has really come into its own and is a vital assist to any business owner or company. Taking advantage of a free social network helps you engage not only with your employees making for a happy and relaxed work environment, but also your customers so you grow your reputation for being a hands on, caring business.