A Business Technology Place

Moving from Webinars to Hangouts

Hanging out isn’t just for youths anymore.
It was perhaps, your favorite thing to do in high school. You left home to meet a group friends. Your mom asks “what are you going to do?”, and you reply “Oh, nothing really, just hangout.” Now, years later you’re reading, hearing, watching, or even participating in a new kind of hangout. A Google+ digital Hangout.Google+ Hangouts

This hangout spans social and business boundaries.
What’s nice about the Google+ Hangouts is they are taking on meaningful business roles. The media uses them to discuss current news topics. Google uses them for interviews to draw fans closer to book authors and musicians. Politicians are using them for town hall meetings. Musicians use Hangouts to announce new albums.

When will business webinars change?
This week I ran a business webinar for some colleagues. We used the Cisco Webex service to show a slide deck and had a conference call dial-in. That’s been the norm for many years. The format is main-stream and provides comfort for presenter and audience. Presenters can have some level of disorganization and error correction without a visual to the audience, while the audience can multi-task without anyone else knowing. This format provides safety because participants can’t see each other.

But how much more powerful could a video hangout be with closer interactivity with participants? Just imagine seeing the speaker and a few of the participants and creating more of an environment of dialogue rather than presenting. So much of communication is with body language and facial expression, that this type of format is ripe with opportunity.

Barriers.
But change means barriers and most people resist change. Here are a few barriers to Google+ Hangout adoption that I have noticed.

  1. It’s a different mindset and people react differently when you tell them you want to put them on camera. For the participant it means they have to pay attention (no multi-tasking). For the speaker it means keeping a professional appearance and focus on the participants as well as the the content.
  2. With the accessibility and relatively low cost of high bandwidth today video streaming should not present a problem for most. It’s more likely a business participant will be blocked by some social media firewall policy. That’s too bad and it’s time for business policies to catch-up on how people and businesses are using social media sites to make relevant connections.
  3. Google+. I’m a user and fan of the social platform. But many people still are not. Unfortunately, when I’ve tried to talk to others about it they have never even seen or used the site. What that means is if you tell them that Google+ is hosting a webcast event it makes them less likely to even try to view it. I think this will change over time and Google continues to report increased usage of the Google+ platform.

Solutions.
How can businesses overcome these barriers and take advantage of this tool for business interactions that create conversation, create leads, and show industry knowledge?

  1. Look at how other businesses are using Hangouts. A few examples:

a. Google Play hangs with Steven Spielberg and Joseph Gordon-Levitt about their movie Lincoln.

b. The New York Times chats with an olympic athlete.

c. NASA discusses innovation with the public.

  1. This post from Fraser Cain with tips and tricks for Google+ Hangouts has become a living post. Interested parties continue to add comments to the post. It gives a great overview of things to consider when providing live broadcasts.
  2. Sell employees on the value of live video interactivity and dialogue with customers. Can it create more qualified sales leads? Does it show an added level of subject matter involvement? Is it more engaging?
  3. Use the Hangout for live and recorded information distribution. The great thing about Hangouts is you can use them live with an audience that wants to participate in the topic at-hand. But then you can also use them as a recorded playback for others to see. Interaction is still possible for recorded play back in the comments section of a blog post, YouTube video, Google+ post, etc.

I’m interested to know if you have started experimenting with Hangouts. What uses have you found within the business world.

The next paradigm shift in news delivery

Let’s stop using Facebook as the measuring stick for other social sites.
Say what you will about Google+, but Google continues to support and promote the platform as a connection tool. This week they announced improvements in the mobile application that makes it more visual, easier to use, and creates mobile inter-connectivity with video hangouts.

I don’t think we’ll ever see another social platform with the same number of eye-balls as Facebook. But it is with Facebook that Google+ is most often compared. That’s unfortunate, because only measuring a social platform by the number of users and the time spent on the site is short sighted. We really need to look at the social site in context of what it offers, the connections it makes, and ultimately if it fits into a revenue model for sustained viability and relevance.

This post isn’t about Google+, but it supports a feature that is creating some important changes.
Hangouts. In simple terms it’s a multi-point video chat that supports up to nine people. That’s pretty cool for friends looking to converse or families looking to connect. It’s a feature right now that separates Google+ from other social platforms.

But there are other uses for Hangouts as well. Here’s a discussion with Google product managers about features in a software application. Mitt Romney was the first US presidential candidate to use a Hangout for a town hall session and President Obama has used hangouts as well. So politicians and businesses from multiple industries are starting to use hangouts for touch points.

The news media continues to adapt and evolve with digital media as well.
I’m intrigued by the changes in the news media industry to connect more with readers/viewers in the information age. Earlier this year I wrote about how social media is affecting the news media, But now I’m noticing that media outlets are beginning to use live interactive video with viewers to create a new level of engagement.

The New York Times is experimenting with Google+ hangouts to discuss global issues and other news topics and Patch.com is experimenting with live chats and uStream channels. This is the beginning of another paradigm shift in the news media industry as the readers and viewers of the media become part of the news story by participating in discussions and offering their opinions and observations on topics.

Proactive news agencies are already starting to adapt and experiment as “readers” become “viewers” online. It’s those viewers now that won’t just receive the news, they’ll take part in delivering the news. Think about that and go get familiar with a digital hangout.

Disclaimer: I freelance for Patch.com although a different patch site mentioned in this article.