What Do You Do Next?
Assuming you have your laptop (or desktop), webcam, and microphone headset and can just about sort out the lighting, the next logical question has to be, what do you do next? Before you even consider leaping into a Hangout of any sort, you need to work out the answer to the following three questions:
To make your Hangouts succeed, you need to decide first why you need them, when you are going to hold them, and how you are going to gauge their effectiveness. Failure to satisfactorily answer any of these questions is the clearest indication that your business is not yet ready for a Hangout, and unless you get your marketing strategy to the point where it can successfully integrate a Hangout, you will only end up wasting valuable energy and time.
So first decide how you will be using Hangouts. You might want to go for both types, HO (the plain vanilla flavor) and HOA, but one or the other is going to be your initial focus. Beyond the explicit desire to adopt the technology, there has to be a real reason for using it. For example, will you be training your staff? Reaching out to customers? Creating training videos?
The answer to these questions will also show you what you need to have in place and how to best organize it. Hangouts, for instance, cannot be recorded without the use of third party tools, so if recording a video and having it made available later is important, you will need to use Hangouts on Air for that.
Businesses, generally, need both Hangouts and Hangouts on Air, but the percentage of use of each will vary with the demands made on the business. This is why you need to be able to work out beforehand why you need Hangouts.
The timing of when you have them is also a crucial part of the equation. If you are using Hangouts on Air, for instance, you will need to have them on at a specific time; otherwise, your potential audience will run into time zone issues. Hangouts used as a direct customer contact, or a perk with specific purchases, are a lot more fluid and unscheduled, and you will need to have special plans in place to deal with them. Again, these are considerations that will be different for each brand and business and will depend on available manpower, expertise, and inclination.
The final question you have to answer could also easily be changed from “How?” to “Who?” and it will have the same effect. Hangouts of any variety can be spontaneous, and even when planned, they feel very intimate in the immediacy of their connection and are still governed to some degree by the dynamics of the broadcast medium.
Beyond the technology involved in setting them up, there is a real need for familiarity with the medium itself plus an awareness of how you look and sound on camera. In an offline situation, we hardly think about these things because we take them for granted. We usually know how we look and we have some idea of how we sound when we speak. Online in a Hangout, however, these are things that need to be worked out all over again.
All of this takes practice and experience, and setting some ground rules regarding time and use at the beginning helps to create boundaries and a comfort zone for those who will be taking part. Like everything else we do to communicate, Hangouts have their own “language,” and becoming familiar with it and comfortable in its use is a critical aspect of using them successfully. Your audience in a Hangout is a lot closer to you than it is during a traditional TV broadcast or a radio show.
Depending on the format of your Hangout, you may have part of the audience right there with you. If not, a lot of them will be, at any rate, active on the Events page, asking questions, adding comments, and even bringing in extra links and information.
This level of interaction takes the one-way street model of the traditional broadcast and marries it to the power of social media to create a totally transparent, interactive and engaging environment where things happen in real time, but which also has an asynchronous, later-viewing model built in. Many Hangouts are rediscovered through YouTube, shared, and discussed weeks and even months after the date they went live.
This is what makes Hangouts such a disruptive marketing tool. In a single app (because really, that’s all Hangouts are) we have the ability to
- Broadcast to a large audience in real time
- Interact with a large audience in real time (on the Events page)
- Mix real-time and asynchronous communication in one vehicle
- Discover a fresh audience at a later date (as the video is rediscovered through search on YouTube)
- Leverage Google search (Hangouts in Google+ are indexed by Google)
- Create a resource page on Google+ through the Events page that can surface in Google search and find a fresh audience within Google+
All of these bring us naturally to the obvious next step: YouTube. In order to best leverage the power of a Hangout, you need to have a YouTube channel set up.
When it comes to setting up your YouTube Channel, the steps are fairly straightforward:
To set up your YouTube Channel, you have to have a Google account to begin with. Be aware that after you’ve set up your channel using a particular Google account, you can’t then transfer it to another Google account and you cannot reuse a YouTube name, so think carefully about what you will call it.
To create a YouTube channel, sign up for a YouTube account first at http://www.youtube.com/signup. Use your Google account email address (that’s your Gmail) and login.
At the end of the account setup, you’ll be presented with a screen with a link to create a custom URL for your Channel (i.e., one that reflects your name, company name, or brand name); follow this link. Alternatively, if you miss it or want to add a channel to an existing YouTube account, then no problem—just look at the upper-right corner of the screen to find your username. Next to your username is a pull-down arrow; click on this and select Customize Channel from the menu.
Now you can see your channel but you will need to customize it a little to make it better work for your branding.
At the top of the channel, on the right-hand side beside the thumbnail picture of yourself, there is an arrow. Clicking it opens an entirely new menu that allows you to run your YouTube Channel as a powerful branding and marketing aid. YouTube gets more than four billion visits a day and it is the Web’s second-largest search engine after Google. It is frequently overlooked as a viable source of promotion because its environment is not easily understood. The public perception of its content is usually shaped by massive viral video hits like Korean superstar Psy’s “Gangnam Style” video. Yet, handled properly, it can become a core means of reaching a wider audience, increasing brand awareness, and shaping and maintaining the image of your business.
Figure 1.2 shows you a Channel Setup Checklist you should follow to create a top YouTube Channel experience.
Figure 1.2 After creating your YouTube Channel, follow the Channel Setup Checklist (shown in the right column) to customize and enhance it.
The instructions change a little each time the functionality and layout of YouTube changes. Google has a resource page that is frequently updated and which can be found here: http://goo.gl/rvtpB6.
The “channel art” you are being requested to load here is the image you will use to brand your channel (remember that it creates an impression and helps promote the values of your company or business). The exact dimensions are 2560 pixels wide by 1440 pixels tall. You are also given the opportunity to create a short video trailer introducing your YouTube Channel to viewers who come across it and have not yet subscribed. The number of people who subscribe to you on YouTube represents a sizable chunk of your Channel’s immediate reach, so being able to tell them what it’s about is a powerful marketing aid. For help with the Channel Art, Google has another resource page that’s worth checking out: http://goo.gl/Bkiu7P.
After you have your channel’s art uploaded, you can start to upload videos. YouTube allows you to set up a channel and also share videos you find through it. You have to be a little picky here. In the new Web, sharing is part of your identity and directly impacts your brand image and reputation. Anything you find that might be of purely entertainment value has to be looked at critically in terms of your business aims before it’s loaded to or associated with your YouTube Channel.