By now, most of us have figured out what to do with our circles and our Google+ personal profiles and brand pages. You might have even tried using Hangouts a time or two to talk with your sister in Iowa and your old buddies from college. But have you thought about what Hangouts could do for your small business?
7 Ways to Use Hangouts for Your Small Business
1. Meetings: Lots of small businesses operate remotely these days. If you’re one of them, take advantage of private Google+ Hangouts for hosting your weekly or monthly meetings. It’s a fun way to stay connected without the wasted travel time.
2. Customer Service: Service can still come with a smile. Using Google+ Hangouts could be kind of like those live chat windows that pop up on business websites — only better! Let customers reach out to you for help and support face-to-face. This really only works if you extend the invitation after initial contact is made, but setting up a private Hangout allows customers the benefit of receiving visual cues, something they can’t get over the phone.
3. Market Research: Invite the public to come join you for a friendly Q&A where you ask questions about services or products they’d like you to add to the line-up. Find out what customers like and dislike about what you’re offering now. Ask them how they heard about your business. It might not be scientifically accurate data that you collect, but it is always a good idea to gather info that will help you attract new customers and keep the current ones coming back for more.
4. Feedback: If you’ve just launched a new product or service and are wondering how things are going, invite your customers to join you in a Hangout to discuss the good, the bad, and the indifferent. (As an incentive, you might want to offer a coupon or discount code for Hangout attendees.)
5. Announcements: Adding a new location? Offering something new? Expanding your business hours? In addition to sending out emails, postcards, and updating your website content, consider scheduling a Hangout on Google+. You can make it festive by generating buzz ahead of time. If it’s a really big deal, random prize drawings might be appropriate.
6. Brainstorming: It’s like the company meetings I mentioned earlier, only minus the agenda and planning. Get your group together to chat and brainstorm about ways to improve business operations. Creative companies could seriously benefit from the free-flowing exchange of ideas in a setup like this.
7. Engagement: Hanging out with customers and colleagues doesn’t have to be a huge to-do. When you have some time just set up a public Hangout, and see who shows up. Talk about the weather. Talk about sports. Ask about families and classes and hobbies. Put the spotlight on the people who keep your business going.
Google+ Hangout Hint
For meetings and customer service type Hangouts, it’s a good idea to take notes. So open up your word processor or favorite note-taking device and make sure you capture the important details.
If everyone in the Hangout is cool with it, you might even want to record the conversation. Check out Mashable’s 5 Free Tools for Recording Google+ Hangouts if you need help getting started.
Is there a bonfire Hangout any time soon?
Or would that be Google Campfire?
There definitely should be a Bonfire Hangout soon! In fact, we’ve already been throwing the idea around in our small business community. On the list for 2012.