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Use Google+ Hangouts On Air to Boost Your Business

Shuttle Launch-Google+ Hangout On AirAre you running yourself ragged on social media and other digital media outlets trying to gain exposure for your company? While not a total solution, Google+ Hangouts On Air (HOA) can provide benefits that other options cannot for free. You not only get to create branded content, but the live streaming video and recorded video provide you with many options to reach a greater audience, increase your following, drive search engine results and attract new clients.

What is a Google+ Hangout On Air?

A Google+ Hangout On Air is a free HD video conference tool.The video stream can be viewed live on Google+, YouTube and any website or kept private during creation. If live streaming, you can select whether the audience can actively participate and who can view. A recording is automatically made by YouTube and saved on your channel to be viewed publicly and shared. Many individuals and companies host HOAs on a regular basis and create topical series. Basically, your company can have its own broadcast show. Isn’t that great?

What benefits can Hangouts On Air provide your company?

  • Position your company as a thought leader
  • Multiple content repurposing opportunities
  • Google SERP and SEO advantages – keyword optimized and SERP prioritized
  • Demonstrate your industry advantage
  • Establish trust and credibility
  • Increase brand recognition
  • Build a following through live conversations and recordings
  • Communicate your brand’s culture and personality
  • Develop and strengthen relationships with expert guest speakers
  • Humanize your brand

What content can you present in a HOA?

The shorter answer would be what can’t be presented, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Announcements
  • Answer FAQs
  • Behind-the-scenes looks
  • Company culture insights
  • Customer testimonials
  • Employee stories
  • Events
  • Executive interviews / speeches
  • Expert interviews
  • How-to video
  • Product demonstrations
  • Webinars

Be creative, and listen to your audience’s questions and comments. Always think about what you want to accomplish and what angle you wish to take in the discussion. Ronnie Bincer suggests you first participate in a few Hangouts to get a feel for them, build relationships with guests and other viewers and find out what your target audience wants to know.

How to set up a Google+ Hangout On Air

  1. Have a Google account and Google+ company page.
  2. Create a YouTube channel if you don’t have and verify it.
  3. Connect the YouTube channel to the Google+ page.
  4. Create a specific circle if you want to ensure certain people know about the hangout and any guest speakers.
  5. Sign into the company Google+ account.
  6. Select “Hangouts” from the left dropdown menu.
  7. Under the “Hangouts On Air”tab, select “Start A Hangout On Air.”
  8. Start a Google Hangout On AirEnter the name of the event. Be sure to include keyword(s) to help people find it, and place them toward the beginning of the event name. Create something specific and intriguing to your audience.
  9. Create a Google Hangout On AirProvide a description that states exactly what people should expect and include keywords and tag any guests. Select “Later” and enter the date, time, duration and time zone.
  10. Add any additional people, including guest speakers, or make it private if you only want to show the recorded version.

HOA creation tips

If you create a HOA at least five days in advance, your event may be included on Google’s list of upcoming hangouts. Apparently, inclusion is not reliably automatic, but if your HOA is included, then you get extra promotion by being on the master list.

Be sure to include your primary keywords in the event title and description. You want to make it as easy for people to find either the live or recorded video.

Also, if you have any guest speakers, tag them. Tagging will encourage them to share the event with their audiences so you will be able to capitalize on their reach. You can have nine guests join you with an unlimited broadcast audience.

Once you have created your hangout, you can add a video or image as a custom trailer. To add a custom video, click “Add a Trailer” and add a YouTube video. To add a custom image, click “Add a Trailer” and add the image. Voila! You have added extra visual interest and information to your upcoming Hangout On Air. Otherwise, people will see a countdown clock, which is boring.

Promoting your upcoming HOA

Use whatever means you have to promote your upcoming Hangout On Air. Obviously, promote it on your social media outlets. When people respond to the event invite, it will show up in their news feed for their followers to see. Encourage guest speakers and employees to share on their social networks.

Internal and external newsletters are great ways to promote it. Depending on the frequency and lead time, you can include it multiple times with the video link along with doing an event specific email. You can also send out reminder emails as a countdown to the event.

The HOA can be promoted in a couple ways on your company website. You can have it as a special section on your home page. You can also write a blog post around the general subject with the video link included. That blog post can then be promoted on its own.

People will automatically be able to watch the live HOA on Google+ and YouTube. If you embed the video link on your website, they can also watch it there. Many people are not an active part of the Google+ community so letting them know they have viewing options will encourage more live viewing.

Another idea is to encourage people to submit questions in advance and then answer them on air. This option allows you to customize the content and bring the audience into the HOA.

Tips for during the HOA

Google Hangouts On Air can be raw videos or highly produced ones. Your experience and resources will determine which. Glitches are to be expected in live productions, but they can be minimized.

Chrome is the preferred browser. HOAs will work in other browsers, but Google obviously has everything optimized for its ecosystem. Before you start the HOA, you and your guest speakers will need to install the latest Hangout plugin.

A few minutes before the HOA begins, you and your guests should check audio and video to make sure everything is ready to go. This way everyone can go over what to expect and check their setups. Everyone should use headphones with microphones so the conversation can be heard better. Nothing like missing a question or a key point. Clear away any distracting background objects and sounds. Also, make sure each person knows how to use the HOA apps. If possible, have someone handle the technical side of the HOA while it’s live.

Good lighting is important for a quality video. A large soft light on one side, a smaller one on the other side and a back light make up the basic three-point lighting. A back light is important to separate the subject from the background.

Use a wired Internet connection to better maintain connectivity. Dead air is not good.

Last, YouTube also “listens” to what is said in the video as part of its algorithm. Therefore, include your keywords and variations thereof in a natural way during the video. Introductory and summary statements are good places to do it.

Extra features – apps

Google+ Hangouts on Air come with some great apps to enhance the broadcast.

  • Cameraman app – You can control whether to show or hide one or more participants on air. 
  • Q & A app – Taking questions in advance helps customize the content. Also, you can mark the questions as you answer them. People viewing the recorded video can then jump to specific questions in the video.
  • Control Room app – You can mute or unmute a participant’s video or audio, control a person’s audio level, give HOA control to someone else and and eject a person from the HOA.
  • Showcase app – You can share products, articles, website links and Google Play Store links with your audience. They can view them without interrupting the HOA broadcast.
  • Applause app – This app allows viewers to give a thumbs up or thumbs down during the broadcast. A real-time graph will show you the results.

Sharing and repurposing the recorded video

Once the HOA is completed, it will automatically be posted on your YouTube channel. You can edit it, and the edited version is what you will want to share. The URL stays the same throughout. At this point, it becomes indistinguishable from any other YouTube video. Add tags that include keywords, company name, etc. to further increase SEO juice. Consistent keyword tag usage will help your videos show up as suggested videos on the right hand side in YouTube.

Like before the event, use social media and email to share and promote the archived video. Many people cannot arrange their schedules to attend the live event. I usually have to view recordings because of schedule conflicts. You will also be able to reach people who did not hear about the live event. You may even wish to publish video segments if appropriate.

YouTube produces a transcription of the video discussion. However, I advise you create your own because YouTube’s automated transcription has its limits. This transcription can be included with the video and distributed elsewhere as well. Adding the transcription to the video helps with the video’s SEO. You can publish portions of it or turn it into a blog post and email. You can even tweet major points with the video link.

Embed the video on your website if you didn’t do it before. This way anyone who visits has the opportunity to view it and discover your video series.

Your Hangouts on Air don’t have to be finely polished productions, though that would be nice. In fact, in a recent B. L. Ochman HOA, Sona Patel of The New York Times stated they had better audience responses to the less highly produced videos. The audience seemed to like the more spontaneous ones. Quality content presented in a way that people can relate to will accomplish much. The more you do, the more you will get to fine tune the process and content. Think about how you can leverage your videos to get more distinguished expert guests, etc. You will have a learning curve, but don’t let that discourage you. The benefits you will reap will be well worth it.

Episode #01: Online Reviews with Carrie Hill

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Carrie Hill is co-founder of IgnitorDigital.com. Carrie can be found on Twitter, @CarrieHill

Ignitor Digital
In this episode, Carrie & I discuss online reviews. We know how important they are to any business. Carrie recommended a service called GetFiveStars.com.

Learn more about what to look for an online review service on Carrie’s recent blog post: Online Review Services – Are YOU Benefiting?

Carrie Hill discussed the 3rd party review sites vs. online reviews on your own site. Both are needed, but it’s also important to find niche sites that work for the appropriate industry.

There is no one-stop place to add reviews. Businesses need to take a diversified approach. Cultivate and grow reviews on various sources. The negative reviews will come, but getting positive reviews requires a proactive approach.

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Another Advantage of Using Google+ Hashtags

Hashtags have become commonplace in social media conversations.They seem to be used everywhere. People can now search Google using hashtags to find Google+ content – another benefit of posting on Google+. In other words, not only are Google+posts indexable but so are Google+ hashtags.

If you were not using Google+before, you have one more incentive to do so. Google continues integrating its products and services. A recent integration includes adding Google+ hashtags into their search results, which is a step beyond what other social media platforms have done.

Doing a Google search for #marchmadness returned these results:

Google Plus Hashtags Search-March Madness

Google+ content that used the #marchmadness hashtag is displayed on the right side, prime real estate, whereas regular search results are listed on the left. Interestingly, at the Google+ results is the option to search Twitter and Facebook.

The Google+ results are presented in a scrolling fashion but can also be viewed using the arrows. The number of +1’s and other post activity can be seen. Clicking on a result will send a person to a Google+ page with current results of posts using the #marchmadness hashtag (image 1). Clicking the link to the person or brand that posted the link will take a searcher to the respective Google+ profile (image 2). Only posts that have been publicly shared or shared with the person searching will appear so privacy controls remain intact.

Google Plus Hashtags Search-Related Postsimage 1

Google Plus Hashtags Search-Profileimage 2

So what does this mean for brands?

Brands should post content on Google+ and use relevant hashtags in their posts. With this recent integration, relevant hashtags amplify a brand’s content beyond its followers and becomes another way to have its social media content discovered  by people via Google search results. Who doesn’t want to be discovered?

Hashtags can be used in a variety of ways: campaign, brand, trending, niche trending, content, event and location. A brand’s goals and content will dictate which ones to use. But do not go overboard with tags or the post will look spammy.

Hashtags are now included in an expandable list of three items in the upper right corner of the post. Hashtags in gray are manually created whereas the ones in blue are auto generated by Google based on the post’s content. While a hashtag is being manually created, Google will autosuggest other tags. For example, typing “#socialmedia” may generate the suggestion “#socialmediatips,” which could be a more relevant choice than the generic tag. Only using generic tags will cause a brand’s message to be lost in the noise and target too general an audience. Any unwanted tags in the list can be removed. If more than three hashtags are used, use the most important ones first. Clicking on a hashtag takes a person to related posts that used the particular hashtag and even related hashtags for more in-depth exploration.

As this feature is still fairly new, its potential success is unknown. The number of people who search by hashtag will determine the impact it has on brands. Even if it does not fully live up to expectations, the indexability of Google+ posts provides numerous benefits to justify a Google+ presence. Meanwhile, tag it!

Google+ SEO – Social Signals in Search

 

In a prior post, I discussed optimizing Facebook for SEO. As we’ve seen, what you do in social media has a direct effect on how (or if) you are found in search results. Not only does what you do in Facebook matter, Google+ also has a role in search engine results. They are both a big part of the social signals in search.

In 2011, Google announced that Google+ public posts will begin showing in search results. Similar to Facebook’s social influence on Bing, the Google+ integration will show you when your “friends” have shared a story or link.

Google+ Optimization Tips

  1. Link to all other profiles.
    Make Google+ your central hub for all your accounts. This allows Google to make an easier connection on who you are and where you are located on the web.
  2. Meta Description.
    The same philosophy applied to page optimization works with Google+ as well. Although Meta Description has little affect on rankings. A good meta description will show in search results and will result in a higher click-through-rate.
    Google Plus in Search Results
  3. Don’t Go Stale.
    Search engines love fresh content. Google+ is no exception.
  4. Use and Optimize Every Field.
    The more information you add, the better your chances of being found.Google Plus Introduction

     

  5. Optimizing Posts.
    What happens in Google+ matters to Google. That means that all posts are relevant and can show up in search results. Best keywords practices should still apply.
  6. Content is Still King.
    Good content leads to more sharing. If you develop something worth sharing, it will be shared.

Ultimately, it all matters. Google+ is one aspect of SEO. It can save you or break you, but every little step matters. Google+ should be a part of your SEO plan, is it?

Avoid the Lure of the Shiny Object Syndrome in Social Media

social media shiny objectResist the lure of the shiny object syndrome if you want your social media efforts to be successful. For some businesses, when a new social media tool or network is launched, they quickly add it to their arsenal. They are spellbound by whatever is the latest and greatest. Then, they find themselves overwhelmed and unable to gain traction. They suffer from the shiny object syndrome.

Do you have the shiny object syndrome or want to avoid it? Before you set up another social media account, ask yourself these questions about your current ones:

Does this network further the implementation of our strategy?

All your tactical efforts need to support your strategy. If not, then you risk moving your company in the wrong direction and wasting time and money.

√ Is our target audience using this network?

If your target audience is not using a network or is minimally using it, then spending time on it does not make sense. You want to go where your audience is.

√ Is this network appropriate for our brand and products or services?

Not every social media network is appropriate for every brand. Some are better for B2B while others are better for B2C, and each network has its own tone to it. If you are unsure, research case studies, reviews, etc. to make the determination about the match.

√ Do we have the resources available to create content, engage people and monitor on this network?

Social media requires a lot of time and effort. Regardless of your social media team’s size, you want to be vigilant about how much you take on so you do not become overwhelmed, dilute your efforts or sabotage your success.

If you answer no to any one of these questions, place that network on a list to be deleted. If the answers are yes, then continue your efforts. These same questions can be used to review any potential additions. If the answers are yes for a new one, then start creating your strategy and content for it and set up the account.

Start with only a couple of networks. Develop your presence on them, and become proficient in using them. Then, start testing the most promising of other networks, keeping what works. Think rifle approach, not shotgun.

Trying out something new is fun, but using a measured, strategic approach to social media will help you avoid the shiny object syndrome and have your social media efforts be more successful.

Have you caught the shiny object syndrome or avoided it?

 

The New Google Maps are Going to be Awesome

Google has just announced a few exciting improvements to Maps that will make it more of an interactive and personalized experience, as well as where search ads will appear within Maps.  

Using location extensions in Google AdWords has always been an important element of PPC marketing; not only is a quick and easy way for customers to find your location and contact info, it increases click through rates.

At Google’s annual developers event this month, they showed previews of testing that will display search ads within Google Maps, instead of next to the Map. Search ads with location extensions will appear on the Map, below the search box, and ads without a location extension will appear below the search box.

The preview below shows that there is significantly less space dedicated to ads compared to Google Maps today, so I’m anxious to see how it will actually look when the update goes live.

The other major update Google announced is that Maps will be uniquely created and adjusted based on an individual’s search habits and off-line preferences.

With every click or search a user makes, Google Maps will draw a unique Map of locations that the user has searched along with new locations that the user may be interested in that they haven’t yet thought to search for.

The first step is for the user to set important locations like home and work, a few favorite locations that are starred, and places that the user has reviewed.  In addition to the customized search results, Maps will also display businesses such as restaurants or stores that friends have recommended on Google+ and other user’s reviews and ratings.  The more that the user interacts with the Map, the better and more personalized the Map becomes.

Location extensions and individualized Map updates provide an opportunity for businesses to both stay connected with customers and get in front of new ones, are you ready for the update?

If you haven’t already, create a Google+ Page and start using it. Ask your customers to add reviews and actively add updates along with high quality photos. Google does index Google+ pages and posts, so we know that it will become an even more important piece of the ranking puzzle with updates like this for Maps.

Maps will also integrate high quality imagery and the ability to “fly through cities, walk canyon trails, climb mountains and even swim the oceans” by integrating 3D experience.

There haven’t been as many Google Maps updates as there have been to the other products, so I’m very excited to see how Google connects users with new locations and what info it brings into rank and offer suggestions. It will also be great to see high quality photos (meaning hopefully they aren’t all from Flickr) as well as 3D tours of places that we might not be able to see in person, all in one place.

What do you think about the Google Maps updates?

If you could see any place in the world in 3D, what would it be?

Winning Google+ Hangout Strategies

Give people what they want and they will (Google+) hangout with you!
One constant in any marketing strategy, whether it be in the format of print, email, website, or social media is providing targeted content to a targeted audience … AKA – Giving people what they want. If you (a brand, business, marketer) provide it, they (your customers, brand ambassadors, industry influencers) will soak it in, like it, and hopefully share it.

How does this apply to the shiny widgets on Google+?
Google+ provides an opportunity for brands to connect with their audience in a unique, interactive way via “Hangouts” and “Hangouts On Air”. As a marketer, this opens up a whole new platform for connecting brands with their audiences, but also provides an opportunity for companies to show their personality and go “behind the scenes” for those interested in a deeper connection to a brand than just an ad or email offer.

Google Plus
Here are a few examples of innovative ways brands can incorporate Google+ hangouts into their content marketing strategies:

  • Google+ hangouts with celebrity endorsers and bloggers/ brand ambassadors
  • Google+ hangouts with engineers, R&D, manufacturers of products
  • Google+ hangouts with CEOs, Board Members, Industry Association Leaders

What are the trends for marketers and brands with Google+ Hangouts?
According to Ad Age: “The potential audience reach of “Hangouts On Air” — where the Hangout can be viewed by anyone who has the brand in their Circles, even if they’re not among the nine selected to actively participate — is attractive to brands, but programming one requires coordinating with Google to set it up on the back end, and Google has only done a handful so far, including a conversation between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu in October and a session with “The Muppets” on their brand page to promote their upcoming film last week. Christian Oestlien, Google’s head of social advertising products, said the ultimate goal is to make Hangouts on Air a feature that brands can program independently.” – [Source: http://adage.com/article/digital/brands-start-test-hangouts-google-pages/231053/]

Interested in playing with Google+’s Hangouts On Air?
Here’s a getting started guide from Mashable: http://mashable.com/2012/07/20/google-plus-hangout-on-air/

WKRN Story on Google Privacy Changes

Google announced a new update to its privacy policy recently that may (or may not) be an improvement. The new change “allows” Google to combine our information and history across one large channel, effective March 1, 2012.

Google’s new policy combines 60 different policies across multiple Google platforms into one main privacy policy. To the average user this means, instead of signing-up and agreeing to the various terms for different products (Google Calendar, YouTube, Gmail, etc.), users just have sign-up with “Google” as a whole.

Below is the story I participated in with Nashville’s WRKN about this update:

Read entire story here: www.wkrn.com/story/16611111/whats-behind-googles-new-privacy-policy

Google Search Plus Your World

Today Google announced a major change to search engine results, and this is probably one of the most significant changes I’ve seen to Google in quite a while.

The new “Search Plus Your World” features begin rolling out immediately. The idea behind this new feature integrates traditional search results with shared items from a user’s network of friends.

Google’s new Search Plus Your World will have a new “Personal Results” view that will be shown to users by default. These “personal results” will be tailored results based on Google+ shared content, personal web search history, online habits as well as social connections. For those that have been following my series on social signals in search, this should not be a surprise that Google is “all-in” with Google+.

We’re transforming Google into a search engine that understands not only content, but also people and relationships. We began this transformation with Social Search, and today we’re taking another big step in this direction by introducing three new features:

    1. Personal Results, which enable you to find information just for you, such as Google+ photos and posts—both your own and those shared specifically with you, that only you will be able to see on your results page;
    2. Profiles in Search, both in autocomplete and results, which enable you to immediately find people you’re close to or might be interested in following; and,
    3. People and Pages, which help you find people’s profiles and Google+ pages related to a specific topic or area of interest, and enable you to follow them with just a few clicks. Because behind most every query is a community.

Source – http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2012/01/search-plus-your-world.html

Google+ people suggestions are also integrated into these new search results. If users search for broad topics, like music, Google will show what it considers “prominent people who frequently discuss this topic on Google+”.

Again, Google is gauging social authority from Google+, so of course Google is only pulling these “prominent people” from Google+, not Facebook or Twitter. As we know, that’s a substantial less amount of people. To stay that Google is showing special bias toward Google+ is a big understatement.
Suggested Profile

As another sign that Google is pushing Google+ hard, they are also adding people’s profiles to search. This will give a whole new meaning to “Googleing” someone. By typing the first few letters of a name, Google will auto-complete the name based on the network of friends. See example below that Google provided, since it has not rolled out to me yet.
Google Your World

An even more interesting move, this new feature is not indexing Facebook as deep (nor did it ever). However, that’s more likely a Facebook problem than a Google problem. Facebook’s term of service don’t allow for search to crawl to deep within the site. That’s great from a security and privacy aspect, but not so great if business wants Facebook content ranked well. Google+ shares almost everything (also a good and bad thing), and they’ve made that clear from the beginning.

See the video below to learn out about Search Plus Your World … and paperclips.