Since its launch, Google+ has struggled to compete with Twitter and Facebook as a social media platform. Nevertheless, the live Google+ hangout feature has incredible potential for growth, and many public figures are already taking notice.
For the uninitiated, the live Google+ hangout feature is a free live videoconference that can automatically be streamed, recorded and uploaded to a YouTube channel. All that is needed is a Gmail account synced to a YouTube channel and a Google+ account, making barriers to entry pretty low.
What makes Google+ hangouts so beneficial for public figures is the incredible control over the videoconference. For example, the host has the ability to invite select guests for the conference, mute or have normal dialogue with participants, and the audience can be as broad or narrow as desired.
Last week, I participated in a Google+ hangout with President Obama, hosted by YouTube and Google. While President Obama had a large team of people making sure nothing went wrong technically, it is overkill for most individuals’ needs.
In my hangout with President Obama, he took questions from five participants with one Google staffer moderating. The look of the event was very similar to a “talking head” show on cable news, only with more participants. President Obama did most of the talking, and the five participants asked the questions. Overall, the hangout went very smoothly and generated major news headlines.
What we should expect in the future is many politicians using Google+ hangouts on air with their constituents, artists having hangouts with their fans, candidates for public office holding hangouts with their supporters, and CEOs having hangouts with shareholders or board members. It even has a feature to play video as the conference is taking place. The video playing and screen sharing features make it ideal for presentations.
The possibilities for this relatively new platform are endless, but because Google+ hangouts can facilitate controlled access to individuals at a low cost, every public figure should know and understand its benefits.
Here is a post explaining how to begin a live Google+ hangout. I recommend testing a private hangout before going live, but the feel of the event is pretty natural and the camera will automatically switch to the person talking, reducing the amount of interruptions.
If you are interested, you can watch my hangout with President Obama below.
Lee Doren is the Research and Outreach Manager at CRAFT | Media/Digital.Lee specializes in public policy research and analysis. He also focuses on online issue advocacy, which includes reaching out to reporters and bloggers on behalf of clients. You can reach Lee via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @ldoren.