Google Plus Hangouts: Video Chat with Your Friends, Customers and Other Circles

Google Plus Hangouts

Google Plus Hangouts

Google has taken video chat to another level with its Google Plus Hangouts.  Commentators report that this feature is the real groundbreaking aspect of Google+.  Unfortunately, Google+ Hangout has not really taken off yet as Google+ members are still trying to come to grips with the many features and implications of Google Plus.

Google continues to innovate in this area and has recently created further refinements based on user feedback.  Google Plus Hangouts provide many opportunities for small business marketing through connection with your customers or clients.  You can also connect with your friends and staff. 

The only requirement is that the people you connect with on Google+ Hangouts have to be in your circle and they have to have you in their circle – so this requirement is a basic privacy element of Google Plus.   There is also a limit on participation numbers – at the time of writing the limit is 10 participants.

How to start a Google Plus Hangout

The button for starting a Google+ hangout can be found on your page along with your Google+ stream.  You will see a button in the right hand column with the words, “Start a hangout’ and related icon:google+ - start hangout

If you have not used this facility before (or used Google Talk), then you will be asked to install a plugin which enables Google+ Hangout to interact with the audio and video equipment on your computer.  The plugin request will look like this: 

Google + Hangout - install plugin

You will be advised when the installation of the plugin is successful and you will have the option again to setup a Google+ Hangout.

When you have the plugin installed and click the “start a hangout” button your will be taken to the Green Room – effectively the waiting room before you go on air (you can even check out your personal appearance beforehand!).

The Green Room for Google Plus Hangouts – the waiting room

Google Plus has created an interim space, called the Green Room, so you can check out your appearance (if you want), ensure your audio and video equipment are functioning and invite people to join in your Google+ Hangout.  Once you click ‘Start a hangout”, you will be taken to the Green Room which is illustrated in the image below:

google+ hangout - the green room

From within the Green Room, you can add individuals or circles to your Google Plus Hangout.  You click on the ‘+Add circles or people to share with” button and you will see a drop-down menu of your circles so you can specify which circles you want to communicate with (this is where setting up and naming your Google + circles becomes really important, e.g. creating a customer circle for customer communications and surveys). 

You can also invite individuals by adding their name to the field that appears once you click the  ‘+Add circles or people to share with” button.  You can choose to place a name in this field and/or add specific circles.  When you add a circle you can also add individuals by clicking on the field ‘Add more people” and entering the individual’s name beside the Google+ circle displayed as shown below:

Google+ hangout - add more people

Adjusting your settings for Google Plus Hangouts in the Green Room

In the Green Room, as illustrated previously, you will see icons for audio, video and settings (working from left to right).  If you click on the audio or video icons, you will mute the relevant equipment.

The settings icon enables you to advise Google Plus of the source you wish to use for your video (webcam), audio and volume controls.  You will be able to choose from the dropdown menu for each of these pieces of equipment.  From my experience, Google Plus automatically activates my webcam when I click on “Start a hangout’ (even when I have not switched the webcam on myself).  Remember to click the ‘Save Settings” button when you have finalised your settings.

google+ hangout - settings

The thing to remember is that the Green Room is for setting everything up for your hangout (even yourself).  You or your Green Room are not visible to others until you click on the green ‘Hang Out’ button in the Green Room.

Google Plus Hangouts provides a great opportunity for small business marketing by enabling video chat with your circles (including your customers and friends).

Christmas is Coming: How Many of Your Customers Celebrate Christmas?



Christmas is a very special time of the year for many people worldwide but do you know how many of your customers do not celebrate this festive season?

There was an article in ‘The Australian‘ newspaper recently that highlighted the fact that our old assumptions about demographics could be very wrong in relation to the religion of our customers.  The newspaper reported that parents at one Montessori School in an inner suburb of Sydney were ‘up in arms’ over the lyrics used in Christmas songs at the school.  Apparently, the words, ‘We wish you a happy holiday’ were substituted for ”We wish you a Merry Christmas’.

Some parents were really upset that all reference to Christmas, Santa and the birth of Christ were omitted from the lyrics, despite the children singing five songs. 

The Montessori school’s response reiterated the ‘inclusive, co-educational, non-denominational’ nature of the school which includes educating children in multi-cultural awareness.

The Principal explained the shool’s policy in these terms:

Out policy is that we give children keys to the world and we show them many celebrations including Christmas.  We look at cultures and the particular ways that people celebrate such as Easter, Christmas and Chanukah.

Apparently, the teacher involved was trying to accommodate the fact that there were Hindus and Jewish children in their classroom.

But it does raise the issue about what assumptions you have about the religious make-up of your customer base.  Do you assume that everyone is Christian?  Have you accommodated other religions in your marketing?

A Happy Christmas to those who celebrate this Festive Season

A Happy and a Safe Holiday to Everyone 


Image Credit: paparutzi


What Do You Know About Your Customers?

customer surveys

customer surveys

Effective small business marketing relies on a sound knowledge of your customers (current and potential).  Survey tools, such as SurveyMonkey, can help you gain the necessary knowledge about your customers.

To be effective, small business marketing must be targeted and this requires a deep knowledge of your customers.  For example, with LinkedIn Ads you can target job title, organization or professional group.  With Facebook Ads, you can target your advertising based on gender, age and interests of your customers.

How well do you know your customers?

What do you know about your customers’ typical characteristics?  Have you any idea of the demographics of your customers, their preferences or their typical behaviour in different situations?

The following topics might give you some idea of what information you could gain about your customers (current and potential):

  • gender
  • age grouping (e.g. Generation X orY, Baby Boomers?)
  • interests (hobbies, sports. films)
  • where they find their entertainment
  • whether they work from home or in an office
  • how they use their mobile phone
  • where they live (city, country, local or global)
  • what they are willing to spend their money on
  • how they behave in different economic conditions (e.g. in a recession)
  • what kinds of presents they buy
  • close relationships – married/ de-facto, family size, same sex couples
  • how they spend their holiday time
  • where they converse on the web via social media.

If you lack information about your customers, your small business marketing activity will be untargeted and costly.  However, one way to overcome this lack of information is to survey your customers (current and potential).

Survey your customers with SurveyMonkey

SurveyMonkey is a dedicated online survey service that is free for stated levels of service.  At present, the SurveyMonkey service is free where you are using no more than 10 questions per survey and receiving no more than 100 responses per survey.   When you work on a likely response rate in the vicinity of 10-30%, then this is a generous offer.

Even at this basic free level, SurveyMonkey enables you to design a web-based survey with an introduction explaining the survey purpose and different types of questions, e.g.  fixed response or open-ended questions.  It is super easy to use and you can very quickly design a survey that will increase your knowledge of your customers.

The basic level service of SurveyMonkey enables information collection via a weblink, email or Twitter; through a website pop-up; through embedding the survey on your website; or by placing the survey on your Facebook page.

SurveyMonkey will collate your results and give you access to the responses online.  At the free level of service, you will receive some basic analysis of results but you need to upgrade to get more sophisticated summaries and analysis (e.g. charts such as bar chart or pie chart).  However, for small business marketing you can often get by with the basic analysis of results.

Here’s an example of the analysis of results for a simple ‘work type’ question that I used to survey a group of readers of my e-Learning Blog:

SurveyMonkey survey results

Other questions in my survey on SurveyMonkey covered the frequency of access to the blog, how the information on the blog was used and suggestions for changes.   This was a blog that I was contracted to write for the Queensland Department of Education over an 18 month period, so I needed to know the relative make-up of my audience, how the blog was being used and what improvements I could make in the information provided. 

Your potential survey activity is limited only by your imagination and your willingness to find out more about your customers.  Earlier this year, when my joint venture partners and I were developing, a community for online writers, I used SurveyMonkey to find out the ‘article categories’ that members of my mailing list would like to see included.  This helped us to round out the more than 3,000 categories for articles for our site.  So through the survey, we basically established what topics my current email subscribers would like to write about on our new site for social networking and article writing.

Effective small business marketing requires a deep understanding of your customers and tools like SurveyMonkey help you to gain the requisite knowledge to achieve target marketing in a cost effective way.