Google+, the red-headed stepchild of social media. People make fun of Google+ even more than Bing (OK, maybe not that much). While Google+ may seem like a pale copy of other social media platforms, we recently centered an entire campaign around it and suggest you do the same.

Not a Black Sheep

Let’s be clear, Google+ is more than just a Facebook clone. Tucked in its framework is a powerful live video broadcasting tool that is free for anyone with a Google+ account. It’s called Hangouts on Air – a beefed up version of the normal video chat app Hangouts that allows for live broadcast and interaction with fans.

Hangouts on Air has been used by professional sports teams, the cast of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and even President Obama to talk with core audiences and create reusable content. Earlier this year, we hosted a Hangout with one of our clients to conduct a live Q&A session.

The client: Florida Polytechnic University

The challenge: Engage with prospective students and parents for a university whose campus is still under construction

google event photo - 1 (1)

Up in the Air

For an educational client, Florida Polytechnic University presented a unique challenge. In 2012, the Florida state legislature approved the founding of a 12th official state university, focused on computer science and engineering curriculum. Construction of the main campus began as did efforts to enroll the first class of students.

Unlike most schools, potential students did not have an opportunity to drive out and walk the campus, unless they had a hard hat handy. So we needed a way to interact with students and parents that would build the brand of this cutting-edge university. A live online Q&A session with Florida Polytechnic staff and faculty fit both criteria.

On Air

After Florida Polytechnic agreed to host the Hangout on Air, we got to work on the logistics. The basics of running a Hangout on Air are quite simple, but a successful Hangout requires careful planning. We had to set a date, finalize which faculty members would be on camera and determine which topics students and parents would most want to hear. And if you’ve ever tried to broadcast anything live, you know we had to consider technical issues like internet connection, lighting and audio concerns.

Next, we had to promote the event to prospective students and their parents.. The first thing we did was create the event page on Google+, the Hangout with Florida Poly. This page would served as the hub for our marketing efforts (more on this in a moment). Leveraging existing marketing efforts and exploring new opportunities, we spread the word, including:

  •         RSVP calls-to-action on existing marketing material
  •         Social media reminders to students and parents to prepare questions
  •         Emails to interested students
  •         Pay-per-click campaigns with new extensions pointing to a dedicated Hangout landing page
  •         Reminders to prospective students through recruiters

After previous overtures to traditional media earned no attention, I tried a more direct strategy to reach journalists. Through Follwerwonk, I found the email addresses of education reporters in the area. As a result, two local news outlets ran stories before the event. After the Hangout, one of the outlets ran an in-depth interview with the moderator.

Armed with more than 50 unique questions for our panelists and more than 165 RSVPs from prospective students and parents, we launched the Hangout. During the broadcast I controlled camera views and played video questions recorded by students. All in all, more than 160 viewers tuned in live to watch with dozens of questions asked in the chat.

My detailed sketches for Hangout Best Practices.
My detailed sketches for Hangout Best Practices.

Hangout Off Air

One of the most powerful tools of the Hangout on Air is the event page, which continues to live on after the Hangout has ended. In our case, the full Q&A video is embedded via YouTube, and visitors can see a full record of the questions submitted and the answers provided by Florida Polytechnic admissions officers. If you looked at the Spider-Man link above, you probably saw useful calls to action including ways to buy tickets online as well as other content to buy. The platform offers an incredibly customizable experience that can provide value for months or years after the event.

We used the Hangout as a marquee event in their marketing efforts, but the simplicity of the platform allows you to have a Hangout up and running in five minutes. It’s a simple, flexible tool that can deliver powerful results. With Google continuing to invest in streaming video platforms, I foresee a bright future for Hangouts on Air, even if marketing folks are still largely ignoring Google+.

Still not sure how you could utilize a Hangout on Air? Comment below and we can help you brainstorm.



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