Are you interested in getting your brand in front of a larger audience? That's a rhetorical question, of course...
If you consider yourself a clever marketer or business leader and you're looking for the next big thing that will help you meet your goals, take a bit of advice from Silicon Valley entrepreneur and original Apple marketing guru Guy Kawasaki, author of What the Plus! Kawasaki's message is simple: Now's the time to embrace Google+ and Hangouts on Air.
Yet, even as competition for attention from consumers online continues to grow, many brands—maybe even yours—are hesitant to take Google+ and Hangouts on Air seriously as a way to get the brand in front of new audiences and differentiate from the competition.
Maybe you have been holding out because producing hangouts seems too costly or complex (both valid concerns), or maybe you just haven't taken the time to look into it until now. In any case, I'm here to help you get started on the right foot.
Our team at Collegis Education has been using this technology for over a year and has produced more than a dozen Hangouts on Air. We have gained a variety of insights over that time, and you can use our successes and failures to create high-quality, engaging, and informative video content for your target market.
Below is my list of 11 quick-hit production tips that can help you make up for lost time.
Google+ Production Tips
1. Get quality equipment
Don't worry, the equipment you use doesn't have to be crazy expensive. An HD camera (1080p) and USB microphone can be cheaper than you might think. The camera and microphone that we use cost less than $100, combined, on Amazon.
So don't get hung up on searching for the world's best equipment; you're not CNN, and your viewers know that. From their perspective, what's important is the content, so a difference in quality of "good versus great" isn't what will make your videos successful.
2. Make sure your network can handle it
Look into the bandwidth you're using. Google suggests a minimum threshold for upload and download speeds of 1 mbps and 2 mbps, respectively. Also keep an eye on your network's bandwidth usage during a hangout in order to avoid any latency—delays in the processing of network data—during the live production. Remind your team to avoid clogging up your network during the live event by streaming cat videos or the day's big sporting event.
In our experience, though we found that our network could handle the requirements, some of our contributors had networks that were not up to the task. In those cases, contributors had to make last-second location changes. Don't let that happen to you; use this speed test and talk to your IT professional to make sure that your system as well as offsite participant's networks can handle the requirements.
If you're unsure how your network will handle it, run a test hangout before the live event.
3. Optimize your titles
Because the video from your Hangouts on Air will be instantly uploaded and accessible on YouTube, you need to ensure that your titles are optimized to take advantage of any relevant traffic coming from search engines. Doing so will help you gain higher lifetime views, ensuring that the content you've created continues to work for you well into the future.
4. Create a program outline
Just as in creating blog post, producing Hangouts on Air cannot be a one-and-done event. Create a program outline so that you can easily plan, produce, and conduct hangouts on a regular basis. Such a document can help you schedule your topics, define what the information means to your target market, and determine how your business can offer a solution. It will also help everyone participating in the hangout to understand exactly what to expect when the red light is on.
5. Build a promotion plan
You want viewers, right? You need to create a Google+ Event prior to promoting your hangout on your website or social media. The event page provides an easy place to include the necessary details about the subject matter and presenters, as well as a place for your audience to register to attend.
Any emails, blog posts, and social promotions prior to the event should help drive people to the event page so that they can sign up to attend. Google will then automatically send an email reminder to all confirmed attendees one day prior to the event!
6. Choose a knowledgeable host and behind-the-scenes producer
Depending on the size of your organization, you might play the role of host, producer, or both. Either way, to facilitate the conversation, the host will need to be knowledgeable about the subjects being discussed. The producer, on the other hand, needs to have a solid understand of the technology to provide any technical support at a moment's notice.
Also make sure that any special guests or panelists involved in the hangout are comfortable with the topics of conversation and technology. Plan on having a few practice runs beforehand to iron out content wrinkles and work out any bugs.
7. Showcase your branding wherever possible
You can highlight your brand very effectively by using title slides and custom lower-thirds with very little work on the front end. A title slide—similar to the opening slide of a PowerPoint presentation—is a great way to get your branding and logo in front of your audience at the start of the hangout. Within hangouts, make sure to create your own lower-third that includes your logo so that your name and brand is always visible. Here is an example of a title slide and custom lower-third.
8. Bring in subject-matter experts when possible
You add much more credibility to your conversation by featuring one or more external experts. An expert can validate the points you are making and offer additional insights you may not have considered. External experts are also valuable because you can align their authority with your brand, thereby helping your organization be seen as a leader in your vertical.
9. Learn the technology and keep testing it
Hangouts on Air have a lot of things happening at once that need to be properly managed from start to finish. That includes everything from starting the Hangout on Air and sharing screens, to fixing audio or video issues, and cropping the video after it's complete. My recommendation is simple: Practice more than you think you should, and be prepared for worst-case scenario technical issues. As Google continues to make updates, there will always be new features to keep testing.
10. Create a schedule
As you start moving into creating video content via Hangouts on Air, keep a production schedule. Publishing new content consistently is critical for building an audience and improving your brand authority online, and a schedule is vital.
I recommend initially hosting one hangout per quarter until you get comfortable with how everything works. Once you've found some success, increase your production calendar to monthly hangouts. Start by brainstorming a list of topics that you think your target audience would enjoy and create a schedule of relevant topics for the coming year.
11. Build out your YouTube channel
Your YouTube channel is quickly going to become a central hub for all this new video content. Make sure that you optimize your channel with all the necessary information about your business, including various links to follow-up information and links to your website—for each video that you create.
Your Next Move
These simple tips can help put you on the path to producing Hangouts on Air without many of the headaches faced by most early adopters. As Google continues to add additional features like Helpouts and Shopping, you'll want to get familiar with them to see how they can assist you in your Hangout production.
Start producing video content via Hangouts on Air now so that you can further build your brand online, connect with new customers, and win a place on the Internet—something that no organization can afford to miss.
(For an example of a Hangout on Air, see below; also check out the Rasmussen College YouTube channel for others. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me directly or leave them in the comment stream below.)
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