This is a guest contribution by Sarah Hill, the Chief Digital Storyteller for Veterans United Network.
Blogging no longer has to be a text based conversation. Google+ has allowed bloggers to become broadcasters, adding a visual component to each blog post, and all you need to become a “Blogcaster” is a webcam, an internet connection, and Google+.
Understanding the Basics of Google+
Narrow-minded individuals have been quick to dismiss Google+, seeing another Facebook; however, the true functionality of Google+ goes beyond keeping up with friends. This platform offers a unique feature that allows you to live-stream face-to-face video chats to the masses through a feature known as Hangouts.
Google’s Hangout feature is unfolding into a product that is changing how people collaborate and learn, providing real users with the tools and information to accomplish real-world tasks, and the ability to display it for all to see via YouTube.
This free broadcast tower is deepening relationships between bloggers, businesses and personal users through face-to-face interaction, setting the social network apart from all others and creating a fresh way to experience the web.
Starting a Hangout can be done in a few seconds, just by clicking the “Start a Hangout” button; however, before diving in head first, it is best to prepare.
When you start a Hangout for the first time, you will be prompted to install a quick plugin. All you need to do is download Google’s voice and video chat plugin, ensure you have a webcam with a microphone and a decent internet connection. Ethernet is preferred but I’ve done lots of Hangouts over Wifi and even 4G as well.
In addition, it is best to check your lighting and background beforehand to make sure people can clearly see your face.
Once you’re confident in the set up and have ran some practice Hangouts, it’s time to promote a live event.
Announce the hangout
First, create a Google+ public event announcement a few days to a couple weeks before your Hangout. You want to give users time and create awareness of the Hangout.
Set to stream the hangout
Also, when creating the Google+ Hangout, be sure to open a “Hangout on Air” as those Hangouts stream live on YouTube and are then automatically recorded to your YouTube channel after you hit “end broadcast”.
Promote your hangout
Next, build awareness by posting in related Google+ communities, as well as other social channels. Don’t stay only on Google+, but cross-pollinate your live event to all your social platforms. Also, consider using a specific hashtag for your event.
Over Memorial Day, Veterans United partnered with Google+, the 9/11 Memorial and Virtual Photo Walks for a live Hangout. We used #honortheheroes to promote it to the public. Search that hashtag for examples of how we promoted that event.
Becoming a Blogcaster
Hangouts fuel the possibility of bloggers to become blogcasters, allowing up to ten users to video chat at a time, with the ability to broadcast to the entire world through “Hangouts on Air.”
So what would you talk about when you host a Hangout?
What are you passionate about? Original ideas, quality content and social sharing are the goal, and if you are posting interesting, thought provoking content on a frequent basis, you have the ability to gain followers and grow your authority – and this is no different through Hangouts.
Common Hangout topics include education, interviews, product demonstration and, more recently, customer service. However, when blogging, consider taking your hottest blog post and invite other authorities in the space to join in on the Hangout panel, providing multiple angles on the topic. This lengthens the life of your blog beyond just the initial post.
Preparation is a must. Put together a list of questions that you can ask members in the Hangout, know who is speaking, on what topic and how long. Also, be sure to keep the conversation flowing by having transition topics so that you don’t permit awkward downtime.
And, no matter what method is used when producing a Hangout, remember to monitor social channels, blog comments from people who couldn’t attend the Hangout. You should also point users toward a social feed that they can post questions, essentially making them a part of the Hangout as well.
As with blogging, when you engage with your users on a frequent basis, user interaction and discussion becomes much easier. With Hangouts, that interaction is deeper as it’s now face to face via webcam.
Claim Your Work
The larger your presence is on Google+, the more likely it is that Google will see you as an expert or authority in your personal niche. And, to ensure that you’re capturing all the authority given from your Hangouts – especially when you post the URL to another site – be sure to claim the content through Google+.
“Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman at Google, recently said that future rankings will be determined by verified author profiles,” said Matt Polsky, an organic search strategist. “If you haven’t realized it yet, authors are already verifying their content on Google+, which is more than enough of a reason to get started.”
As Matt said above, bloggers are already verifying their broadcasts and content, providing users with not only a picture snippet in search results, but with additional authority for your specialized niche – especially when you branch out and write for other authority publications.
To verify your content, you can add the rel=author tag to your Google+ link in your byline when you create and post content.
With some forethought, time, and effort, you can grow your online presence and authority so people can discover your content. Broadcasting isn’t just for TV stations anymore. If you have a blog, you too can become a Google+ blogcaster.
Have you already used a Hangout? What was your experience?
About the Author: Sarah Hill is the Chief Digital Storyteller for Veterans United Network – a leading hub of news and advice on veteran and military issues. Connect with Sarah on Google+ to start a Hangout, or chat with her on Twitter.