As you may have read in this blog, I currently help my sister with her online efforts when it comes to her family law firm here in Phoenix, Arizona.
When she made the decision to control her own website content, I advised that she would be taking on a large, but not impossible, burden when it came to creating content. Since March, I can say that she has done amazing things when it comes to her online presence and every little step she takes is in the right direction. I mean, for a beginner, just having her involved with writing blogs on her website is a feat that many business owners don’t want to tackle.
In fact, getting Wendy to even participate on Google Hangouts was a small challenge in itself. After using iMessage and Skype for her means of online communications, I gradually introduced her to the value behind Google Hangouts and how each hangout could be use for personal or business purposes.
These days, Hangouts is one of the main means she communicates with me and other industry experts around the nation. In fact, you can see that she has done Hangouts On-Air (in Google+ these are hashtagged as #HOA) with yoga experts, relationship experts, psychologists, and counselors. It just amazes me how any entrepreneur or small business owner can hold a weekly show and discuss topics that can help their business grow. See Wendy participate as well as conduct her #HOA:
However, using Hangouts can become challenging for someone who hasn’t ever used it. This week, I will break down what Hangouts are and how to get started with them.
What Are Hangouts?
Hangouts are similar to previous (and current) chat clients like MSN Messenger, Skype or iMessage. Hangouts is a chat client that is found inside of Google+ and give you the ability to chat inside of the network or through your your mobile device. It also provides the user the ability to make video phone calls with other people who use Hangouts. Hangouts provide users the ability to collaborate on documents (via Google Drive) and even help one another through remote assistance (when using the Desktop version).
Who Can Use Hangouts?
Anyone who has registered a Gmail/Google account. Hangouts can work inside of Gmail, through Google+ or through a Chrome extension.
Do I Have to Download Hangouts?
No. Hangouts can be easily found inside of Google+ on the right-hand side of your Home screen when you login. For those who are using Google Chrome, you can download an extension for Hangouts that hovers on top of your desktop for easier access.
Do I Need to Download Any Plugins to Start My Hangout?
So I made a little lie, you do have to download one thing in order to start your Hangout. Every computer will need to have this plugin downloaded in order to have the session run smoothly. If you don’t download the plugin upon using Hangouts for the first time, you’re going to be presented with the ability to download the plugin.
Follow these quick steps to testing your first Hangout session:
Step 1: Make sure your webcam is plugged in or activated and ready for use.
Step 3: Test your Hangout by inviting a friend to use Hangouts too. OR you could network with someone on Google+ to see if your Hangout works!
Hangouts works best if you’re using Windows 7 or higher and Mac OSX or higher.
Do I Need a Webcam to Use Hangouts?
Yes and no.
If you haven’t had a chance to make a small investment in a webcam (or if your computer screen or laptop doesn’t have a webcam), you can only send text messages to other Hangouts users.
However, if you do have a webcam, you can get started with Hangouts within a matter of minutes.
When I Start My Hangout What Are All of These Buttons and Icons?
Upon logging into your Hangout for the first time you’re going to see a left panel of icons and a top panel of icons. They are pretty self explanatory, but the following screenshots can give you a better idea of what each icon does:
Add People to a Hangout: When you click on this area, you can find other people who are your Gmail contacts or your connections that you’ve made inside of Google+. You can invite individual people or (if you’ve gone the extra step) you can invite people who are in specific circles that you’ve created. Since you will be using Hangouts for the first few times, just know you can have up to 10 people in a video call and up to 100 people inside of the text chat.
Mute Your Microphone: This is pretty self-explanatory. When you click on the microphone, you will toggle the microphone’s audio from on to off. If you are using an external microphone, you will mute the external microphone the same way.
Mute Your Video Feed: Again, this is self-explanatory. Each time you click on the camera, it will toggle your Google+ profile picture with your video feed. This will not mute your audio.
Adjust Your Bandwidth: One of the great things about a Hangout is that you can adjust how clear your video feed is based on the bandwidth you are utilizing. When you click on this section, you will see a slider that will allow you to transmit your video in HD or at the lowest quality.
Hangout Settings: Within this section you choose audio and video devices you can be using for each hangout. For example, if your external webcam is better than your laptop’s webcam, you can go into the video settings and change the input device to your external webcam. The same can be done if you are using an external microphone and your speakers. However, most of the time you will use the default settings for your Hangout session.
Hangup The Hangout (Red Telephone): When you click this button you will exit from the hangout all together. It’s just like hanging up a phone call.
On this left sidebar I will briefly describe what each icon is and its function. Each icon (or tool) can be toggled on or off by simply clicking.
Blue Chat Box: When you click this icon a chat box will appear on the right-hand side of the Hangout window you are in. Here, anyone who has been invited to the Hangout can type text or carry on a conversation if they don’t have a webcam or some type of audio device.
Screen Share: The green icon with the arrow pointing to the right gives a user the ability to share their screen and any window that is open on their computer. This is great for presentations or to show someone how to do something within a certain window.
Snap a Photo of the Hangout: This fun tool allows you to take a snapshot of the current hangout. Each snapshot is saved to your Google+ photo album as a Hangout with you and anyone else you are participating with. Each snapshot is unpublished unless you want to go in and share it to your Google+ timeline.
Hangout Toolbox: This is an application that is made by a third-party developer. Its function is to allow users to place a lower third name card on their screen, adjust other user volumes (as of a recent Hangout update, the ability to adjust other people’s volume is now native inside of the actual window), and track Google+ comments. This sidebar tool is a little more advanced, but I wanted to explain it to my audience for the sake of of showing them the different functions of the sidebar.
Business Hangouts: This is another third-party tool that I have been playing with as of recently. It’s for more advanced users of Hangouts who are looking to create webinars or trainings for their employees or customers.
Remote Desktop: This tool gives you the ability to login remotely to another person’s computer and perform keystrokes and mouse functions as if they were sitting right next to you. Don’t worry, someone just can’t access your computer at any time. End users have to give another person access to the computer they are using. This is a great tool if you are in the business of helping customers or co-workers on how to perform a specific computer task.
Google Effects: This is probably one of the most novel and fun things to do inside of a Hangout. In sum, Google Effects allows a person to wear digital masks like a pirate hat, eye patch, mustache, and much more. It’s a fun little tool if you’re just looking to fool around with friends.
Three Dots: The three dots that are at the bottom of this sidebar allow you to download other applications into the sidebar. Some of them are YouTube, Google Drive, Slideshare and more. I have downloaded these applications into the Hangout as a means to collaborate on projects that I have taken on.
Are My Hangouts Recorded?
If you are starting your hangouts from the menu that showed you in this blog post, then no. You’re just creating a regular ‘ol Hangout with your friends or a Hangout Party.
How Are My Hangouts Recorded?
Recorded Hangouts are termed as “Hangouts On-Air”. As I mentioned earlier, my sister has been performing these #HOA as a weekly show with other authorities. For each #HOA that she does, the video is transmitted live on the Hangouts On-Air tab under the Home menu of Google+. When you click on the tab you will see other live hangouts happening.
As each live Hangout happens, it is being recorded live to your personal YouTube channel. For advanced users, this is a bonus when it comes to building your authority in your given field.
If you didn’t know, recorded video has an incredible amount of SEO juice. So blogging doesn’t have to be your only answer when it comes to being found organically inside of a Google search. However, optimizing those videos takes practice. For the purposes of this post, you should know that your #HOA will be broadcast live and recorded to your YouTube channel.
Can I Use Hangouts On My Phone or Tablet?
Can I Use The Mobile Version of Hangouts as a Replacement for Sending Text Messages?
Google recently made an announcement that users will have the ability to send SMS messages from the Hangouts app. As of this blog post, the new version of the application hasn’t been released yet. However, it will release very soon and you will be able to make Hangouts as your main messaging app to handle your Hangouts messages and text messages from your service provider.
Can I Start a Hangout On-Air From My Mobile Device?
You can’t start a #HOA from your mobile device, but you can definitely join a #HOA if someone invites you into their live #HOA. If you are going to do this, it’s best your mobile device is connected to wi-fi and you are in area where there isn’t a lot of noise. Mobile devices pick up a lot of ambient noise and it can become annoying to the other users who are participating in the #HOA with you.
Should I Wear Headphones During My Hangout or Hangout On-Air?
For a #HOA, I would say you ALWAYS wear headphones because you are eliminating the sound that is coming from your speakers going into your microphone. If you’re not recording and you’re only hanging out with a friend, I’d say it’s OK to do without headphones, but it could become annoying if you’re trying to talk with them while you’re at a coffee bar or public venue.
Why Can’t I Just Use Skype or iMessage?
I’m not here to tell you that you have to use Hangouts, but I will tell you that its functionality only gets better as you use it more. You’ll soon realize that using other applications don’t compare to the Hangout functionality.
Since I have used Hangouts, I have been able to help clients get started on Google+ or troubleshoot issues that are happening on their computer in real time. Additionally, I have been able to collaborate on documents, presentations, and artwork–IN REAL TIME. This cuts my productivity time in half when I am able to be on a Hangout and see another person typing into a Google document. It’s remarkable.
So what’s the main difference between Skype and iMessage? The collaborative functionality of the application. Sure you can get the video capabilities of Skype and Facetime, but you are limited when it comes to sharing screens, troubleshooting or collaborating with multiple users. If you’re want to invite multiple people into a group Skype session, it’s required you upgrade to one of their paid plans. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not pay and just use Hangouts. Facetime doesn’t allow users to add multiple groups to a video call and there’s no function to share a screen from the desktop version.
Also, Skype is a program application that runs locally on your hard drive. Hangouts operates only in Google+ and in Gmail. I don’t know about you, but I always have my Gmail loaded, so it benefits me if I’m trying to get a hold of my sister or a client.
It’s my hope that I have been able to answer some questions when it comes to starting your first Hangouts session on Google+. I can promise you that the more you use it, the more natural it becomes to network with others on Google+. By no means will I ever tell you that you NEED to use Hangouts as your default chat client, but I will say that the more you use Google+, the more you will use the Hangouts portion. Google is making it a point that you will use their products at every turn, so there’s no denying the inevitable. But that choice I can leave up to you.
If you’re a beginner to Hangouts, what are some of your own questions?
If you’ve used Hangouts before, what are some of the questions you get asked?
Leave your comments down below so that you can help others who might be curious about using Hangouts.