Google+ Hangout Etiquette: The DOs and DON’Ts of Hanging Out

April 9, 2012


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 Developed by search giant Google, Google+ is one of the fastest growing social networks. In Q4 '11 the network added more than 37 MM users alone, membership has grown to more than 65 MM as of January ‘12, which caused brands to take notice of the quickly expanding platform. Since the network is relatively new, and their approach to social interactions drastically differs from Facebook, brands are able to experiment with the multiple features that Google+ offers. One of the differentiators is a live video chat function called “Hangouts”, which can accommodate up to 10 people chatting online via video simultaneously.

Hangouts are proving to be a popular way for brands to connect with their fans. The Muppets helped launch Google+ with one of the very first Hangouts and since then, other brands such as Dell and Macy's have experimented with this innovative technology. Even President Obama has held a Hangout discussing unemployment, cost of living, and military activities which showcase the potential influence of the feature. Hangouts are a great way for brands to put a face to their companies and engage in real-time, but like any other meeting or conference call, brands should be aware of their ‘Hangout etiquette.' Below are some general DOs and DON'Ts hosts and invitees should consider before participating in or hosting a Hangout¦

Typically a Hangout hosted via a brand page is public and open to anyone within the Google+ community. Additionally, once an individual joins a Hangout, they cannot be removed, even by the host, once you open the doors to the party your guests will stay as long as they like. For brands that want to prevent Hangouts from being broadcast too widely, DO create a “Circle” that only includes the invitees you'd like to attend. Creating a circle ensures that access is reserved for the Hangout of that particular “Circle” of friends.

DO consider who should participate in the Hangout. The session could be a casual meet and greet between a brand's spokesperson and the Google+ community, or it could be an extension of a media and analyst briefing between a brand product manager, industry analysts, and media beat reporters.

If there are multiple participants in a Hangout DO ask them to mute their microphones during the introduction and activate their microphone when they want to contribute or ask a question.

DO solicit Twitter and Google+ communities to promote the Hangout and ask those communities for discussion topics to be addressed by the Hangout host. Feature such questions in the Hangout and share insights with respective communities.

DO consider convenience. The convenience of the Hangout via Google+ and the one-on-one interaction helps to humanize the brand, and forge a deeper relationship with members of the media. Media will also be appreciative of the ‘face-time' and cost-savings as Hangouts provide in-depth information without the lengthy travel time and costly fees.

DO establish an agenda and time duration for the Hangout session in order to keep on topic and orderly. Conversations can easily be derailed, so be sure an agenda is available and presented at the beginning of the Hangout to set expectations for participants.

DO limit the duration of the Hangout to suit the needs of the topic. Respect the time of your audience. However, if there is a lot of interest in a certain topic, offer to host another in the near future and continue the dialogue within the brand's Google+ page. When a Hangout concludes, a notification is made within the brand's newsfeed. Use that space to recap and continue the dialogue.

DO consider merchandising the Hangout once the session is concluded. The Hangout session is limited to a small group so consider recording the Hangout and sharing with the brand's Google+ community at large. This is a great way to extend reach and share dialogue with those who couldn't attend. I also suggest making an investment in quality video capture software for a sustainable program. Free screen capture software is also available to capture the Hangout and share with your community.

Be sure to identify a host. DON'T jump into a conversation and expect everyone to contribute in an organized manner. This is a new technology and ground rules need to be set to ensure a positive experience for all participants.

DON'T completely script conversations. The conversation should be a flow of ideas and feedback from the group. The Hangout is an opportunity to show the brand personality and have meaningful dialogue with an audience interested in the content. Use the audience's feedback to shape the direction of the conversation and focus on topics that have generated the most interest.

If you've participated in or hosted a Google+ hangout personally or professionally I'd love to hear about your experience. Please feel free to share any thoughts or questions in the comment section below.