Rethinking Webinars: The Possibilities of Google+ Hangouts On Air

Last May, Google released the Hangouts On Air feature to their Google+ network. Prior to the launch, Google+ Hangouts were limited to 10 total participants in the video conference. Because Hangouts On Air automatically record and broadcast via YouTube, a video conference could be viewed live by an unlimited amount of people. With this added YouTube functionality, many marketers have begun producing and broadcasting interactive presentations via Google+ that combine elements from traditional webinars, expert interviews and roundtable discussions.

So, could Google+ Hangouts On Air completely replace your webinar strategy? Here are a few pros and cons:

Rethinking Webinars: The Possibilities of Google+ Hangouts On Air image Hangouts On Air 300x226The Pros:

Interactivity:

Perhaps the biggest selling point for Google+ Hangouts is the interactivity. Not only can viewers see the presenters via webcam, the participants are also visible via their webcams. Additionally, the host can un-mute any participant and bring their video feed to the main screen to ask a question or make a comment. A chat window is always open during the presentation, and the host can share his or her own screen to reference a webpage or slidedeck.

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YouTube Integration:

While many webinar and teleconference providers like WebEx and GoToMeeting provide audio/video replays after a presentation concluded, the YouTube integration with Google+ Hangouts is unmatched.

Not only does it broadcast the Hangout live via YouTube, it automatically uploads the video replay to the YouTube Channel associated with the Google account of the Hangout initiator. This could potentially replace several workflow steps: producing a recording of a webinar, exporting it or retrieving it from WebEx/GoToMeeting, and uploading it to YouTube.

Furthermore, the quality of the recording is equal to that of the broadcast itself, as opposed to being compressed in anyway.

Those who understand the power of repurposing content will appreciate the added benefits of publishing a webinar to YouTube.

The Cons:

10 Participant Ceiling

While an unlimited amount of people can view the broadcast via YouTube, a Google+ Hangout On Air is still limited to 10 live participants, including the host and guest(s). This of course limits interactivity to just those 10 within the Hangout. A traditional webinar with interactive functionality could field questions and comments from every participant within the presentation. A nice work-around would be to rely on Twitter to collect additional viewer questions and comments.

Lack of Lead Capture

Marketers who produce webinars and other online presentations for the purpose of generating leads may find the lack of lead capture functionality in Google+ Hangouts to be a deal breaker. In lieu of a traditional registration form, the 10 Hangout participants can only be invited via Google+, which means you must be connected with them on the network. While anyone can watch the live YouTube broadcast, there is no built-in way to capture those viewers as a lead without sending them to a form during or after the presentation.

While Google+ Hangouts On Air represent intriguing possibilities for interactive presentations, it may be rash to completely replace your traditional webinars with them. Due to the relative ease of planning and executing a Hangout, they should be considered as a way of supplementing your regular webinar schedule. Have you seen any interesting uses of Google+ Hangouts? Let us know in the comments below.

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