helpoutSimilar to Google Hangouts (Google’s version of video chats like Skype), Helpouts are face-to-face videos chats, but with professionals and experts in a variety of fields. Google users can get in touch with a pro, ask them a question and pay them for their expert advice over video chat.

Google launched the service November 2013, and it’s already gotten a lot of attention. According to The Verge, Google built Helpouts with services like “cooking tips, home repair, guitar lessons and even healthcare” in mind. The first set of partners includes Weight Watchers, Sephora and One Medical.

Like Hangouts, the Google Helpouts product is bundled with Google+. With the service, businesses have “an opportunity to use [their] knowledge to teach others,” according to the Helpouts website. It’s available to desktop and mobile users, and it integrates each aspect of the service, from live video to payments, all within Google+.

Google Helpouts give brands:

  • “Immediate and global reach” – Google Helpouts aren’t hindered by geographical location or time zones – you can reach your customers anywhere and anytime. You’ll have the entire online world as a customer base, and you’ll be able to reach them instantly.
  • Flexible scheduling – Scheduling is built right into the Helpouts service, so you’ll be able to set up a schedule that’s convenient for you. Make yourself accessible to customers and give Helpouts “at home or on-the-go, on your computer or mobile device.”
  • Individualized payment options – You set the price for the Helpouts you offer customers. Use Google Wallet to accept payments from customers. You can set up a fixed price for each Helpout or you can charge per minute. The choice is yours!

Make the most of Google Helpouts for your brand

In order to begin offering Google Helpouts to customers, you’ll need to be accepted by Google. Request your invitation to become a Helpouts provider. There’s also an application you’ll have to fill out. While you’re waiting for Google to accept your application, you can prepare your Helpout strategy.

Set up any Google accounts you’ll need

To be a Helpouts provider, you’ll need to be a member of the appropriate Google services, including Google+ and Google Wallet. Make sure your company’s Google+ page is professional and engaging, since it will be linked directly to your Helpouts. To create a successful Google+ page for your business:

  • Focus on keywords as you fill up your page – Especially your introduction in the “About” section. Use this opportunity to include both keywords you want to rank for and keywords you know your customers are using, so you can get them on your page.
  • Add a badge to your site – You can create a badge through Google+ or use another site. Badges allow customers visiting your site to circle you without having to go to their own Google+ pages. Once they’ve circled you, they’ll get constant updates from you in their news feed.

Equip yourself with a computer, webcam and microphone

You won’t be able to engage with customers on Helpouts if you don’t have the proper equipment. Use any type of web-enabled device – Mac, PC, smartphone or tablet – as long as it has the Google Hangouts plugin installed.

According to Social Media Today, you may be able to get away with the webcam and microphone that is built in to your device. However, if you want a more polished look, or you’ll have to move around throughout the Helpout, a wearable microphone may be necessary. It’s important that you test all your equipment before you host your first Helpout.

Practice, practice, practice

In order to price your Helpouts fairly, you need to do a few trial runs before you go live with your service. Figure out how long it would take to give an explanation of a product, offer a consultation or maybe offer a how-to. Use these estimates to set up a time limit and attach a price.

You’ll also need to collect your ideas and plan out all the possible Helpouts your business could offer. The idea behind Helpouts is that you are offering your expertise to customers via video chat, so your presentation needs to be polished and well thought-out. Even if you plan on offering your Helpouts for free, it’s still important for your image that your Helpouts are of professional quality.

If you’d like, you can share information with viewers during Helpouts, including “Google Drive information, screen sharing and screen control access, and even have a recording of the Helpout stored in the participant’s Google Drive once it has finished,” according to Social Media Today.

The Takeaway

Google Helpouts are still a relatively new platform for businesses, so jump up to the plate to offer customers a unique service that many others in your industry probably haven’t utilized yet. It’s a value-added and relatively cheap way to engage with customers in a personal way and set yourself up as an expert in your field.