Friday, 5 August 2011

Why Hangouts Are Here to Stay

Why Hangouts Are Here to Stay


I love hanging out. I would rather hang out than chill, relax, chillax, or “hang.”

So it makes sense I’m excited about Google Hangouts, but the idea of the “hang out” is bigger than just group video chat and won’t depend solely on Google+’s success.

Hanging Out Is Fun

First of all, let’s think about what the “Hangout” symbolizes. In Google+, you don’t have to connect for a 1:1 video call to start using the feature, you basically flip a switch that lets your friends know that you’re available.

Lots of services currently focus on “checking in” to let friends know what you’re doing or where you are. But a check in is not an invitation to hang out. Look for more services to start building experiences that encourage people actually hanging out and discussing things over pushing status updates. I’m sure many of us would prefer people “hang out” with our brands than simply “check in” with them.

Big Hangouts Are Already Taking Place Outside of Google+

Video chatting elicits strong opinions from every generation. From Millennials to Boomers, there’s a range of reactions from “it’s not for me” to “I would only ever use video chatting for 1:1 conversations.” According to research from Pew Internet & American Life, 23% of Americans have participated in video calls. Expect people of every generation to become more familiar with the technology as mobile apps from services like Skype and FaceTime and living room web cams for Xbox and PS3 become more prevalent.

On top of that, unfortunately for those of us who may not be totally excited about being camera ready 24/7, teens and tweens are already using sites focused on group video chatting and different brands are already getting involved. Sites like TinyChat and Stickam have decent-sized audiences and bands like Maroon 5 have already gotten involved with using live group streams to connect with their fans.

Video Carries Higher Emotional Bandwidth than Just Text or Images

Video is a very emotional medium. Though we may treasure the texts and photos we receive from friends, the value of seeing someone react to what you’re saying cannot be underestimated.

We see this translated in the way our society perceives video calling in general. Just look at this old AT&T commercial and compare it to the way Apple is currently advertising the iPad.

The idea of close connections with friends and family regardless of your distance apart resonates.

The Future of Hanging Out

So what’s your strategy for getting people to hang out with your brand?

You can copy the Google+ and TinyChat model directly, looking to build interest in hangouts with your brand through group video chat. If you want to reach music fans, a branded room can be a good way to get people hanging out with you.

Moving forward we’ll see more brands creating these social experiences. While people have focused for years on social being about the “conversation,” hanging out will push us into an era that will focus more on the experience of spending time with the brand than simply posting status updates, Likes, and shares back and forth between brand and consumer.

Simeon Spearman, 08.02.2011

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