Google+ Hangouts: 6 exceptionally innovative uses by brands, bloggers and bands

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  • October 22, 2013
Fi Dunphy

Fi Dunphy

Content and Social Strategist

Google+ Hangouts is probably Google+’s biggest and most unique asset. And with the introduction of Hummingbird – Google’s revamped search engine – it’s looking like Google’s really stepping up its fight to dominate the social space… So knowing how to get your audience to engage with you on it is now more important than ever before.

We spotted a cool new event on Thursday in Google+ – one of the #shopthehangout series – and also participated ourselves in a live Hangout with Cadbury UK last year (they sent us chocolate, score!), so we thought we’d do a roundup of the innovative ways we’ve seen brands – food, fashion, automotive retail, and film and music – use this awesome Google+ feature, not only to increase engagement and brand awareness, but also to actually directly drive sales.


#Shopthehangout series – October 2013

Google recently  partnered with the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) to launch a new shopping app for Hangouts.

The app enables designers and retailers to host a multiway video chat about their products while customers simultaneously browse a curated selection of products available to purchase online… Exclusively through the Hangouts.

In the latest in the #shopthehangout series, Tina Craig from Bag Snob hosted a shoppable Hangout with designer Rebecca Minkoff. “Making history”, the #shopthehangout Hangout also included Dana Avidan-Cohn of InStyle Magazine, Hillary Kerr and Katherine Powers, founders of Who What Wear, Shea Marie, founder of Peace Love Chez, plus two Rebecca Minkoff fans.


Last year, ASOS also hosted what they called a ‘shopalong’ Hangout, and while it’s more of a show-and-tell guide to the hosts’ favourite items on the site than the innovative, integrated shopping experience offered by the CFDA’s shopping app, it demonstrates that fashion brands have realised the potential of G+ Hangouts and are continuing to innovate with this unique social tool.

During the live Hangout (as well as when watching in catch-up mode), viewers can shop interactively by clicking on the right-hand panel, circled in the screen shot above.

Below is a view of what the user sees when they click on any item in that right-hand panel – they’re taken through to Google Shopping’s Shortlists feature in a pop-out window so that they can browse the featured items without interrupting the video in any way:

Fi-right hand panel

Then, if they find anything they’d like to save for later (so that they can get back to concentrating on the Hangout), they can save it to their (customisable) Shortlists dashboard…


… Or visit the site itself:

Fi-site itself

Then, they view their shortlist in Google Shopping Shortlists after they’re done viewing the Hangout to buy there and then or save for a later date:

Fi-shopping shortlists

Providing an excellent example of how to cross-pollinate different social platforms (and, in this case, another two brands’ separate audiences) Rebecca Minkoff has linked the G+ Hangout event with her activity on Instagram by doing a takeover of the CFDA’s Instagram account, also promoting the event from her Facebook Page and Twitter profile:


Toyota Collaborator Hangout app – May 2013

Developed by Joystick Interactive, Toyota’s app transformed the experience of the online car configurator (a tool that a lot of car manufacturers now offer on their websites) by introducing it to the social media space, allowing users to collaborate with friends and family via a Google Hangout to create their own personalized Prius.

In addition to this, viewers were able to bring a salesperson from their local Toyota dealership into the live Hangout if they had any questions.

After designing their car, users were given the option to share it on Google+, Facebook, Twitter etc., and even use Google Maps to take a virtual test drive.

Penguin books’ Storytime Hangout app – May 2013

Developed by BBH London, Penguin wanted to allay the idea that tech is the enemy of the family and bring story time into the digital age.

The app transforms everyone on the Hangout – including the children themselves – into the characters from the tale, Three Billy Goats Gruff, allowing everyone to act out the story while they read the text displayed on the screen along together. Here’s a video of the app in action:

(If you fancy some fun ol’ bedtime reading tonight, you can visit the app here.)

This means of collaborative, transglobal storytelling has been achieved using head-tracking technology, which augments the participants’ faces with masks of the characters.

Regular Hangouts

Cookalong live with Hello Fresh – Sep 2012

Hello Fresh is an innovative food delivery service that operates in the UK, delivering ingredients and recipes to its customers’ doors.

This brand used Google+ Hangouts to help its head chef, Patrick Drake, connect with its audience in a live ‘cookalong’, with Patrick demonstrating the recipe, live, to six of the brand’s super fans, who set up to cook along with him during the Hangout.

This is a great example of how brands can get closer to their customers in a fun informal event – using an authoritative person who is integral to the company and offering their unique expertise to the viewers, who can interact with them, live.

LCD Soundsystem reunited over Google Hangout – Sep 2012

Edith Bowman presented a Google Hangout Q&A session with LCD Soundsystem and the filmmakers of Shut Up and Play the Hits, the band’s farewell concert, after the premiere of the film.

The band’s frontman, James Murphy, and the film’s directors, Will Southern and Dylan Lovelace, joined Edith Bowman in the cinema to participate in the Q&A, while the rest of the band tuned in from New York City via the Hangout.

Google, Pulse Films and DFA Records invited fans to submit their questions prior to the Hangout. The Q&A session was then live-streamed from London’s Hackney Picturehouse to 60 other cinemas around the world that also premiered the film.

Using Google+ Hangouts to link a film premiere with other cinemas and fans across the world, this event was the very first of its kind – a pretty impressive feat, and obviously rather a grand undertaking, but it still showcases what’s possible with Google+ Hangouts, with a little imagination.

Cadbury UK’s Winning Flavours Hangout – Jul 2012

Back in July last year, three us here at B3 Towers (Laura Crimmons, Georgia Halston and me) joined the Cadbury UK Winning Flavours Google+ Hangout, hosted by Jerry Daykin, when Cadbury invited Google+ users to join its exclusive Tasters Circle:


The three of us were lucky enough to have been invited to join the Hangout, and were sent no less than three big bars of the brand’s new Olympics 2012-themed chocolate products to open on the live Hangout and taste along with the other participants.

Being sent something in the post with a little hand-written note was a real treat and added a nice personal touch, and is a sure-fire way of adding weight and a sense of realness to any Hangout (or other online marketing campaign, for that matter). We love it when there’s an opportunity to bring stuff that’s happening online into the real world.

Fi Cadbury 2

This was Cadbury UK’s very first live Hangout, and was a brilliant way of getting the brand in front of people on Google+ – now, admittedly, being that Cadbury is the UK’s most beloved chocolate brand, it was probably rather an easy win, but the simple mechanic is most definitely transferrable to other brands, big and small. You just have to tap into what your audience wants… And then give it to them.

So, whether you have a huge budget to play with and want to experiment with an app to use with Hangouts, or you have next to nothing but some great expertise within your company to show off (no matter what kind of brand you are), use Hangouts to make a really personal connection with your followers and customers – they’ll love you for it.

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