How Google+ Hangouts Can Enhance Your Blog’s Community

How Google+ Hangouts Can Enhance Your Blog’s Community

Google+ Social Networking And Apps For Your WordPress Site
Just Hanging Out. Monkeying Around.

The Backstory

In a previous column, I discussed Tokbox and how it can help you to connect with your users.  An astute commenter asked me about Google+ Hangouts and how it might stack up.   In my response I said:

Google+ Hangouts is better for team work. It is easy to manage the list of participants and has lots of good sharing tools. It also offers the unique and incredibly cool function of letting people call in with their phones when they aren’t able to login. But it is poor for casual users. You have to sign up for Google+ to use it and, in general, Google+ apps are allergic to pseudonyms.

I stand by that, but I thought that I should mention a little more about what Google+ Hangouts can do.   Between the built-in capabilities and the growing app library, Google+ Hangouts has something to offer the personal and business user.

Hanging Out With Friends

Google+ Hangouts is, as you would expect, deeply mixed up with the Google+ Community.  To use it, you have to be a Google+ user.   The default method for selecting users is to choose from your Google+ network.  For your users to get the most out of Hangouts, accordingly, it helps a lot if your site is integrated with the Google+ network.

But if your site, users, and friends are all integrated with Google+, it can be quite easy and worthwhile to use.  Post to your Google+ account to let your friends know that a Hangout is afoot.  They can then log in and chat with text, video, audio or some combination thereof.  There are also apps that allow you to do something other than just chat with your friends, whether you enjoy penguins, backgammon, flight simulators, the LDS General Conference, or poker.

“Hanging Out”  With Your Employees

Manage Your Scrum (And Other) Teams Using Google+ Hangouts
Give Them A Push In The Right Direction And Then Hope It Works Out.

For those of you looking to manage teams using WordPress, there are a number of excellent tools. Symphonical‘s app for Hangouts, in particular, is amazingly helpful.  It allows you to easily create and share:

  • To Do Lists
  • Calendars
  • Scrum Boards
  • Swot Analyses
  • Meeting Agendas
When combined with the native Google+ Hangouts tools of screen sharing and chat, you are able to perform most of the functions in a Hangout that you would expect to be able to do in an in-person meeting.  Heck, you can even include the dreaded whiteboard.

Installation

You might be saying to yourself, “Well, this is all well and good, but what does it have to do with my WordPress-based site?”  Good question.  Thanks for asking.  What you can do is to install a button on your WordPress site that will allow your users to begin their own  Hangouts from your page.  You can also choose what apps that the Hangout includes on start-up.   By doing so, you can either help nudge your users into having certain kinds of interactions or create custom apps that can more fully structure those interactions.

Google+ Button For Launching Your Hangouts Event And App.
This Is What The Button Looks Like.

Check out the unofficial Hangout Apps site to get an idea of what is out there and might meet your needs.   If you find an app that you would like to use, get the id of the app (it is in the link) and add it to the call from your website.  To put together the call from your website, check out this handy tutorial.  For more experienced developers, there is a well-documented and easily navigated Hangouts API that can help you to begin creating custom applications for the platform.

To conclude, I was going to refer you to a demo video that would give a comprehensive explanation of how Google+ Hangouts works and looks, but muppets…