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There is a big brou-haha going on about the “death” of Google+. Rather than weighing in with a speculative post like so many in mainstream media and online “gurus”, I choose to concentrate on the postive aspects of the platform I believe to be the biggest change in online communcations since the interactive website.

From Fortune 500 companies sponsoring charitable events that use mobile Hangouts on Air, to major brands selling cars and high fashion clothing in Hangouts, there are a lot of incredibly creative and often lucrative uses of Google+ and the tools it provides.

Regardless what you may have heard or read about Google+ being a ghost town, or worse, many forward-thinking brands have been doing extraordinary things with the Google+ platform and the feature-rich free tools it provides.

Here are some recent examples.

Virtual Field Trips
Forbes G+ Work HangoutsAs part of the 21st annual take your children to work day, Forbes and Google teamed up to use Google+ Hangouts on Air to introduce children professionals from all walks of life who discussed their day-to-day roles and how they got there, so students—regardless of budget or geography—could be exposed to a wide range of careers and get excited about their future.

Virtual meetings, via Hangouts on Air, included a Senator, a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a celebrity chef and a Forbes editor. The cost? None.

Live language classes in Hangouts
Verbling teams learners with teachers in live language classes – one to one or in groups – where they can subscribe to practice in Hangouts with native speaking teachers who are rated by students. Tutors set their own prices for private lessons.

Buying cars via Hangouts
For the launch of the 2014 Toyota Corolla, Toyota USA created the Toyota Collaborator app for Hangouts on Air in which you can customize a Toyota, inside and out, and do a virtual test drive in a hangout with nine friends and even bring in a local dealer to get the price.

The company sought to drive involvement from a younger audience by promoting their Google+ content with +Post ads. For this campaign, Google reports, Toyota USA saw a 50% higher engagement rate than the industry average for rich media ads.

Shoppable Hangouts
Google has partnered with several brands to create Shoppable Hangouts where you can buy the products shown from within the hangout. Diane vonFurstenburg did the first one and many other brands have been experimenting. http://www.whatsnextblog.com/2014/01/fashion-brands-partner-with-google-for-shoppable-googleplus-hangouts/

+Post Ads
+Post AdA new form of advertising is now available to brand pages with more than 1,000 Google Plus followers.
+Post Ads monetize Google+ without putting any ads in the social stream.

With +Post ads brand pages pay to push their G+ posts into Google’s Display Advertising network of more than 3 million websites, targeted to bring content to precisely suited audiences.

Advertisers will only pay when a user hovers over the ad for two seconds, which will cause it to expand on the screen. +Post ads are in beta for a limited set of AdWords advertisers. You can apply to use them here.

The posts are fully interactive: people can comment on them, +1 them, watch a video, join a Hangout, follow the brand, add a photo and re-share them right from the site where they see the ad.

Since the ads are contextual, they can serve to build brand goodwill and authority instead of annoying readers by interrupting what they were trying to do.

+Post Ad content works on every screen – desktops, tablets, and smartphones. And + Post ads also have the ability to rank within the organic search results and within the Knowledge Panel associated with a brand, on the right side of the search engine results pages.

Paid Private Google+ Events
Last week, in a private, paid Hangout on Air, Joan Stewart and I ran a private webinar on how to use Google+ communities to connect with influential people. Thirty-six people joined the Hangout, which was visible only to those who had paid to register. (If you missed it, you can still sign up and watch the replay.)

We did not pay GoTo Webinar $99 a month for a subscription. We did not pay anyone because Hangouts on Air are free and are automatically integrated with your connected YouTube Channel – where they can be private and therefore available only to paid participants.

Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 9.14.13 PMBurberry integrated G+ with mobile and desktop apps
In June, Burberry, which has 3.5 million followers on G+, partnered with Google to create a Burberry Kisses app and website to let people capture their kisses by direct contact with their touch screen device, adding a personalized message and sending them to friends across the globe.

During the campaign there was 253,000 search results for “Burberry Kisses” on Google.com. Within the first 10 days of the campaign going live, 13,000 cities sent a kiss and a total of 109 million miles were traveled by kisses as of June 25 2013.

With Google’s, Burberry effectively combined Google+, mobile, websites and advertising for its creative campaign.

Binky PatrolMobile Hangouts for Charity events
Mobile hangouts like the ones produced by Susan Finch, founder of Binky Patrol, bring a new level of citizen journalism forward.

With nothing but a laptop and a phone, Susan produced dozens of interviews with participants in the April 26th Binky Patrol Binkathon. The goal: to make hundreds of fleece blankies for children in need.

The April 26 day-long event was sponsored by ComCast, who provided the wifi. The recipients of more than 300 blankies made by 100 volunteers were Ronald McDonald House, victims of the mudslides in Washington State, as well as local area shelters, hospitals and transitional housing. The cost? No money. Just a lot of love.

The learning curve
M+logoIs there a learning curve to producing a Hangouts and events in Google Plus? I won’t kid you, there is, and it’s pretty steep. That’s why a small pack of companies, including my company, Maximum-Plus.com, has sprung up to train companies and produce events. But, as the brands highlighted here, and many others will attest, the results are worth the time and effort it takes.