Here’s how 26 companies large and small use G+ Hangouts as their Intranet
Examples from startups to multi-national corporations
By B.L. Ochman
When it comes to Google+, Mark Twain’s 1897 statement to the New Yorker is timely: “‘The report of my death was an exaggeration’.
Despite multiple media unsubstantiated proclamations that Google+ is dead, companies ranging from startups to multi-billion dollar multi-nationals have adopted Google+ Hangouts and Communities for a variety of internal communications functions that help them run their businesses.
Organizations large and small – like the 26 I interviewed for this post – have come up with creative ways to use the Hangout platform. For example, global social advertising technology company Unruly, with offices in London and New York, keeps a Hangout open all day so staff in both offices can easily strategize and schmooze as if they were in the same office. Others do onboarding and continuing education via Hangouts, and some create wire frames, flow charts, mind maps and more in Hangouts.
Among the potential applications of Google+ Hangouts for internal communications within organizations:
- Provide information to staff and stakeholders about product updates
- Collaboratively edit documents, spread sheets, slides, wire frames and more within Hangouts
- Maintain contact with work-at-home staff & staff in remote locations
- Conduct online training program
- Hold brainstorming sessions
- Share and evaluate planned marketing activities
- Easily record meetings to private videos in connected YouTube account
- Facilitate project team communications and planning
- Maintain contact with volunteers (public sector or charitable organizations)
- Share YouTube Videos for training, for fun or creative endeavor – everyone can watch the same video but have different volume controls (including mute) and anyone can change, play or pause a video.
- Restrict posts and Hangouts to your domain
- Schedule and join video calls from Calendar or Gmail
- Set company-wide defaults from the Admin Console
- Conduct internal focus groups for UI, market research, policies, etc.
- Create company-wide polls
- Hangouts are indexed and stored in Gmail accounts for easy access
- Accessible from all operating systems, on all connected devices Apple, Android
- Video can be kept private or shared via Google+ or YouTube with your whole team, clients, customers, or anyone else who might be interested.
- Apps, such as Cacoo, provided within Hangouts make creating diagrams, drawings, wire frames, organizational charts and documents simple and collaborative
Here are 26 examples of how companies large and small are using Hangouts as Intranets:
1- Google: Talk about eating your own dog food
Google employees participate in around 20,000 Hangouts a day internally, according to Chee Chew, Google’s vice president of engineering for real time communication in Google+.
2- Howard Brodwin of Get Out Technologies, an outdoor sports startup, says the company uses Google+ circles to organize team members and departments for collaboration and Hangouts are used for the founders to discuss pending deals, partnerships, marketing, PR, and more in real-time; and for face-to-face employee on-boarding with online video tutorials, collaborative docs, Hangouts with training team etc.
“Could we do all this via phone and email? Sure,” Brodwin says. “…there’s really more of a sense of a team when everyone is in the same room, and we all get that vibe on the hangout.”
3- Anna Coats, marketing manager at Squaremouth, a travel insurance comparison website, says that, besides meetings, “We have moved to holding all first employment interviews via hangout, and have completed almost 15 last month, with one new hire,” she says. “And, of course, it’s free.”
4– Edward Hanapole, CIO at educational services company Kaplan, told The Wall St. Journal that Google+ hangouts presented convenience other resources just couldn’t offer. Collaboration in Google Docs and Gmail provide seamless, real-time, much simpler communications than Skype, he says.
Hanapole said over more than 200 employees at the test preparation company use Google+ and Hangouts on a daily basis to connect development teams with product managers, collaborate on product creation, and to conduct both management meetings and ad-hoc meetings for technology updates.
More efficient than email
5- Sealed Air CIO Warren Kudman said his 400 employees are using Google+ Hangouts for both impromptu and scheduled business meetings. “It’s social inside the enterprise but it’s business oriented,” Kudman said. “Everybody loves it.”
He also said he sees the Google+ service, which allows users to send messages and other content, as somewhat of a more efficient replacement for e-mail.
6- Smokeball, a legal technology company that builds software for small law firms, created a private community inside Google+. “The first reason why we gave Google Plus a try: it’s free, easy to get started and most people already have a Google account.
The final reason why we chose Google Plus? It is easy to control who is part of the community and keep the conversations private, without being on a private network. This means that we can post interesting stuff from the wider Google Plus network into our community, without having to worry about content in our community being shared with the wider Google Plus network.
“It provides a kind of security blanket; people are more likely to use a network if they feel safe within its walls.”
7- Stacy Sendler, Marketing and Communications Manager of Scroll Motion says, “With offices in both New York and San Diego, we rely on Google+ Hangouts as a primary form of communication.
From screen shares to audio calls, we find Hangouts to be more effective than traditional connectivity methods like WebEx or dial-ins.Almost all of our meetings are conducted via G+ Hangout (both one-to-one and one-to-many).
8- Jun Group a NYC-based company that gets millions of people to see branded content through its video distribution and traffic-driving platforms, has “outfitted several of our conference rooms with Chromeboxes so that we can use video Hangouts and collaborate on documents. They’re an effective way for remote employees to coordinate, especially for our tech team. “
9- ExpressBusinessLoans.com uses Google Hangouts to facilitate project management meetings. “Teams can edit a Google drive sheet we have created that is based on SCRUM to see what tasks and milestones have been met,” according to John Lynch, Marketing Director.
10- Matthew R. Edwards, Marketing Manager at Progressive Automations in Vancouver, British Columbia, says “We use Google Hangouts every day for regular internal communication.” We also use Hangouts to communicate with contractors, instead of leaving phone messages or emails. “It saves us so much time!”
11 Joseph Price, COO of Boston-based Spotlight Parking, a startup that calls itself the Uber of valet parking, says, “Ever since our days in the Tufts University incubator at The Gordon Institute, we have used Google Hangouts for our corporate meetings, Google Drive to manage all Sales, Marketing, Operations, and App Development documentation, and Gmail is currently our email provider.
As a student-run enterprise, Google+ provided us with the most cost-effective yet powerful platform to grow our business.”
12- CEO and founder, Christopher Robbins, of the small publishing house, Familius says “Thanks to Google+, Familius has been able to build a team based on employee interest and skill, not location.
They use Google Drive in screen sharing within hangouts to collaborate projects. We keep track of book title assignments and deadlines, see live updates on marketing plans, and have a makeshift database for media contact information (we’re always reaching out to new media). Google Drive really gives us the opportunity to be a unified company despite the employees working in different time zones. “
13- Randstad a 20 billion dollar staffing company with more than 5,000 employment experts on staff, uses Google Hangouts for all internal communications.
Randstad puts an average of approximately 100,000 people to work in the U.S. each week, through its network of nearly 1,000 branches and client-dedicated locations.
14-Thrillist Media Group (TMG) a subscription-based fashion and lifestyle site for young men, reaches over 11 million of them across the globe, every single day.
“Hangouts makes us nimble. We can respond to shopping trends in real-time by being able to easily meet, share, and act in real time.
We eat, sleep and breathe Google Analytics, which can be part of our Hangouts.”
15- Owen Hemsath, president at Videospot a video marketing company in San Diego, says “We’ve transitioned our Monday morning calls to a Monday Morning Hangout using Google+ Hangout (aka YouTube Live). The app actually increases our ability to create culture in that we’re dealing face-to-face instead of over a conference call and the ability to screen share dramatically increases the efficacy of our sales reporting.
Similarly, absent or traveling staff are able to watch the recording minutes after broadcast and catch up on the weekly events. Hangouts help to keep the whole team attentive, actively engaged and on course.
16- shortstacklab.com is a DIY solution for contests, promotions, sweepstakes, “and most anything else your imagination can cook up. Google Hangouts is our choice for staff meetings because it’s free, it’s stable, it’s incredibly easy to use and since we use the Google platform for our Calendar and Email it’s convenient,” says Sara Piccola, the company’s “Mistress of Propaganda.”
17- “TapSense’s product and technology focus require quick iterations and active, cross-functional communication,” says Ash Kumar, CEO. “Google’s Drive and Hangouts in both web and native app formats enable us to do that quite effectively. The platform is intuitive, accessible across multiple devices and involves minimal employee on-boarding time. This is particularly helpful with a rapidly growing team that craves information anytime, anywhere, and on the go.”
18- Jason Parks, owner of Media Captain says “Our Digital Marketing Agency, uses Google+ Hangouts constantly. We all use Gmail for our email communication and it was a no brainer 2-years back switching to Hangout when we need to have face-to-face interaction between numerous associates.
Whether someone on the team is at a trade show or out of town for a video shoot, mobile Google+ Hangouts are a great way to stay in touch with a person while being able to see their surroundings.”
19-Select Registry is a portfolio of more than 300 inns, bed and breakfasts, and boutique hotels throughout North America
Renee Flowers, Director of Marketing, says the board appointed a new CEO in April and he immediately moved the entire staff to the Google platform. “It was an interesting process. He tells stories about the first time he “flipped the switch” – transferring everyone’s email to Gmail and sending a small wave of terror through the company. Since then, we’ve adopted Hangouts for most internal meetings
We don’t have a traditional “network” so we use Hangouts with Drive, PPT, excel exclusively for creating and sharing documents internally and externally.”
20- Lance Padgett, Search Marketer and Designer at Formstack, an online form building tool, says the firm relies heavily on Google+ Hangouts for daily operations.
“We’re able to include our remote employees in every day activities as if they were truly in the room Using Hangouts is the best way to communicate quickly and regularly.
We also use Hangouts for interviews and to help train new staff and conduct interviews and for orientation sessions for new employees.”
21-CEO Erin Kathleen Gargan, Socialite.com which creates social media for live events, says “I run my national company remotely relying solely on Hangout for about 100 clients, employees, vendors etc. No faceless conference calls allowed!!
I am the Google Hangout enforcer- even to one of my venture capital clients full of older, tech challenged people.
She switched from Skype to Hangouts, she says, because “The challenge there was even with Skype Premium, when you add a third conference person, many times it drops the call or freezes.”
The hardest part is actually even getting clients or contractors to signup, install or download anything if they are video conferencing virgins. They usually make an excuse about how they “aren’t allowed to use web cams at work”, or “can’t we just jump on a conference call to keep it easy since I’ll probably be in the car”.
At that point (if they are at least 10 years older then me) I tell them that conference calls are “so 90’s”. “You don’t want to be old school do you? Can we please try it once and then if you hate it we’ll go back to conference calls?
Even the stodgiest C level execs finally gives in for fear of appearing irrelevant. Then they are hooked and never want to go back.
22- Andrew Garberson, Manager of Search at Lunametrics, says the company uses Hangouts for a weekly training session called LunaVersity, and uses Google+ private communities to share and discuss industry news.
“Not surprisingly, we use other Google Apps, too. We like the Basecamp integrations with Google Calendar and collaboration from Google Drive. We’re big Google fans at LunaMetrics.”
23- Tara Mulloy, Content Marketer and Media Relations Manager at Unruly, told me, “With 13 offices worldwide, our marketing technology company uses Google Hangouts everyday to connect and stay in touch with everyone from New York to London to Singapore – and everywhere in between!
In fact, our NYC and London offices have daily direct feeds so we can see into each other’s offices in real-time. It’s great for global teams, which at Unruly, there are many! (Hangouts can remain open for up to 8 hours.)
I was just on a Google hangout with a colleague who is traveling to our LA office today, and as I look around I can see at least 3 others in a Hangout with teams in our London office.
24- Abigail Jaffe of LaunchSquad said their all employees of their client, InVision, work remotely. The design collaboration platform with over 450,000 users at companies like LinkedIn, Yahoo, Uber, Airbnb, Oracle, uses Hangouts for weekly conference calls, internal meetings and impromptu check-ins and updates.
Employees stay in touch across time zones and eliminate clunky dial-ins and overflowing inboxes.
25- Jane Gibbons of Kurve, says “The reason we chose it initially was because of convenience. We use Gmail throughout the business, so it made sense to have a chat function that allowed us to communicate quickly without clogging up our inboxes. It’s instantaneous and syncs well with Google drive, which is where we store most of our shared work and information.
Being able to start a conversation, send files and even conduct training sessions are all very easy due to the integrated nature of Hangouts.
26- Lauren Tietjenis Global Communications Director at Octagon, a leading sports and entertainment marketing agency with 800 employees in 68 offices, across 22 countries on 6 continents notes, “Needless to say, it’s tough to get everyone into one meeting.”
We’ve used Google hangouts for global meetings and as an incredible tool for internal communications.
Skype v Hangouts
Many of the companies I interviewed had used Skype before Hangouts, but abandoned Skype when making comparisons:
In small type, Skype warns: “Group video calling can be between 3 and 10 people, depending on the device. For best quality, we recommend up to 5 people.”
Google+ is here for the long haul
Recent upgrades in Hangouts announced by Google Social Media Director Dave Besbris, make it clear that Google is not abandoning what is arguably the best video conferencing platform ever. (And it’s free)
Google recently added Hangouts to Google for Work, its suite of online tools that help organizations and employees communicate and collaborate more effectively. Beyond video chatting, Hangouts allow real-time collaboration with every Google app, from email to spreadsheets, to Analytics and documents. Documents, Analytics, Sheets, Slides, Draw, Drive and Calendar. And you get access to them from anywhere, anytime, on any device.
You don’t want to be old school, do you?
On Wednesday, Oct 22 from 3-4 pm EDT, I am producing a free Hangout on Air for PRSA NY as part of Communications Week NY. Guests include John Yembrick, social media manager of NASA and Sona Patel, social media editor of The NY Times.
You can watch and ask questions in real-time on the Google+ event page (you will need a Google account to ask questions) or on YouTube from any connected device
B.L. Ochman is CEO of Maximum-Plus.com – Events and Training for Google+ Success, serving leading brands, associations and agencies. As a digital strategist, GooglePlus Helpouts coach, YouTube Channel Creator, President of whatsnextonline.com, and publisher of What’s Next Blog, she’s been helping blue chip companies incorporate new media into their marketing mix since 1996. B.L. contributes to Ad Age Digital Next, Social Media Today and others and has spoken at more than 25 marketing conferences. Follow B.L. on Google+ or Twitter.