Google has been slowly but surely making improvements to its Hangouts tool, and companies have been taking advantage of its ever-expanding abilities. From the addition of the Hangouts on Air feature to the integration with Communities, Google+ has proven its worth for businesses that want to try creative ways of interacting with their fans and clients.

The smartest uses of Google+ Hangouts are happening at brands that give video a prominent role in their marketing strategies. Conferencing and hosted chats can be smoothly integrated with the rest of a media plan; after all, it’s just another side of the video coin. Also, even when the Hangouts are focused on a company or product, these brands still remember that a good social plan looks outward toward the customers. These three brands each take a different approach in the type of Hangouts they host, but all of them use the power of video for the purpose of customer engagement.

1. Glamour Magazine

Video is a natural match for magazines where the bread and butter are articles about fashion and beauty products. Glamour Magazine has capitalized on the potential for video to offer better demonstrations and better education that the printed page can. The publication is designed to be informative, and Hangouts bolster that end goal.

One example is how-to videos. Glamour brings beauty and style professionals into the studio to walk fans through the creation of particular looks. Whether it’s giving make-up tips or demonstrating a new hairstyle, these Hangouts take the information that you’d normally find in a series of photos and text and bring it to life. Plus, the unique sponsorship angle helps Glamour to leverage its business relationships, showing off what both parties have to offer style-conscious viewers.

Another angle is industry and celebrity chats. The magazine hosts conversations about topics that would be of major interest to its audience, such as a party for the Oscars or a discussion about Fashion Week. These Hangouts are all about building community.

Glamour has been making good use of YouTube videos on its Google+ page, so integrating real-time Hangouts with fans just adds another dimension to cultivating brand awareness and loyalty. Getting readers involved gives them a personal stake in the information Glamour shares, and the topic of physical appearance is about as personal as things can get. Even though not all of the Hangouts are open to viewer conversation, the closed ones were accompanied by active social media chats. The brand is always open to involving its fans in the current conversation as well as keeping them in-the-know on the style front.

2. Cadbury

Food brands can have a hard time mobilizing social audiences since the appealing qualities about what we eat, such as taste and smell, can’t be shared online. Cadbury has turned to video formats as a way to get its candy and chocolate brands as close to customers as possible. The brand has done noteworthy things with Vine, and its take on Google+ Hangouts adds a new level of engagement to its video strategy.

Cadbury has tried out several ideas for getting people involved with its merchandise through Hangouts. Recently, the brand hosted a miniseries of chefs making Cadbury-centric desserts in the kitchen, walking fans through step by step. The company also takes a light-hearted approach for some Hangouts, such as the Tasters Circle events where different chocolates get sampled and compared by fans.

Whatever tone the company sets, the focus is most frequently on the product. The Google+ page for Cadbury is sprinkled with photos and videos of the various candies. It serves as a fan page as much as a brand resource, with fun posts that lend themselves to sharing. Cadbury has shifted to mostly use the Hangouts on Air feature, which records the broadcasts and posts them to YouTube. This makes the Hangouts just one component in a bigger fan conversation about Cadbury’s candy and chocolate.

3. Dell

Calling customer support is frequently a source of dread, especially when the problem centers on computers. Over the past few years, Dell has solved this issue by hosting Google+ Hangouts to cope with support questions. Not only do these broadcasts answer questions, but they establish Dell’s reputation as a customer-centric brand. This can help set current customers’ minds at ease about their purchases, and it will secure them as repeat clients to know that getting any necessary advice is easy.

Dell’s Hangouts also go beyond troubleshooting. The company hosts broadcasts on computing topics, such as data backup, cloud computing, and security for virtualized environments. Some of the Hangouts are centered on the company’s Google+ Communities. For instance, the Dell TechCenter group has regular chats focused on a specific topic.

Whatever the subject, Dell is using video content to inform. It might take the form of addressing a particular client problem or presenting technical concepts to laypeople, Hangouts work to demystify the world of computers. In fact, the company even created a SlideShare presentation that explained how to join a Google+ Hangout, so even those new to the tool can be unintimidated by the technology. Taking this approachable tone goes a long way to securing good relationships with customers.

[Image credit: Andy Rennie, Cyron, Dell Inc.]