There are a lot of businesses doing some very creative marketing using Google+ “Hangouts On Air” — the Google+ feature that streams live video conferences to followers. If you aren’t yet one of them (or even if you are), you may be wondering just how this kind of live video can fit into your existing social strategy. Do you share Hangouts on Facebook and Twitter? Do you need to be popular on Google+ for your Hangouts to succeed?

One of the reasons Google+ Hangouts On Air makes for such a good promotion tool is that the platform can easily be worked into many different social strategies. We chatted with several organizations that are already successfully using Hangouts to get insider tips on just how Hangouts fits into a larger social strategy — and how you can make them work for your business, too.

What Social Networks Do I Need for Hangouts?

When it comes to creating a social presence on a new network, the first question you have to ask yourself is whether it’s worth taking the time and effort to establish and maintain an additional presence on that network. Hangouts On Air is tied in to Google+, and though you don’t need a successful Google+ presence to start using Hangouts, you will need to create a Google+ Page for your business if you don’t have one already. However, there are plenty of good reasons to create a Google+ presence, regardless of your Hangout strategy.

Hangouts On Air is also tied into YouTube, where Hangouts can be saved as static videos for viewing later. If you already have a YouTube presence, this will let you add new content with a low effort overhead — though don’t expect the quality to be as polished as non-live video that you’ve spent time editing. If you don’t already have a YouTube presence, you’ll definitely want to make one to save your Hangout videos for later viewing — which can be a great way to kickstart future YouTube success.

So while you do need accounts on Google+ and YouTube to take advantage of Hangouts on Air, having a regular presence on those sites isn’t essential for your Hangouts to succeed. You can promote your Hangouts on any social platform and embed your Hangout On Air on your website for live viewing, or embed the YouTube version after-the-fact. This flexibility to promote and embed video content anywhere makes Hangouts a very versatile medium that can work for anyone — not just Google+ stars.

A Variety of Approaches for Promoting Your Hangouts

When it comes to Hangouts, there’s as much variety in how they’re promoted as in how they’re formatted. In other words, every organization promotes its Hangouts a bit differently. While everyone we talked to does a standard push across the usual social networks like Facebook and Twitter, each organization we spoke to had a different focus for promoting Hangouts.

At Rasmussen College, Grant Tilus, Inbound Marketing Specialist, explains that the college uses its website to do Hangout promotion. Before the Hangout, the college publishes a blog post letting its readers know about it. After the Hangout is over it posts the video to YouTube and publishes a write-up with details and charts on its blog.

“It’s important to drive your audience to sign up on the Google+ event page. That way, registered attendees automatically receive an email reminder from Google,” Tilus explains. But even with that help, the number of live viewers can vary greatly, which is why Tilus encourages optimizing your videos for long-term potential. Once your Hangout On Air is over, it can have a second life on YouTube where it can garner even more views. “Now that YouTube is the second biggest search engine on the web [next to Google], creating video content via Hangouts On Air is a great way to ensure that your brand can be found.”

Online music lesson provider ArtistWorks has taken a different direction, opting to leverage partnerships to give its Hangouts the largest audience possible. Every Hangout ArtistWorks makes is done with the help of a partner, such as a music site or a community that co-hosts and helps to moderate the Hangout. “Because the Hangout is co-branded by the partner community,” says Ian Alexander, Vice President of Marketing at ArtistWorks, “they help us get eyeballs to the Hangout.” In return, “they get a unique event, streamed on their site with their name on it.” So far, according to Alexander, the partner communities have been very responsive and their members are wildly enthusiastic. “We’ve brought on a tremendous amount of new memberships to our schools for very little cost, and everyone wins.”

Google+ wasn’t a notable social channel ArtistWorks made much use of before Hangouts, but now Alexander tells us it’s one of the most effective social channels for the company. “When we started, we had a few hundred followers and nine months later we have nearly 100,000.” YouTube is a hit, too. “Most of the viewership of our Hangouts comes after the event itself. Up to 50X the people who watch live end up watching after-the-fact on YouTube, on our partner sites, or on our site.”

The Conversational Koine Institute does online language lessons using Hangouts for a fee. These pay-to-play videos aren’t available on YouTube, so the organization has taken to using Instagram video for promotion, creating 15-second “daily language” videos. Founder Michael Halcomb has just started Instagram promotion, but so far he says it’s achieving a lot of success.

How are you promoting Google+ Hangouts for your business? Share your thoughts in the comments!

[Image credits: Maryland GovPics]