Last November, Google+ rolled out new administrative features for Hangouts that made it easier for professionals to use the video tool in the workplace. Updates like the global address list and customization abilities made Hangouts a much more appealing option for internal use. This week, the company introduced another new feature that can make the tool better for businesses, schools, and governments.

Admins can now enable a setting that will show users a warning that they are chatting with someone outside of their own domain. When this feature is enabled, group chat conversations will be split when the first person from outside the domain is added to the discussion. As a result, this will prevent external individuals from seeing previous internal discussions.

Currently this update is only available on the desktop version of Hangouts; however, mobile app support is in the works and should be available soon. Although Google+ Hangouts can be a great way to hold company meetings, product unveilings, and brainstorming sessions, the biggest value comes from the ability to connect with an audience: your customers.

Social interaction online plays a critical role in marketing. It’s become increasingly easy for consumers to communicate with each other and with businesses, which is why brands have had to get more involved in the conversations. But sometimes a tweet or Facebook post isn’t enough. As a result, many companies have turned to Google+ Hangouts and YouTube videos to supplement their text updates with video content.

So when you’re not collaborating with team members, here are a few ways businesses, schools, and governments can use Hangouts to engage with consumers.

Humanize Your Brand

Creating content shouldn’t always be about pushing a product. By now you should know that automated and robotic-like messages aren’t effective tactics in engaging an audience. Instead, focus on personalizing your content and humanizing your brand. Google+ Hangouts provides businesses with a great opportunity to get face-to-face with your customers.

BakeSpace, for example, has made a name for itself in the social sphere by hosting weekly Hangouts on Google+. The digital publishing platform for cooking enthusiasts covers everything from live chats with celebrity chefs and recipe ideas to informative videos on wine pairing and how to get the most out of a food blogger conference. According to BakeSpace’s founder Babette Pepaj, the company’s Hangouts have around 100 live attendees on average.

As a community or social media manager, find out what’s important to your audience and discover ways in which your brand can help provide value in those areas. This might mean that you’ll have to explore topic ideas that aren’t a good fit for your blog. Experimenting with these topics through a Hangout will allow your viewers to feel more involved in the process and maybe even provide some value of their own for those who tune in later.

Educate Outside of the Classroom

There are a lot of possibilities for educators using Google+ Hangouts. Although we’ve already spoken with three educators about how they’re using the platform to further their organizations, here are a few more ideas to consider.

For starters, professors can hold office hours without anyone having to leave their home. You can log on and create a Hangout visible only to students. Leaving the window open for a specific window of time will allow students to “drop in” alone or in groups. Similarly, you can hold a video chat with a group of students to review difficult concepts from class while sharing YouTube videos that you can watch together.

Another great use case is Duke University. The school regularly utilizes Hangouts on Air to enable viewers to interact with campus faculty and students. For example, professors recently discussed why they participated in “Moral Monday” protests in Raleigh in one Hangout. In another, educators described their findings about recently discovered fossils. The university’s admissions office also held a series of video chats were prospective students could ask questions of current students.

Inform the Public

Although government organizations often have stricter privacy policies to follow, that hasn’t stopped them from taking advantage of Google+ Hangouts. In fact, even our current president has participated. President Obama made headlines in 2012 when he joined his first live video chat on Google+.

While the president’s appearances are few and far between, the White House still puts out an extraordinary amount of video content. Just last month, the White House held a Hangout in celebration of Black History Month with some of the nation’s most promising and prominent African inventors and innovators.

In some cases, you don’t even have to be on this planet to join a Hangout. NASA took video chatting to new heights in 2013 when it held a Hangout with the crew of the International Space Station. The organization continues to host regular video chats with astronauts here on Earth, as well as scientists and engineers in an effort to educate and inform the public on all of the awesome things they do.

Of course, these are just a few of the thousands of examples available of businesses, schools, and government bodies using Google+ Hangouts. The video chat tool is versatile enough that anyone looking to integrate video into their daily internal tasks or marketing strategies can do so. Hangouts are extremely easy to create and publish. If you’re looking for tips on how to get started, check out our past article on how to do.