Google Hangouts is one of the coolest things that Google has rolled out in some time. It might be the closest thing yet to the video phone that we used to see in sci-fi movies. It allows you to talk to up to 10 people simultaneously, on video, for free. In addition it has text chat capability which makes it better yet.
More and more businesses are starting to incorporate live chat into their websites. Whether to provide customer service or as an additional sales tool the power of a live connection when potential or existing customers are on your website is obvious. If live salespersons and live customer service was not the most effective way to get the job done retail stores wouldn’t employ people to do those jobs. Google Hangouts is the closest thing to a live salesperson you can get on the web.
In addition to video chat Google Hangouts has a lot of great features that extend the functionality of the application. It can work on any device, including smartphones. Imagine the potential. Someone is on your website looking at pictures of the cars that you have for sale. One in particular catches his eye so he initiates a live, video conversation from your websitewith one of your staff. He saw the vintage 1976 Trans Am that you have for sale on your lot and he likes it. He would love to check it out but unfortunately lives 1,000 miles away.
Thinking quickly your sales person says, “no problem’ and takes the gentleman and the video Hangout (via her smartphone) out onto the lot. She shows the car to the interested party. The video lets her show every part of the car. She fires it up and opens the hood to the buyer can hear the engine running. She even gets in and takes it (and him) for a spin around the lot.
This kind of “in person” interaction answers all the questions that the buyer has and as a result she makes the sale and arranges shipping. This is just one example of the potential of Google Hangouts for a business. The applications for your business are only limited by your imagination. Trade shows, webinars, retail sales, etc.
Right now there don’t seem to be many third party applications that will allow your customers to launch a Hangout directly from your website. Since I work mainly with WordPress sites I searched for a Google Hangouts plugin for wordPress and found a few but none that I really wanted to promote as being reliable.
However, there is a way to launch a Hangout from your website it is described on the Google Developers site and I chose that method to create the live example you can see in the widget section to the right of this blog post (2nd widget from top). For now I only have the demo running on the blog section of my site.
Google Hangouts On Your Website
If you go to the Hangouts Button page from the Developers site link above you will see the directions to install the button that launches a Google Hangout right from any page on your website. You will also see a lot of code and if you are like most people your eyes will glaze over and you will quietly exit the page.
Don’t go just yet though because it is not that hard. I will show you how to quickly get the job done with just the knowledge you already have.
Once you are on the Google Hangouts Button page on the Google Developers site just scroll down the page until you get to the section titled “Examples”.
Under that heading is a box with code titled “Basic Page”. This is the code that you need to highlight and copy some pieces from. Since we are putting it into a WordPress Widget I am going to leave out some parts of the code that you see in the picture because they are not needed.
Once you have this code go to your wordpress dashboard the Appearance >> Widgets and select the “Text” (Arbitrary text or HTML) widget. Open the widget and paste in the above code.
You can enter a title for the widget which will appear as it’s title on your site or leave it blank and just have the launch button in the widget or add explanatory test there like I did in the example on this page.
I added some code to center everything within the widget and some text above the widget to explain its purpose. I also provided links to my business and personal Google+ accounts there. The reason for this is that when a visitor launches the Hangout it does not automatically connect to anyone. They have to invite others to participate.
You can also do this with Google Hangouts on air. Buttons are provided at the same Google Developers page cited above. Google Helpouts are built on the same platform but you cannot launch them form your site as yet.
Additionally, if you are not already familiar with Google Hangouts there are a lot of ways you can expand the capabilities of the platform with apps that are available for free. From a business perspective there is screen sharing, screen capture/photo and text chat among many more.
I am happy with the test installation on my site. I want to edit it a bit to make it look more professional and less like a test. Other than that though I think it is a win. If you would like to test it out go ahead and initiate a hangout with me. If you would like to set it up on your own site I am available through Google Helpouts to guide you through the process.