I recently attended the Social Media Club of KC (SMCKC) monthly breakfast and thought I would provide an overview of the presentation, which I thought was pretty interesting.
The speaker was Sarah Hill (Twitter and blog), “brand journalist”/content creator for Veterans United Home Loans, on the topic of “Human Media,” which she defined as “social media with its eyes opened,” allowing for a deeper layer of engagement for users. It’s a means for sharing a live interactive real-time experience in a social network.
Essentially she was talking about using Google+ Hangouts in a variety of ways to engage with people, though she did point out there are other video conferencing services/networks, such as Zarfo, Airtime, Oovoo, Tinychat, Qubeey, Nyoombe, and Spreecast.
She said that, while the Internet and social media allow people with communicate with other like-minded people around the world, it’s still a text-based conversation “between avatars.” Message boards, and FB Timeline and Twitter conversations don’t allow for understanding nuances like body language and facial reactions. Adding real-time video allows people to communicate on a more intimate level.
Video chats allow a sense of “simulated reality,” wherein participants feel like they really were in the same room together. She gave the example of hosting a Hangout with star basketball player Jeremy Lin – participants commented that they “met” Jeremy, whereas in a Twitter chat, for example, people wouldn’t have the same experience necessarily of having “met” someone else.
Hangouts offer the opportunity to display business card information in the bottom third of your chat window, which is good for branding.
Quoting an article in Scientific American, “…we’re nasty on the Internet because we don’t make eye contact with our compatriots.” In the study quoted in the article, participants who maintained eye contact via video link were less likely to be mean or hostile.
She talked about “see-commerce” (as opposed to simply e-commerce): this is shopping with a video component, usually providing some form of customer service. She specifically pointed to the new Amazon Mayday button which opens a video chat to assist Kindle Fire users. This is an example of web RTC: real-time communication.
See-commerce helps reduce the disadvantage of being a virtual/online-only business, where there is often less opportunity for real-time customer service interaction (which is what sends many people to brick-and-mortar stores, looking to ask questions and have a conversation about products).
Another form of see-commerce is the new Google Helpouts (currently invitation only) – this service will allow people to offer live video content for a fee. Sarah gave the example of taking a yoga class from someone in London, in the comfort of your bedroom.
She talked about Google Glass as a form of human media, essentially broadcasting your personal experience and perspective via live feed: a “your-eye’s view.” Two Google glasses were handed around the room for people to play with. Sadly, one never made it to my row.
After this overview of human media, Sarah presented specific examples of how Veterans United use Hangouts in their work with elderly veterans. There is a program called Honor Flight that helps fly veterans to Washington D.C. to see the memorials to their service, specifically the quickly-diminishing population of WWII veterans. Many elderly, however, aren’t able to travel, so Veterans United offers Hero Tours, where they send volunteers to veterans (in nursing homes, VA hospitals, etc), where they set up laptops and open a Hangout. Volunteers on the other end in D.C. use camera phones and Google Glass to offer virtual tours of the memorials, often with up-close images so the veterans can read names and have a very real-time experience. Sarah also spoke of volunteers going to Normandy Beach for the benefit of D-Day veterans, as well as visiting the Pearl Harbor memorial. The Hangout service not only allows the virtual tour, but veterans can chat with other veterans in the Hangout about their memories and experiences.
What I took away from this presentation is that I would love to offer video chat sessions as a way to really personalize a brand, and position them as an informational resource & conversation hub in the online community. However, I would have some concerns because there is no delay or delete feature for what participants say (being live and all). Still it is worth throwing in the brainstorming mix for content ideas – using Google Glass to offer a real-time experience from conferences, for example, or recording Hangouts between employees (who can be trusted with their dialogue).
Do you have any experience using Hangouts or other video chats for content marketing/brand building?