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updated 12/3/2012 12:19:35 PM ET 2012-12-03T17:19:35

Whether you're convinced that Google+ is a virtual ghost town or not, it can be difficult to refute the social network 's stable of unique tools and features for business users. One of the most valuable is Google Hangouts, the tool that allows you to host video chats online.

With Google+ Hangouts, up to nine people can chat face-to-face for free on the network. Participants can watch a YouTube video together, doodle and collaborate using Google Docs.

Business owners can take the chat tool a step further with Google Hangouts on Air, which allows you to host video discussions and broadcast them live to the public. All a viewer needs to do is have a Google+ account and connect with a business of interest by adding it to his or her Circles. The video is broadcasted on the admin of that Page's personal YouTube channel and on the business's Google+ page.

Google+ Hangouts on Air can be helpful for internal and public use, but broadcasting them allows for deeper, face-to-face interaction with your customers that you might not be able to achieve with other channels online. 

Here are some ideas for effective Google+ Hangouts on Air:

Related: Surprising Ways to Use Google+ for Business

1. Offer free product demos and webinars to your customers.
Providing value to your customers for free can be a rewarding way to encourage them to pay for your services in the future. Whether you're giving a sneak peek into the cooking classes you offer or teaching your audience about the newest changes to Facebook's algorithm, using this feature can be ideal for turning viewers into customers.

2. Host customer service sessions.
Set times with your audience where you're open to question and answers sessions about your products or services. Hangouts allow viewers to take their turn and easily ask questions as they have them.

Try hosting one of these sessions to see if your audience is interested. If they are, be sure to remain consistent about when you hold the sessions and for how long.

3. Interview experts and leaders.
Grow your audience on Google+ and the variety of the information your company provides by inviting industry experts and leaders to do a Hangout on Air. Interview them from your company's perspective and allow for questions from viewers. It's important to leverage the expert's audience to increase viewers of the Hangout and the circlers to your Google+ Page.

Related: 4 Tools for High-Def Video Conferencing

4. Hold regular giveaways and contests.
Reward your audience by hosting Hangouts with the sole purpose of stirring face-to-face interactions through giveaways and contests. A live giveaway can encourage increased visits to your Google+ Page and increased viewership to your other Hangouts on Air.

Provide prizes that are valuable to your audience not just in price but relevant to their interests and the focus of your business. The cost of the items given away as prizes can be worth the circlers, viewers and increased brand awareness your business receives.

How is your business using Google+ Hangouts? Let us know in the comments below.
 

Copyright © 2013 Entrepreneur.com, Inc.

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