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Dell's Lionel Menchaca and Richard Binhammer with Jeremiah Owyang

Toward the end of the day yesterday the big news in social media included serious privacy concerns about the Facebook changes and Google Plus (G+) users’ new ability to share their Circles with one another. Yet my eye was drawn to an update in my news stream: Dell’s Richard Binhammer (or @Richard atDell on Twitter) was holding a Hangout later in the evening for customers who wanted to discuss certain product related issues. Hangout is Google Plus’ group video chat that allows up to 10 people to participate at the same time.

A customer service Hangout for people with questions. A creative and practical use of the Google+ Hangout and a perfect example of how brands can build online awareness and good will–today. Leave it to Dell. Michael Dell’s interest in using hangouts to provide customer service was reported in July but I hadn’t seen the post. I did notice Richard Binhammer’s update and made mental note of it. I would have loved to have had that kind of access to assistance when I was struggling with Dell computer issues a few years ago. I’m impressed that it’s available now. (Full disclosure: I am a member of the inaugural Dell Customer Advisory Panel (#DellCAP)and Dell has flown me in to Austin and put me up at sumptuous hotels. But they had no idea I was writing this and have not compensated me in any way.)

Twelve days ago I spoke at a PRSA event and made the case for getting involved with Google Plus right away, even before business profiles have been introduced; as a means of building relationships and learning firsthand how to use the new social network. In my presentation I described G+ Hangouts as offering real benefits to brands and cited the use of Hangouts as a collaboration tool, a way to conduct meetings and even as a tool to extend events with pre-event and post-event Hangouts between speakers and attendees. The next time I talk about Google Plus I’ll include Dell’s use of Hangout for providing customer service.

In the twelve days since that PRSA event Google Plus has opened to the public, increased its member base from 30 million to 50 million, renamed one of the G+ features (from Huddle to Messenger), added apps to take Hangouts mobile (for Android and iPhone users right now), made it possible to search within Google Plus, released its API code to all developers and now enabled sharing of Circles among users.

What will will the next twelve days bring?

Business profiles will be introduced in the near future, although when is anyone’s guess. Right now you can see Ford‘s test business profile and get a feeling for the features that will be included. And right now, if you haven’t already, you can join and build out your profile, play with the settings, visit a Hangout, try out the search function, share a post, use the +1 feature to show you like a post, admire the gorgeous photography people are sharing and even play a game or two.

While you’re there, you can use the search function to find customers, prospects, members of industry media, influencers, potential JV partners and create circles for each category. You can share information about your business or your organization and make some new friends. Come up with other creative ways to use the Google Plus tools right now. Try it. It’s sort of fun and will yield real benefits down the road.

Ask Michael Dell. He’ll tell you.

Do you find the prospect of using social media unnerving? Give us a call at 419.740.1262 and we’ll be happy to sit down with you and discuss your situation. Or, shoot us an email at [email protected]. You can find Allen on Google Plus, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and connect with her there.


Photo credit: Dell’s Official Flickr Page[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]