Getting to grips with Google Hangouts

Jodie King

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Reading Time: 6 minutes

Hangouts is one of those platforms that has crept into our peripheral vision and has become an increasingly value weapon for instant communication. This is just a nice concise guide on how to use Google Hangouts and explore all of its features. So, let’s dive right in and get everyone familiar with the basics and the advanced functions right at the end of your fingertips.
Hangouts is not just for video calls as it can also be used to send messages and pictures, as well as sharing your location. However, one of its most powerful features is the ability to make video calls on different devices to several different people.
It is a very mobile friendly platform that you can access via Gmail, Google+, a chrome extension, or on your iOS or Android device. You can create a video call in any environment provided you have an internet connection. For business and personal use this is a versatile and increasingly popular option.
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There are lots of desirable features including:

  • conversations are synced across multiple devices so you can start a conversation on your computer and finish it on your phone
  • You can invite up to 9 people to one face to face conversation
  • Send SMS and hangout messages with one person or to multiple people
  • Send text messages using google hangouts and your mobile number
  • Make phone calls (free within the US and Canada- low charges for outside of those areas)

Getting started

First you will need a Google Account.
Hangouts is then automatically enabled on Google+.
–          Just click on the quotes icon directly under your profile picture in the top right hand corner of Google+
To enable it on Gmail go to: turn on Hangouts in Gmail.
To use the Chrome browser extension see: Download the Hangouts Chrome extension. A Chrome browser or Chrome OS device is required.
There will be detailed information on how to get the app for your iOS or Android device further down.
To access the more advanced features of Google Hangouts you will need a Google+ account as that is the true home of the platform.
The best way to learn how to use all of its features is the old fashioned way. Have a play. Send some messages and photos to friends and family. Start a call with someone sat in another room then try doing these things from your mobile device and Gmail.

Starting a Hangout

You can start a hangout from any of the devices already mentioned. The person you are ‘hanging out with’ has to have a Google Account. If they don’t have one they will receive an invite asking them to create one. You can start a Hangout with anyone you like, as long as the person has a Google Account.
So, open Hangouts by clicking on the quote icon directly below your profile picture.
Then click on the ‘start a video call’ button. You now get the option to invite people to your call so you can send out a single or multiple emails to invite people.
google hangouts
The screen is relatively self-explanatory and shows you the range of options available. In the left side tool bar there is an icon for Chat, Screenshare, capture, YouTube, GoogleDrive and Remote Desktop.
Each icon you click on will give you the option to invite people so you can share whatever content you wish with whoever you wish to invite. The YouTube icon enables you to share video and discuss it in real time.
The top toolbar of icons has (from left to right) invite people, microphone, video call, bandwidth and end call buttons.
Text Conversation: Choose the chat icon and then type a message in the box provided. Press return to send message. The   indicates when you are typing.
You can add graphics, like happy faces, to your conversations with emoji, or send photos to your friends. You can also draw a picture and share it in a conversation. Here is Google’s own walkthrough of all the functions available for your text conversations:

  • Adding a photo: Click the Camera button   .
  • Adding emoji: Click the smiley face .
  • Drawing and sending art: You can draw something on a blank canvas or you can upload a photo to draw over it.
    1. Place your mouse over the Camera button    .
    2. The Pencil icon will appear. Click the Pencil icon . You can start on an empty drawing canvas. Or you can choose one of the options below to draw on a photo or another drawing:
      • Using a photo: If you want to draw on a photo that you have, you can upload a photo. Go to the top of the drawing canvas and click the Camera button   .
      • Use an existing drawing that you’ve used before or one that you’ve received from someone else: Go to the drawing that you sent or someone else’s photo or drawing that you’ve received in your conversation window. Place your mouse in the upper right-hand corner of that image. Then click the Pencil icon .
    3. Choose the colour and size of your pencil. You can also choose the shape and opacity of the pencil.
    4. Draw your picture.
    5. Click Send.

If a message is not delivered it will appear in red – this could be due to internet coverage or a temporary interruption. Once the text has been sent it will turn black.

Hangouts app on Android devices

Like any decent platform these days hangouts was built with mobile in mind. You can call phones, send messages and make video calls through your smartphone.
Follow the same steps as on a computer by setting up a google account if you do not already have one.
The beauty of mobile is that the microphone and video are built into the device so there is no needed for extra or external equipment. To get the aps just follow these links:
For android devices:
For iOS devices:

Now just 10 quick tips to make sure you are ready for Google Hangouts:

  1. Get good quality equipment

It does not have to be the most costly on the market but a sound HD camera (1080p) and a USB microphone are worthy investments. The total cost for both items can be anything from £50. Just watch the pixels and make sure you get reliable products (check reviews on google).

  1. Make sure you have enough bandwidth

Google suggests a minimum of 1 mbps for upload and 2 mbps for download speeds. If you bandwidth cannot handle the video calls you will get delays in processing of network data. Make sure anyone else in the room during the hangout is not downloading mega files and taking up valuable bandwidth. Make sure your speed is up to scratch before you make the call.

  1. Optimise the titles of your videos

Your live video chats will be instantly uploaded to YouTube. Make sure your titles are optimised and then take a look at our blog post on Using YouTube. This way you will be maximising your reach with the fresh material you are putting straight onto one of the most popular social media platforms out there.

  1. Showcase your companies branding

Again, this will be uploaded straight onto YouTube so make sure your branding features in the video. A title slide, similar to that of a PowerPoint presentation is a great method for doing this. This way you have introduced your brand right at the start of the hangout.

  1. Practise makes perfect

Keep learning the tech and doing google hangouts so that you stay up to speed. There is everything from starting the Hangout on Air and sharing screens, to fixing audio or video issues, and cropping the video after completion, to content with. Practise every opportunity you get so that the finished product is slick and professional and a happy extension of your brands promotion.

  1. Build your YouTube channel

The more video that puts on to your YouTube channel the more traffic it is likely going to attract. This means it will become a central hub to your business so make sure you have links to your website, appropriate calls to action and all the necessary contact details on there ready.
That’s all from me on the subject of Google Hangouts. Hopefully, you will have learnt enough to make your first video call a success – good luck with it!

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