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How Google Hangouts Can Help Web Hosts Gather Customer Feedback

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Nearly one-third of Google+ users work in IT, Internet or computer services, according to a recent study by GlobalWebIndex. With this in mind, it certainly makes sense that more hosting companies are using the social network, and in particular the Google Hangouts video conferencing feature, to target prospective customers.

Among the group of web hosts using Google Hangouts is GoDaddy, one of the largest web hosting companies in the world. GoDaddy uses Google Hangouts to reach out to existing customers and target potential customers who identify as web professionals.

Mike Fox is a director of marketing at GoDaddy, who is responsible for making its “product offerings great for web professionals.” He joined GoDaddy from Google in August, and works in the company’s Sunnyvale, Ca. office.

He tells the WHIR that Google Hangouts is part of a larger effort at GoDaddy to reach web professionals, which includes in-person events and the company blog.

“We’re looking for different ways to get information out to either our current customers or prospective customers about our existing products, upcoming products, technology as a whole, or other areas that will help them be successful,” he says. “Hangouts was something I used quite a bit at Google and we saw this as a really affordable way for us to share information and also get some pretty immediate feedback from the customers.”

GoDaddy has a team of several people that run its Google Hangouts. There are usually a couple of speakers, and Colby Villa, social advocacy specialist at GoDaddy, is in charge of the production. Villa ensures the “cameras are staying focused” and keeps an eye on the feedback coming in from participants.

Given the resources available to GoDaddy, it may seem like a daunting task to run Google Hangouts at a small web hosting company with a handful of employees. But Fox says this is not the case.

“It’s certainly something that has taken off from a number of different companies and is something that I would certainly recommend smaller companies do because Hangouts is free,” he says. “It’s a really quick and affordable way to get your message out.”

While Google Hangouts tend to be “a more casual production”, Fox says, it is still important to make sure it looks good. Sound, lighting and background are all considerations.

“If you’re a small hosting company with just a few employees you need to step back and think about what is important for customers or potential customers to hear about what you’re doing. Really think carefully about the value you can provide to these folks. Just because you want to tell a story doesn’t mean others really want to listen to the story. You’ve got to think carefully about whether there is meaningful content that’s going to help these people enough for them to spend their time listening,” Fox says.

“Once you figure out once you want to talk about, whether it’s a new product or new initiative, the smaller company is thinking about how they are going to tell customers that the Hangout is coming,” he says. “You’ve got to look at what mechanisms you have. Perhaps you have a Twitter or Facebook account which is how you communicate with folks, or maybe there is an email that you send our regularly or something, but you’ve got to something to generate interest. If you just show up and start talking, you’re probably not going to get anyone or many relevant people into the room.”

Google Hangouts take preparation like any presentation, and it is important to not only answer questions and respond to feedback during the live event, but also have speakers keep an eye on comments coming in a couple of days after. For a smaller hosting company with limited resources, Fox says they could check once a day for five days following the event to ensure customer questions are answered.

Getting feedback in near real-time from customers on new products is certainly one of the most useful aspects of Google Hangouts for a company of any size.

GoDaddy is covering tips on how to make a website faster in a Google Hangout on Friday at 1 pm PST. This session is part of a new monthly series on optimizing web performance.

Over the past few months, GoDaddy has covered new products including its cPanel shared hosting and managed WordPress hosting. In the future, it plans to share more information about its security offerings, and security as a whole, including what GoDaddy does internally to protect servers and networks. In addition, GoDaddy plans to cover topics around mobile and international (GoDaddy expanded to 17 more countries in Europe this week), as well as topics helping web professionals be more successful in their businesses.

“We feel that Google Hangouts are really useful for us to let people see who we are and what we’re doing. It’s both a little bit of show and tell, and have them be able to respond to us,” Fox says. “The engagement with our community and with our customers and prospective customers is really beneficial for them to really understand what we’re doing now, and where we’re going. It helps us provide better services for them and helps them gain better trust in what we’re doing. Google Hangouts is a really easy and effective way to do that.”

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