Google Plus is kind of like the new kid at school you aren't so sure about yet. Compared to Facebook and Twitter, it isn't exactly blowing interactions out of the water.
But, there's one thing about Google Plus that has struck a chord: Google Hangouts.
Similar to Skype, Google Plus Hangouts feature face-to-face video time -- but offer much more, especially for politicians looking to connect with constituents back home.
Up to 10 people can "hang out" in one location at a time, and whoever is speaking takes front and center on the screen.
While it's fun for friends and family to interact with one another, businesses, organizations and politicians have begun using hangouts to promote their causes and messages. Here are a few things you can do with Google Hangouts:
1) Use internally or externally.
Businesses, organizations and political offices can use the hangouts to conduct video conference staff meetings between district and local offices internally. Externally, the Hangouts can be used to stream press conferences, conduct press interviews or hold panels for an online presentation.
2) Livestream to your YouTube channel.
The Hangout can be streamed directly to a YouTube channel so your event can be seen by everyone, even those without Google Plus. Additionally, the Hangout is embeddable, so it can live on any blog or website.
3) Automatically record to save and embed.
The Hangout is automatically uploaded, so it is available immediately afterward to watch or share when finished.
4) Play Professional.
Various apps give users the ability to create a very professional look. You can add name marquees, watch YouTube clips together and more. One app, Pro Studio, is used to cue, mute, manage discussion topics and send notes "behind the scenes" to Hangout participants.
Google Plus Spokesman Daniel Sieberg said Google Hangouts aren't necessarily about reaching millions -- they're about reaching the most important individuals. For politicians, this is crucial in connecting with constituents.
"The no-travel part is beneficial to a budget-minded politician who can't travel all over the state or country but wants to be able to reach people," said Sieberg. "They can schedule weekly virtual townhalls or bring in special guests -- like a local businessman with a success story or someone on the city council."
Both Democrats and Republicans have begun to latch onto the medium, which truly allows politicians to personalize their messages.
Sieberg said Hangouts were popular at both Party conventions this year. Google set up a "Hangout Studio" and hosted various hangouts with a range of politicians, television stations and voters in their states.
Gov. Rick Snyder (R-Mich.) uses Google Hangouts regularly. New Media Director Mike Brownfield said the videos are a hit in their office.
"When we do Google Hangouts, Gov. Snyder partners with other legislators from around the state," said Brownfield. "So instead of one town hall, we can have several happening simultaneously in physical locations hundreds of miles apart."
Though many politicians are hesitant to give the new medium a try, President Barack Obama debuted on Google Hangouts early this year, as did former Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan.
White House New Media Director Macon Phillips said the Hangout "offered the sort of genuine back and forth the White House strives for in all of our online engagement efforts."
The same idea goes for organizations and businesses looking to easily connect with fans and consumers. This summer, for example, many news outlets produced Google Hangouts with Olympians -- which was a truly unique way to connect those athletes with their fans around the world.
Lauren Ashburn, former managing editor of USA Today Live, wrote positively about her experience with Hangouts at the Republican National Convention in Tampa:
As a TV gal who has reported and anchored and spouted opinions from news sets across the country, Google Hangout felt pretty real. The webby feel matches our Skype age, when blurry images and cellphone pictures have become the norm. And maybe people would rather feel connected than look at picture-perfect telecasts.
Since Hangouts are fairly new, Sieberg is interested to see how politicians use them in the post-election cycle.
"Politicians don't stop working just because election is over," said Seiberg. "It's a tool for regular interaction, a two-way dialogue that has never been done before."
For those looking to create a unique, personal experience for their brand or name, Google Hangouts are an excellent option -- and fans will love it.