Just as the classic Sci-Fi series Star Trek predicted the widespread use of mobile phones, one could also argue that it foresaw the age of video conferencing. As far-fetched and exotic as it may have seemed in the 1960s (and just as much during repeat runs in the 1980s), we didn’t have to wait until the twenty-third century for us all to communicate like Captain Kirk. Video conferencing is here, and two of the most common video conferencing platforms are free at the point of use: the established Skype and the newcomer Google Hangouts.
Video conferencing with either Skype or Google Hangouts is a no-brainer from a business point of view; aside from the internet bandwidth and data allowances that these video calls consume, neither has a cost attached to them, and given that most people nowadays receive generous data packages from their internet providers, it would be foolish for any business to opt for a telephone call over a Google Hangout or Skype conference if those options are available.
But which one should you use? Skype is the more established of the two, having been around since 2003 and boasting an install base of over 663 million users. In 2011, Skype was acquired by Microsoft, which has meant the gradual incorporation of Skype and its features into the Microsoft Office suite of programs. This means that Skype is close to becoming a household name, if it hasn’t already, and encouraging others to ‘Skype’ you (the brand name has also become a verb) should not prove too difficult as it is increasingly becoming less alien a concept to the masses.
Google Hangouts is the newcomer, having only been launched in May 2013. Google Hangouts replaces all the other disparate messaging services previously offered by Google on its many platforms. In particular, it is a core component to the Google Plus social network. Google Plus has many of the same features as Skype, but offers a lot more versatility in what you can do with your video call, in particular live broadcasting via YouTube, which can also record your call for video archiving purposes. This means that Google Hangouts is not just another line of personal communication; it has the potential to become a very powerful marketing tool in its own right.
Both Skype and Google Hangouts offer the option of having more than two people in any one video call, although for Skype one of the participants has to be a premium account member. In Skype, there is an upper limit of 10 people who can participate in a video call and also only 10 people can participate in a Google Hangout, although a subscription model is available from Google that will allow 15 people to participate.
Within a video call, both Skype and Google Hangouts offer screen-sharing capabilities, although Google Hangouts has the advantage of being able to plug into all of other Google’s online services via Google Drive. This means that it is very easy to share content with other participants using the various Google applications within Hangouts, whether it be broadcasting a pre-existing video through YouTube to all call participants or jointly editing a document that has been saved with Google Documents.
As I’ve already mentioned, you can actually broadcast a Google Hangout live on air to the rest of the world, which really does give it an edge over Skype. While there are other broadcasting and live streaming services available to users, few have the ease of set-up and use of Google Hangouts, and, importantly, many of the others charge. It is very easy to make the most of Google Hangouts without paying a penny to Google, although you will have to register for a Google account if you are to make use of them (as well other participants within the call).
Another function of both Skype and Google Hangouts is telephony and SMS messaging. Audio calls and text messaging to others within both networks are free, but premium models are available where calls can made to external telephone numbers as well as texting services.
It is worth registering with both Skype and Google Hangouts, especially if you are a business owner, as signing up is free and so are most of the functions that you will use. Some people advertise their Skype address within an e-mail signature block or on a website as a matter of course these days, and although Google tends to have unwieldy user identifications, it will only be a matter of time before people start publicising their own presence on the Google network.
As things stand, it would be foolish to choose one over the other when it comes Skype and Google Hangouts. Both offer very similar services, but there are some differences within the functionality and your own connections may have their own preference. In any case, why opt out of a popular communication tool, especially if it is free at the point of use?
In the longer term, it will be Google Plus that will become the more powerful tool unless Microsoft radically revitalises the Skype platform. Only three months since its launch, it has become clear that many are only beginning to scratch the surface of what Google Hangouts can offer an advanced user. With the recent launch of Chromecast (a Google dongle that allows you to stream internet content straight to a Smart TV), one can easily imagine a time when Google Hangouts could become television or conference events in their own right.
Therefore, while it is still important to be on Skype, it is also increasingly important that people start familiarising themselves with Google Plus and Google Hangouts. After all, Captain Kirk did not choose between his mobile communicator or video screen on the bridge of the USS Enterprise; both enabled him to boldly go where no man has been before.
To learn more about how Google Hangouts and Skype can be integrated into your content marketing strategy, contact Full Medit Ltd today by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 01260 279847.