How About Google Hangouts For Impromptu Strategist, Money Manager Meet-ups?

Google is making it clear that its Google+ project launched in beta last week is not brand-ready. Still, don’t let that be your excuse for learning what you can about it now. Spend some time on the official site to start to get grounded in what Google+ encompasses.

At this early stage, I’m most intrigued by the Hangouts part of the project for asset management firms. Hangouts provides the capability to spontaneously engage in multi-person video sessions with people in your circles.

Because its immediate focus is on consumer use, Google is positioning Hangouts as supporting “fun, fluid and serendipitous” video sessions.

I realize that this video has little relevance to the work that mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) marketers do. But no kidding, the first time I heard about Hangouts, I thought about a conversation I had with a financial advisor a year ago. Of all the marketing communications and materials provided to him, what John Benedict valued most of all was the ability to talk to portfolio managers.

That’s no surprise, right? That’s why you make a point of building in portfolio manager presentations and Q&As at meetings. The difference between your scheduled, scripted physical (and some online, too) meetings is that they’re planned, promoted and fully controlled. They require time to produce and cost hard and soft dollars. One-on-one phone calls such as Benedict likes take time and money, too, and don’t scale.

I’m wondering whether you—large and small firms—could make use of the Hangouts platform to be more in the moment. Communications compliance controls would need to be in place, of course, maybe in the form of a Compliance person sitting in. But can you imagine making your market or money manager experts available to a circle of advisors, either on an ad hoc basis or routinely, via video?

Executing on this would involve process development only, as Google is apparently providing no-cost state-of-the art technology which you can read more about here. This is huge, enabling you to skip months and months of gathering requirements and evaluating alternatives, system testing and implementation. And, that’s assuming you could position this as a priority on your IT roadmap.

For those of you who offer or are planning mobile apps, the word is that Google will make Hangouts available in third-party apps or services. How cool would that be?

In an April post, I celebrated the fund companies that sent tweets after the S&P announced a negative credit outlook for the U.S. The next time something like that happens? (God forbid.) Your pulling together an impromptu Hangout for select advisors to access via their smartphones would trump that and some.

I’ve said this before, but success using social media involves being “conversational, transparent, improvisational and experimental”—qualities that don’t come naturally to investment communications. Google may have just introduced a capability that might help you crack this nut to your firm’s advantage. It’s something to learn more about.

If you’re very interested, you might consider signing up to test a business version of Google+.

One last note: I know from watching the stream on that a few financial advisors have already gained access to Google+ and are kicking the tires. Check out Wisconsin financial planner Nathan Gehring's second Google+ blog post about how he might use Hangouts in his practice.