NASA shares lessons learned from Google+ Hangouts


After hosting 24 Hangouts on the social media platform Google+, NASA has learned a few things. It shared its tips for using the tool July 30 at the General Services Administration's Federal Social Media Community of Practice Event.

Hangouts, which allow up to 10 people to join a virtual conversation while thousands watch via Google+ or YouTube, are great tool for outreach and education, says Jason Townsend, NASA's deputy social media manager.

By inviting the public to ask questions by tweeting or commenting on the hangout, NSA provides direct access to their experts through videos at a lower cost and greater interaction than traditional broadcast methods and the ability to televise from remote locations--for example, from space--according to presentation slides posted Slideshare.

To get started, agencies need a YouTube account and a Google+ page where the YouTube account is linked as an admin user. From a staffing perspective, they'll need a moderator, behind the scenes technical producer, and "on-air talent"--typically subject matter experts. Broadcasting from quiet locations with a backdrop and wired internet works best. Each participant also needs a webcam, microphone and a Google+ Hangout plugin, says NASA.

"Ensure that you only have the Google+ Hangout open in one screen--if for example, you have the live stream open you will create a feedback loop that will create an echo in the Hangout," suggests Townsend.

He also says it's best not to trust computer speakers. Using headphones during the event can prevent the audio of other speakers from creating an echo in the Hangout, he says. Townsend also recommends framing the camera shot so that the speaker's eyes rest at approximately the top third of the screen.

To engage the audience, NASA has had the most success from using an event hashtag. In February, NASA hosted its first Hangout from space. Using the hashtag #askAstro, they received more than 1,800 questions. It's the off-screen producer's job to pick the best questions and feed htose to the moderator, said Townsend.

For more:
- view NASA's presentation slides

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