Last week, Time magazine hosted its first Google+ "Hangout On Air,"a video chat that is streamed live to the public and shared via Google+, YouTube and Time.com.
Hangouts On Air are an offshoot of Google+’s standard Hangouts and allow brands to broadcast their group chats live. The New York Times, CBS This Morning
and Conan O’Brien are among the other media brands who have tested the service, which became available to all users in May after a beta launch in 2011.
Time associate social media editor Amy Lombard hosted the hangout, which ran for about 23 minutes, along with Jose Antonio Vargas, writer of Time’s most recent cover story, "We Are Americans-Just Not Legally." Four of the article’s self-described "undocumented American" subjects also joined in.
Prior to the event, Time reached out to its followers on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms to solicit questions for the speakers and drive viewership, using the hashtags #askTIME and #WeAreAmericans.
Time, like many of its Time Inc. sister brands, has a substantial presence on social media, touting itself as the number one news brand on Google+, with more than 1.1 million followers, and the number 3 news brand on Twitter, with more than 3.6 million followers. The brand has upwards of 35,000 Foursquare followers, 537,000 Facebook fans and is active on Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and a newer platform, Stamped, where it shares movie reviews.
But these on-air hangouts are very different from what the other networks are offering—at least for now, says Cathy Sharik, managing editor of Time.com, who adds that testing out what’s new and exciting is an important part of Time’s larger social media strategy.
"It was a trial," Sharick tells Folio:. "There are definitely some things we would do differently next time, but it was a big success in that we got these cover subjects to come to life and were able to bring people together from New York City, DC and across the country. We would have never been able to do that otherwise."
A lesson learned, according to Sharick, is to start early in reaching out to followers and figuring out which cover stories might work best.
Going forward, Sharick says, Time is considering additional On Air hangouts for its election and Olympics coverage, as well as its list franchises. Time hosted a non-On Air hangout in December 2011 on violence and video games.
While Pinterest has been dominated—at least in the U.S.—by women, Google+ has been known for attracting more male than female users, especially from the tech field, but Sharick says that as the network grows, the demographics are changing, drawing more people with specific interests.