A Google Hangout from a social media training session in Spokane, WA, on May 3. During the hangout, whoever is speaking occupies the large screen. Thumbnails L to R: Gordon Scobbie, Deputy Chief, Tayside, Scotland, Kempton Lam, community member from Calgary, AB, the room in Spokane and Scott Mills, Toronto Police Social Media Officer. (Photo: Scott Mills)

Whether or not to recommend law enforcement agencies embrace Google+ is something I’ve struggled with for some time. I’m a huge proponent of “fish where the fish are” when devising a social media strategy. On one hand, the number of Google+ users (175 million) is still far fewer than Facebook’s (850 million), but numbers alone never tell the whole story.

Google has been creating a lot of buzz lately with its efforts to consolidate its various offerings into a more user-friendly all-on-one network. But perhaps the best reason to now recommend law enforcement take a look at Google+ is Google Hangouts on Air (HOA).

A hangout is G+’s video conferencing feature which allows up to 10 users to chat with video. But Hangouts on Air, which was released to the masses this week, allows the host to broadcast the hangout, live, on YouTube. Add to the equation that YouTube has 800M user accounts and 4 billion page views per day, this HOA thing is worth paying (a lot of) attention to.

Streaming video used to be cumbersome and require the use of a Livestream or Ustream account. With HOA, you need only a Google+ account enabled with HOA and a linked YouTube account.

Hangouts use for LE ranges from enhancing internal communications by using it for online meetings with your own staff or police leaders in different geographies, to live broadcast and recording/archiving of press conferences and events. In addition to streaming on YouTube, embed the broadcast to stream on a PD website.

Getting started with HOA is easy and Google itself has created a .pdf technical guide.

In the past two weeks, I participated in several hangouts with law enforcement and community members. In each, at least three countries were represented. Think of how useful this could be for law enforcement, whether your hangout is public (with HOA) or private.

This Social Media QuickTip was previously published at LawOfficer.com.