Google has officially announced the launch of Google Helpouts after several months of teasing us about what we'd be in for. Essentially, it's a new offering that people and businesses can use to make money via live social video.
Do you have anything worth offering to customers via live video that relates to your business? Something worth paying for? Do you see a way to make some money with Google Helpouts? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Google VP, Engineering, Udi Manber writes in a blog post, "What if getting help for a computer glitch, a leaky pipe, or a homework problem was as easy as clicking a button? What if you could connect via real-time video to a music teacher or a yoga instructor from the comfort of your home? What if you could get someone knowledgeable to get you 'unstuck' when you really need it?"
That's the idea of Helpouts from the user perspective. Google has long been a place where people can search for "how to" content. Demand Media has made a killing offering that kind of content, and dominating Google search results over the years. In fact, since Google's Panda update, that company has put an even greater emphasis on "how to" video content from experts. This appears to be Google competing directly with this type of content. And I wonder if Google would ever surface Helpouts in web search results.
Of course, Helpouts are a bit different by their very nature. They're live. Still, users can search for helpouts by topics.
Say you need help fixing a toilet. Just search "fixing a toilet," and Google will give you results for available hangouts. It will show you the price per helpout (sometimes they're free) and/or the price per minute. It will also show you the next available time for a particular Helpout. If there is no time found, you have the option to request a time.
As you can see from the above example, Helpout providers can include an intro video that users can watch even if they can't get right to the live Helpout. The provider can provide other necessary business information, like specifics about what their service will cover. The provider's Google+ profile and picture are directly integrated, which probably means potential boosts in Google+ followers, which one would think would send Google search additional signals. Something to think about.
According to Google, the main benefits of giving Helpouts are immediate global reach, convenience and flexibility and of course, getting paid. Could a boost in authority also be in the cards?
Providers can price the Helpouts as they see fit. You can charge a fixed price per Helpout or a per-minute rate. Google Wallet is integrated as the payment method.
You can schedule the Helpouts for a time that fits your schedule, and you can do it from the desktop or from mobile.
The offering is available to both individuals and brands. Google already has brands like Sephora, One Medical, Weight Watchers, Redbeacon (a Home Depot comany) and Rosetta Stone on board.
"Today is just the beginning," says Manber. "We’re starting small and in a few categories. The number of people giving help on Helpouts and the type of help available will grow over time. Helpouts may not be suitable for every occasion, and it will take time to get used to interactions via real time video. We hope that the efficiency, convenience and global reach of Helpouts will make people’s lives easier in the long term."
This could be the start of something pretty big. There are other services out there that enable this kind of face to face training. PopExpert, for example, has been around for over a year.
But being that Helpouts comes from Google, where businesses and individuals are already connected in a variety of ways (to Google and among each other), Helpouts is likely to have a substantial impact.
Google itself provides a money back guarantee on all Helpouts. First, they'll recommend that users try to get refunds from the Helpout providers if the helpout is not satisfactory, but if they refuse the user's request, Goole will step in and issue a refund. To be eligible for a refund, however, users must not opt out from having their Helpout session recorded, because Google uses that to review these cases. More on the refund process here.
Google says Helpouts may be recorded for quality assurance purposes, in response to abuse reporting, and for customer retention and provider retention.
"If the Customer and Provider explicitly agree to the retention recording by opting-in before the Helpout commences, the Helpout will be recorded," Google says. "Neither party may alter the recording in any way, except to clarify (visibly or audibly) what transpired in the Helpout. The retention recording will be made available for private use by the Provider and Customer only."
Google also notes that Helpouts marked "health service" will not be recorded for the purpose of retention.
Users and providers alike are are allowed to capture stills from the Helpout session.
There are age restrictions on Helpouts. Users have to be at least thirteen, and providers have to be at least eighteen.
You still need an invitation to offer your own Helpouts. You can request an invitation code here.
Right now, Google offers the following Helpouts categories: Arts and Music, Computers and Electronics, Cooking, Education and Careers, Fashion and Beauty, Fitness and Nutrition, Health and Home and Garden. If what you do doesn't fit into any of these, stay tuned.
Update: Read here for what TakeLessons, an early Helpouts provider, has to say about the experience.
What do you think of the Helpouts platform? Is this a game changer? Do you intend to offer Helpouts to customers? Let us know in the comments.