Contributors from members of the Copper team
First things first: Google is currently in a state of transition with its chat and video app, Google Hangouts.
As of this post's first publication, Google Hangouts still exists. Starting in October 2019, though, Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet will permanently replace Google Hangouts for all professional G Suite users. At some point in 2020, a similar transition will take place for individual Gmail users.
Because Gmail and G Suite users are stuck in a state of limbo right now, it wouldn’t be fair to only talk about Google Hangouts hacks for your business. Which is why this guide will cover helpful hacks for all three applications:
- Google Hangouts hacks
- Hangouts Chat hacks
- Hangouts Meet hacks
Let’s start with ways to use the classic chat and video app to level up your live communications:
Google Hangouts hacks for Gmail users
This is the most basic app for Google chat and video calls.
1. Get more done in your inbox by activating Hangouts inside Gmail
If you like to merge your Google tools so you can get more done in one place, Google Hangouts lets you do that from within Gmail.
To turn on Google Hangouts chat in Gmail, go to Settings > Chat:
When activated, the bottom-left or right corners of Gmail will display a small Hangouts widget where you can manage your list of contacts, text, or make a call.
2. Remove distractions by using Hangouts outside of Gmail
You may also prefer to keep chat and video functionality out of Gmail. Maybe you find it too distracting to see or hear new chat notifications come through when you’re trying to check email. (Or vice versa.)
In that case, you can use one of three other options.
The first is Google Hangouts, which loads in its own browser window:
There’s nothing to install. Just go to the link above and it’ll log you in with your Gmail account.
Another option is to install the Chrome extension, which loads Google Hangouts as a desktop app.
This allows you to dictate when you’re available to chat with others and keeps the distraction of chat out of your inbox.
Your final option is the Google Hangouts mobile app:
Again, this gives you a way to put up a border between email and chat, so you can prevent unnecessary distractions.
Just be careful with the last two options here. While they remove the distraction of chat and calls from email, push notifications can still disrupt what you’re doing.
So, if you want Google Hangouts to live on the desktop or your phone, be sure to silence or schedule push so it doesn’t get in the way of what you’re working on.
3. Chat with a group of people all at once
One of the problems with communicating through email is that people will respond asynchronously (aka. on their own schedule). That can be a problem if you’re trying to get your teammates on the same page at the same time.
Thankfully, Google Hangouts lets you do more than just one-on-one chat. You can create a group chat and loop in all of the people whose buy-in you need:
You can also use Hangouts to call the group and talk to them in real-time.
Whatever option you choose, it’s bound to be a more effective way to make decisions and set things in motion.
4. Use emojis to add some fun (or clarity) to the conversation
Texting (and email) can be a tricky way to communicate, both professionally and personally.
Without the ability to read someone’s body language or hear their tone of voice, it can be difficult to assess how they’re really feeling. Which makes it tough to respond sometimes.
One solution to that problem may be emojis, which have proven effective in clearing up tone when speaking strictly through text. (Since sarcasm and jokes don’t always translate.)
Google Hangouts comes with emoji built right into its keyboard:
Emoji are also a good way to lighten things up.
Use a 👍 or 😀 to let someone know you approve of what they’re talking about. Use a 😂 to react to an inside joke. Or use the 👏to congratulate someone on a job well done.
Just be careful with which ones you use. The ambiguous or lesser-known emoji should be avoided so you don’t unintentionally cause confusion.
5. Reduce distractions and improve focus by configuring settings
Within Gmail, you won’t have much control over how Google Hangouts behaves or when it notifies you of incoming messages. With the other apps, though, you do.
Although Google Hangouts is meant to be a productivity tool for Sales and other teams, it can also distract from tasks that need your attention. To ensure this chat platform doesn’t get in the way of that, configure your settings:
First, start with your notifications. Decide if you want to hear a sound for texts or calls. If not, uncheck those options.
You can also mute the app entirely for a set time period. This will be useful for those times when you’re working on something urgent or you have a planned meeting you don’t want interrupted.
You can also choose whether or not you want to see desktop notifications. Just keep in mind that you can’t pick and choose which messages you receive notifications for. When activated, you’ll see all of them.
6. Start a hangout with a contact or lead from the Copper CRM
But Copper isn’t just a place to store your leads’ and other contacts’ details—it lets you take action on them too.
For example, let’s say it’s time to follow up with Samantha in the above screenshot. You open the contact details for her, just like in the example.
Notice how the work email address is clickable, but the work phone isn't. That’s okay. If you have Google Hangouts installed, you can still click-to-call from Copper.
You’ll find this feature under the More Options (the three vertical dots) in the top-right corner of her profile:
When you’re ready to make the call, click “Start a Hangout” and a new browser window will open with your Hangouts app:
This way, you can skip the hassle of locating a lead’s phone number and typing it into your phone.
This is just one of the many ways Copper and Google seamlessly work together so you have fewer steps to take to get in touch with leads.
🚀 your productivity.
Learn about the thousands of tasks that a CRM can take off your plate with this handbook.
Hangouts Chat hacks for G Suite users
This is the new chat app for Google. Think of it as Slack, but better integrated with your other Google tools.
7. Get Hangouts Chat wherever you need it
You have two options for where you use Hangouts Chat.
The first is on desktop:
It’s the same setup on both platforms. The only differences are the amount of screen space available and when and where you can use the app.
8. Get the most out of Google Chat with groups and rooms
Unlike something like text messaging where it’s a simple click-to-text-this-person, Chat is a platform designed for business.
For example, these are the kinds of things you can do with Chat:
- Add or search for a person to talk to.
- Create a group to chat with. This would be useful for teams that collaborate closely.
- Create dedicated rooms where groups meet, specific topics can be discussed, and so on.
- Set up a bot to provide extra assistance, automate tasks, and more.
If you take advantage of these features, you can better organize your Chat platform and turn it into a place for your team to get a lot more done:
9. Organize each room with topic threads
There’s another way to keep your conversations organized. Within each chat room you create, you and your team can create threads:
Let’s say you’re in your Sales Room and you want to share a rave review a customer left on your Twitter page. You’d open a new thread and tag your sales team to let them know about it.
At the same time, one of your team members could open a new thread to ask others on the team about a glitch they experienced in the invoicing software.
By using threads, you make it easier for people who need to see certain messages to focus in on what’s relevant to them. It also makes your chat room easier to search through.
10. Add bots to your chat rooms
As Google says: “Bots can automate tasks or send timely updates.” Here's how to add a bot to Chat:
That’s not the entire story though. There are many bots that can help you be more productive both inside and outside of Chat. From Aha!bot to Asanabot to the bot we have for Copper, there are endless ways to up your productivity.
Pro-tip: Bots are useful, especially if you’d rather not log into other apps unless it’s absolutely necessary.
But let’s suppose you need a bot to do more than automate status updates and other notifications. Maybe you want to talk to your bot and make it work on your behalf.
Meet is the kind of bot that does that:
With this bot installed, you can ask it for help with scheduling events on your Google Calendar. Not only will it schedule these appointments, it will help you find the best time in case you’re trying to schedule something that conflicts.
There are a lot of ways that chatbots can cut down on how much time you spend bouncing between different platforms or handle tedious tasks that could otherwise be automated.
Once you’re signed into G Suite Chat, explore the bots available so you can make the most out of this feature.
11. Stop sending corrections and instead just edit your messages
One of the greatest annoyances of texting someone is that once you hit “Send,” there’s no going back.
You don’t have to worry about this on Chat as “Edit” is built into each message:
It might be tempting to let the occasional spelling or grammatical error slip through since live-chat feels like an informal way of talking to coworkers.
But if you accidentally send something through with a serious spelling error, or a fact needs updating, use the Edit button to clean it up.
12. Format your messages the way you would your emails
Another way to upgrade your communications in Hangouts Chat is by formatting your messages. For instance:
You can add different types of text formatting to your messages to make them easier to read and to call attention to more important bits.
There’s no toolbar to help with the formatting though. You’ll need to memorize the markup for each. The most common ones are:
- *bold text*
- _italic text_
You’ll find other formatting options here.
13. Give your conversations more life using quick-add emojis
Thanks to keyboard shortcuts, you can quickly add emoji to your conversations by typing “:” in your message.
This opens a list of commonly used emoji to choose from:
Since it can be difficult to read emotion from the other side of the screen, this shortcut will come in handy if you want to add some personality and tone to your message.
14. Type less by activating Smart Reply
Gmail has two “smart” writing features it offers users: Smart Compose and Smart Reply. It’s Google’s way of putting auto-complete into email… and it’s very useful.
Hangouts Chat also has a Smart Reply feature, though it’s only available for web and desktop users:
When this feature is turned on, Chat provides you with quick response options and spares you the trouble of typing something like “Great, thanks!” or “Sounds good!”
It also picks up on how you tend to respond to people and will alter its Smart Reply options based on that information.
15. Quickly share files from Google Drive
Even though it’s not that difficult to move to a new browser window and grab a file from Google Drive, why do it if you don’t have to?
When you open a new message or reply to someone else’s, you’ll notice a number of options in the bottom-right corner of the widget:
The first is to upload a file. The second is to share something from Google Drive.
When you use the Google Drive option, it removes all of those extra steps in between. Like clicking to open a new browser, finding your Google Drive account, plus however many clicks it takes to navigate through your folders to find your file.
16. Stay on top of everything by following people or threads
Whether someone owes you something or you want to stay on top of specific activities and notifications, use the “Follow” feature to zero in on what’s important to you:
You can follow people, bots, rooms, as well as individual threads. Once you’ve chosen to follow them, you’ll receive notifications for all new activity.
17. Be choosy about which conversations you hear
Another feature to help you focus when you’re in Chat is found under More Options (the three dots) besides any room name:
"Star" lets you highlight all conversations from the room (or in an individual thread). You can do the same for people.
If you’d rather not read through all messages and instead just focus on what’s most relevant, the star will call immediate attention to it.
"Turn off notifications" to mute notifications from rooms that don’t involve you.
So, unless someone has mentioned you with an @ or looped you into a conversation for @all, you won’t hear about it anymore.
"Leave" lets you abandon a room or group chat entirely.
18. Never miss important updates by configuring chat notifications
Let’s face it: you’re not going to spend your entire workday inside of Chat. You’d never get anything done, no matter how many rooms or threads you mute.
But it’s understandable if you’re nervous that, the second you leave, something urgent will come up.
Good news: you don’t need to be logged into the app to get those notifications:
From Chat Settings, enable email messages as well as push notifications. Just remember to choose which kinds of messages should be sent through these more urgent channels.
19. Stay focused by snoozing notifications
On the other hand, if you don’t want to be bothered by Chat at all, use Snooze Notifications instead.
To choose how long you want to mute notifications, click on your status indicator at the top of Chat:
Select the time period you want to silence notifications for.
Use this feature when you need a break from chat, don’t want any interruptions while working, or simply to silence notifications when meeting with someone else.
20. Save time using shortcuts
Even with all of these Hangouts hacks to help you focus on individual rooms and threads and people, it can still be overwhelming. That’s why it’s nice to have keyboard shortcuts that help you focus even more.
When you’re inside Chat, type “?” to open your keyboard shortcuts panel:
Shortcuts help you instantly open a search, send a new message, and switch rooms. But you can also drown out surrounding noise by putting a spotlight on conversations and rooms with just one click.
21. Get Siri to help in the mobile app
Your desktop Chat app isn’t the only one with built-in shortcuts. You can use Siri voice shortcuts on your iPhone or virtual assistant on your Android device to quickly navigate your conversations and rooms in the mobile app:
The only catch is that you need to spend time in Hangouts Chat, so Siri can learn more about your chat behavior and build shortcuts based on what you do most frequently.
22. Find something specific in your chats using advanced search
Although you can organize rooms by threads, Chat feeds tend to get long and difficult to search through as your team spends more time chatting in them.
With advanced chat, though, it’s easier to find what you’re looking for:
Not only can you search for specific phrases, but you can also narrow down your search based on the person involved in the conversation as well as the kinds of content shared within it.
Hangouts Meet hacks for G Suite users
Hangouts Meet is the new video call and conferencing app for Google. It’s similar to video platforms like Zoom, but without the hassle of managing settings and rooms.
23. Use Hangouts Meet in the browser or from the mobile app
In most cases, you’re running your video conference calls through a laptop or desktop computer.
For that, you should use Hangouts Meet for your browser:
With the browser-based version of Meet, you can do a lot more than just talk face-to-face with people. But more on that in a bit.
Now, let’s say you’re on the road and don’t want to miss an important client or team call. However, you either don’t have your computer on you or you don’t have a quiet place with reliable wifi access.
This is when the Hangouts Meet mobile app would be useful:
The mobile app has some of the core functionality of the browser app. For instance, you can:
- Schedule meetings
- Join meetings
- Use audio or video (or both) to participate
You can also use the app to keep track of all upcoming meetings on your Google Calendar:
If you’re looking for a true business conferencing solution, though, the mobile phone app should be used only when you’re unable to get to your computer.
24. Customize the details of your video calls
It wouldn’t be the end of the world if your meeting invitation were devoid of any details, especially if it’s for a regularly scheduled call (like a monthly sales check-in).
However, you’re using a professional conferencing solution to ensure that the video looks crisp, the wifi connection is strong, and your team has a way to stay focused and engaged during the meeting.
So, why not take a few minutes to give the meeting details an extra polish?
One thing to do is add attachments to your meetings. This would be useful if you have a lengthy agenda that needs covering or if you want to review a specific document during the call.
In addition, you can give your meeting a name, so it’s ultra-clear what the purpose of the meeting is:
Each attendee also has individual video and audio controls once they’re inside the meeting.
This might come in handy, for instance, if ambient noises in your workspace start to intrude on the call. If you don’t need to participate, just mute yourself until it’s time to speak.
25. Invite Google contacts to join you on a video chat
One of the nice things about Google creating so many business tools is that they integrate well with one another.
For example, Meet connects to your Google contacts. This way, you don’t have to hunt down individual people’s email addresses to invite them to the meeting:
All you need to do is type their name in the “Sending invite” field and Google will auto-populate options from your contacts list.
If that’s not a convenient option (for example, if you’re meeting with a brand new lead), you can quickly copy the share link and email it to them instead.
26. Greet attendees and share links by sending a text message
With any good conferencing software, you should have in-app texting abilities.
One reason to use the texting feature is to make sure attendees can see your screen and hear you.
If you're scheduling a meeting that's small enough, you can just ask attendees to vocally confirm that’s the case. However, with bigger team meetings, it might be a good idea to put everyone on mute to keep interruptions and distractions to a minimum.
For that, you would need to send a message like this:
In that same scenario, you might want to use chat to solicit questions from attendees.
A lot of webinars will do this, where the speaker has the floor for 30 or so minutes. Then, the last 10 to 15 opens it up to answering questions the attendees left during the presentation.
Another thing you can do is use chat to share links referenced during your call. That way, you don’t have to remember to email them later or to track down all attendee emails to send them to.
27. Share your screen to demonstrate a point
Meet lets you collaborate with meeting attendees in a number of ways. Voice and video calls are the most obvious options. However, there are others to be aware of as well.
Click on the options button (the three dots) in the top-right corner of the Meet app and locate Share screen:
Google will ask which you want to share:
You can show your entire screen if you’re planning to move between various desktop applications.
For example, let’s say you’re onboarding a new employee. In addition to reviewing company policies, you want to introduce them to the Chat app your team uses from the desktop.
You’d need to share the entire screen to do that, but if you just plan on keeping them in the browser (even if you jump from tab to tab), you can use the application window instead.
28. Present your video call during a meeting
Video chat isn’t just useful when you’re communicating with someone in another location. You can "Present to Meeting" too:
There are a couple of scenarios when you could use this feature.
The first is if you want to display your presentation on a larger screen in a conference room. There’s no need to tether your devices together with A/C adapters and other cables either. So long as your devices speak to each other through Google, it’ll work.
You could also use the Present to Meeting feature to host video calls between large and distant teams.
So, if you’re working from your main hub in Atlanta, but want to bring your Los Angeles and Toronto teams into the conference call, this would allow you to do that more effectively.
Level up your communications with these Google Hangouts hacks
With classic Google Hangouts, you can chat with and call team members or clients on the fly. Although this solution will retire soon, there’s still a lot you can do with it in the meantime.
With Hangouts Chat and Meet, your teams have a way to level up their live communications with features like bots, screen-sharing, and follow/mute.
Keep your conversations organized while minimizing the distractions caused by irrelevant discussions. This ensures that each person (including yourself) is tuned into the conversations that require their attention and action.
If you’ve ever felt like your communication systems are inefficient, Hangouts is the best solution to help you simplify and streamline things.