President Barack Obama will be the first president to use Google Plus Hangouts
to chat with voters in a 45 minute open forum after his State of the
Union address tomorrow.

During the session, Obama will answer questions submitted to YouTube,
echoing his YouTube town halls of the past, as well as chat live with a
select group of questioners.

The Hangout, where multiple people can be on video chat all in one room, will be hosted on the new White House Google Plus page, and will be live streamed on the website.

Participants of tomorrow’s presidential Hangout will not be chosen by the White House says Macon Phillips, White House director of digital strategy.

“For online engagement to be interesting, it has to be honest,” Phillips said. “We want to give Americans more control over this conversation and the chance to ask questions they care about.”

The President isn’t the only one interested in using Google Plus Hangouts to create an open dialogue with the public.

Dell has begun to investigate using Hangouts for customer service. They have already had their first on-air Hangout on Jan 11 from CES in Las Vegas to answer questions about new products. X Games has an athlete chat series to bring together fans and athletes to create a new kind of online show.

The future of Hangouts won’t only revolve around customer or fan engagement but will move beyond into areas such as journalism. According to Markham Nolan, outreach director for Storyful, a site using social networks to create interactive journalism, Hangouts are used for editorial meetings. “It’s a very handy way to bring people together from across the US, Vietnam, Ireland, and UK.” Taking the concept one step further, BBC’s Ramaa Sharma wrote today on how Google Hangouts may be a new tool for journalists when live reporting.

As more companies begin to find more uses for Google Plus, the competition may begin to heat up as Google try to catch up to Facebook in terms of influence and global engagement. With a President about to use their service for the first time, Google Plus will definitely get more attention. Steve Grove, head of community partnerships for Google Plus said “Whether it’s good for Google Plus or not, I guess viewers will decide by how well we pull it off.” Hopefully for them, and for the future of Hangouts, it will all go as planned.