New Haven folk singer/songwriter Heather Fay wasn’t quite ready to give up on music altogether, but some of life’s other priorities began to make her feel as though her dream was beginning to slip away—until she became one of the first users of Google’s new social media platform, Google+.

“I was definitely losing hope that I would ever be able to reach a real audience,” Fay said, “Having two young kids, being in graduate school and taking care of my ‘grown up’ responsibilities is a full time job.”

Fay received an early invitation to Google+ from a friend last July. She had trouble finding an audience on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, and wondered if the small but influential userbase on the new social network might make it easier to get noticed. It did.

Google+ is very similar to Facebook, incorporating a news feed where users can share links and photos. But Google implemented something that Facebook has yet to successfully replicate: a video conferencing system called “Google+ Hangouts.”

Hangouts allow 10 friends or complete strangers to enter into a video conference using their web browser without the need for complicated software. The system automatically switches the active video feed to whoever is talking.

Watch a promotional video from Google on the Hangout system:

If it sounds like video conferencing has already been done before, it has. Like many successful technologies that refine rather than reinvent (such as the iPod), Google developed a conferencing implementation that allows users to very easily create multi-user video conferences with practically zero configuration. It worked perfectly for having people find one another on the fledgling Google+ network.

Fay soon started meeting other independent musicians and fans through the Hangout feature, making new friends who were eager to share music with one another.

“Pretty early on I came up with the idea to use the hangout feature to do an open mic as a way to connect with other musicians and potential fans,” Fay said. “In the open mic hangout we had musicians from all over the world show up and share their music. It was incredible. We passed the virtual mic around the world. I definitely met a lot of people from doing the open mics, especially in the beginning.”

The hangouts quickly grew in popularity and Fay’s following went from just three friends she already knew to almost 13,000 at the time of this writing. Google also took notice, giving Fay access to an early feature to record the open mic hangout so a larger audience can enjoy them.

Watch Fay describe her Google+ experience a recent social media breakfast held at Quinnipiac University:

Google+ launched last summer, at first open only by invitation. Users were given a limited number of invites to send to their friends before the service fully opened to the public in September. It now boasts a user base of 170 million. By comparison, Facebook claims to have more than 800 million users.

It was Facebook’s enormous user base that prompted Google to launch its own social network. Up until recently, Google’s search results were generated almost entirely from a secret computer algorithm. The human-curated content shared by the hundreds of millions of Facebook users had the potential to threaten the very core of Google’s multi-billion dollar search business.

Read more about the business of search

But Google has quickly integrated the Google+ network into search results. For example, Google+ users will see items relevant to their search that their friends shared or created. The company calls this new feature “search plus your world.”

But for Fay, the real value of Google’s new strategy is that it finally helped her find an audience for her music. She will be heading to the recording studio this summer and plans to take her thousands of fans with her by hosting Hangouts during her recording sessions. Follow her on her Google+ page.

Connect with Lon:

Lon Seidman is the host and producer of “Lon.TV,” a consumer technology video show that is on a number of platforms including YouTube and Amazon. He creates in-depth, consumer-friendly product reviews and commentary. His YouTube channel has over 300,000 subscribers and more than 100 million views.

In addition to being a full-time content creator, Lon is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Hartford (his alma mater) where he teaches a course in entrepreneurial content creation.

Prior to becoming a full-time creator, Lon was a partner at The Safety Zone, his family’s business that manufactures gloves and safety equipment. The company has locations around the globe and employs over 200 people worldwide. The Safety Zone was acquired by the Genuine Parts Corporation in 2016.

Lon is also active in public service, serving as the Chairman of the Essex Board of Education, a member of the Region 4 Board of Education, and as the Secretary / Treasurer of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education. He was endorsed by both Democrats and Republicans for his re-election in 2021.

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