Once a month, I conduct a Google+ Hangout with marketing experts from around the globe. I’ve found these Hangouts to be a great way to learn new things and make new friends. If you’re not already doing something like this, I highly recommend you do — it’s a terrific way to build relationships and improve your skill set.

In any given Hangout, we’ll have people like Eric Qualman, Viveka von Rosen, Lon Safko, Emeric Ernoult, Phyllis Khare, Nathan Latka, Martin Shervington, and Ian Cleary join us. It’s a terrific group and it’s wonderful to be exposed to their tips and techniques.

At the end of every session, I ask each member to suggest a new tool that we should each explore. I thought I’d share the recommendations from my most recent Hangout since I’m sure you’ll find them as helpful as I did.

Ready? Here goes:

  • Viveka von Rosen suggested Oktopost, which allows you to schedule your content distribution in advance to multiple LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter social profiles from one single platform. Be sure to check it out.
  • Martin Shervington suggested Boomerang, which is an online email, social media and event management software platform. If memory serves me correctly, Martin was particularly impressed with the event management aspect of the platform.
  • Lon Safko suggested DaDaMail, which helps you manage your email mailing list, and offers complete support for safe, closed-loop opt-in subscriptions. It also lets you send out mass mailings, keep message archives and allows you to share your messages in lots of neat ways.
  • Ian Cleary suggested Keyword Tool and Seologies. Keyword Tool will help you discover thousands of the new longtail keywords related to the topic that you specify by automatically generating Google’s auto suggestions. And Seologies is a new platform that optimizes content creation for SEO, using statistical correlation. They’re both worth checking out.
  • Phyllis Khare suggested Streak, which is a way to put your GMail on steroids. With Streak, you can track exchanges, snooze email threads, schedule emails to send later and a whole slew of other things. It’s a great way to supercharge your use of GMail.
  • Nathan Latka suggested Signals, which is a platform created by HubSpot. Signals allows you to see who has opened your emails, who has clicked on links, who is viewing your website and several other interesting things. This one definitely looks like it’s worth checking out.

How to Start Your Own Hangouts.

I’ve been doing Google+ Hangouts with industry experts for several years now and have found them indispensable. Sometimes, I’ll come away with a list of new tools like the ones above. But more often, I’ll come away with a new way to grow my business; a new perspective on solving a problem; or, best of all, a new friend.

I’d encourage you to try the same thing. With that in mind, here are three steps to get you started.

  1. Establish An Area of Focus: It’s a good idea have an area of focus for your Hangout. Having a loose definition of the topics you’ll discuss will help you recruit new members.
  2. Contact 2 People for Every 1 Participant: Put together a list of people you’d like to invite. Then, send them a one-to-one email inviting them to the Hangout (don’t send a mass email since it decreases the effectiveness). Once you have about 8 people who have agreed to join, send a single email to everyone on the list with the specific date.
  3. Do a Test Run: There’s no better way to kill a good Hangout than to have technical difficulties during your initial meeting, so be sure you’ve worked out any kinks on using the Google+ Hangout feature. The fewer difficulties, the more people will want to come back next time.
  4. Start with Introductions: At the first hangout, ask each person to introduce themselves in 60 seconds. This is a great way to break the ice.
  5. Have a Few Seed Questions: The odds are that you’ll have plenty to talk about, but if not, be sure to have a few seed questions to kick things off.
  6. Set a Precedent of Openness: I always make a point of being very transparent in my Hangouts. Why? Because when I’m honest and open about my challenges and hurdles, other people open up, too. And that’s where you’ll discover the gold.

I hope those suggestions help you get started with your new Hangout. At a minimum, check out the new tools outlined above. At a maximum, start your own group — and keep us posted on your progress!

Jamie Turner is the CEO of the 60 Second Marketer and 60 Second Communications, a marketing communications agency that works with national and international brands. He is the co-author of “How to Make Money with Social Media” and “Go Mobile” and is a popular marketing speaker at events, trade shows and corporations around the globe.