0

Can you make money helping out Google Helpouts?

Marketplace’s Mark Garrison gets hair advice from salon owner James Gartner via Google Helpouts

This week Google launched Helpouts, which connects users via video chat to people offering help in a number of different fields. You can learn to draw, get fashion tips or sign up for cooking lessons, among many other things. Perhaps because my bosses judge me in need of self-improvement, they assigned me to give it a try and see why Google’s doing this.

My wife frequently mocks my frugal haircuts, so I used this as an opportunity to get style advice, all on Marketplace’s dime. I checked out promo videos to find someone, ultimately signing up with James Gartner, co-founder of Bii Hair Salon, west of Chicago.

His judgment was swift. He said I needed to modernize my "classic" hairstyle. I asked him if classic was just a nice way of saying hopelessly outdated. Both stylist and diplomat, he assured me it wasn’t.

Google takes a 20 percent cut of this session, in this case two bucks. But perhaps more importantly, to do this Helpout, I had to blow thick layers of digital dust off my Google+ account. And I paid with Google Wallet. Pushing more people to use these services is a key part of Google's move into the booming live help market.

"I think it’s a very natural strategy for them," says Constance Helfat, technology strategy professor at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business. "It fits two initiatives they’re trying to push forward that they don’t have major traction in yet."

Many people go online searching for answers. By providing a forum for people to potentially connect with experts offering high-quality information, Google gets to try something beyond its core business of selling online ads.

"At some point, that’ll start slowing down and they need new avenues for revenue," says Sridhar Narayanan, marketing professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.

As for those providing Helpouts, like Gartner, it’s an opportunity to make a few bucks on downtime, all while building a brand in a more personal way than just posting a YouTube video. He does that too, which is how he became one of the first to participate in Helpouts. To start, Google has brought on just over 1,000 providers from four English-speaking countries. Gartner says he got the invitation based on his YouTube page and immediately saw the benefits of Helpouts.

"You can really get down to the details," he explains. "With somebody watching a video, you can only see so much before you have other questions."

He even followed up with me, sending a pic to guide my next haircut. It was David Beckham. No Helpout could ever make me look like that.

Mark Garrison: My wife mocks my frugal haircuts. So this is an opportunity to get style advice on Marketplace’s dime. I checked out promo videos to find the right person.

Sold. Ten bucks buys a 15 minute consult with salon owner James Gartner. His judgment was swift.

Stylist and diplomat. Google gets two bucks out of this, or 20%. But perhaps more importantly, to do this Helpout, I had to blow thick layers of digital dust off my Google+ account. And pay with Google Wallet. Dartmouth technology strategy professor Constance Helfat says pushing people to use these services is a key part of this move.

Constance Helfat: I think it’s a very natural strategy for them because it fits two initiatives they’re trying to push forward that they don’t have major traction in yet.

Sridhar Narayanan: There is a big market for this, you know, live help.

Stanford business professor Sridhar Narayanan says Google needs to go further beyond selling online ads.

Narayanan: At some point, that’ll start slowing down and they need new avenues for revenue.

As for those providing Helpouts, like Gartner, it’s an opportunity to make a few bucks on downtime.

James Gartner: You can really get down to the details, whereas with somebody watching a video you can only see so much before you have other questions.

He even followed up, sending a pic to guide my next haircut. It was David Beckham. No Helpout would make me look like that. In New York, I'm Mark Garrison, for Marketplace.

About the author

Mark Garrison is a reporter for Marketplace and substitute host for the Marketplace Morning Report, based in New York.
Log in to post0 Comments
With Generous Support From...