Although some reports reports suggest that interest in Facebook is waning, alternative social networks like Google+ still lag well behind.
Google has rolled out a number of Google+ updates to remedy this situation, with varying results, but now the company has quietly introduced a new video-based upgrade: a paid expert network.
Google Helpouts is essentially a way for experts in a number of fields to make money by offering their knowledge to customers via Google+ Hangouts, the company's video chat service.
Experts can charge by the minute or by the session, depending on their preference and the service rendered. In order to be paid, the professional and the customer will need to use Google Wallet. For each completed paid Helpout, Google will charge a 20 per cent platform fee. However, experts also have the option of offering their services for free.
Current categories for Helpouts include: Computers & Electronics, Cooking and Education, Health & Counselling, Nutrition & Fitness, Home & Garden, Fashion & Beauty, and Art & Music.
If the expert happens to be offering a medical session as a regulated healthcare professional, Google's support page states that a third party will check that person's credentials.
Essentially, Google is taking all the tips seen in videos posted to sites like YouTube, where fitness instruction and makeup tutorials are growing increasingly popular, and giving the experts in those fields the ability to directly profit from their skills beyond simple traffic-related advertising revenue.
Helpouts could also help to change the conversation about online schooling, from regular tutoring for general academics to specialised training. In the realms of health therapy - from psychiatrists and physical rehab specialists - the platform has the potential to eliminate any remaining hurdles associated with providing professional, one-on-one guidance online.
While some may be hesitant to pay experts for their professional skills through video chat, Google is making the prospect a lot less risky by offering a 100 per cent money back guarantee if the customer isn't satisfied. But in order to take advantage of that guarantee, customers must agree to have their session recorded (an optional feature), a detail that could be challenging for some if the session involves sensitive admissions.
At present, the service isn't open to the public, but Google is currently inviting experts into the programme and accepting requests to be included as a provider of Helpout services.