Twitter Spaces

John Chapman
Tuesday 18 May 2021

Earlier this month, Spaces was launched on Twitter after a successful beta version trial. Spaces is their latest feature which makes use of social audio, the growing medium between text and video.

A hybrid between a podcast and a live broadcast, Spaces provides you with a way to have live, audio-only, conversations with your followers and beyond.

Currently available on iOS and Android devices, up to 10 people can speak at any one time, but there is an unlimited number on who can listen along. As a host, you have the ability to mute and change who’s speaking and also remove guests if they are being inappropriate.

More information on how to set up a Space is available from Twitter.

Why use Spaces?

Social audio has been described as the ‘goldilocks medium’ that fills the gap when communicating by text is not enough but when video is too much. Spaces provides a social connection for those who want to join in on the conversation but do not want to be on camera.

People will find their own way to use Spaces; however, Laura Wong from Hootsuite has outlined some initial ideas for using it including:

  • Thought leadership: Spaces can be used to bring experts together on a particular topic to have a discussion and share insights. It may even open up the debate to people who would not normally engage in podcasts as Spaces is built into a platform they already use. Researchers at the University may find Spaces beneficial to share their latest research.
  • Q&As: Spaces are ideal for hosting Q&A sessions. People can ask their questions in real-time and get a response instantly, no waiting for email responses! Admissions may find Spaces useful for holding Q&A sessions for prospective students and parents on the admission process.
  • Commentary on live events: Twitter is already popular for hosting conversations on live events, whether this is traditional Tweeting, live broadcasts or Fleets. Spaces is yet another way to provide a perspective on ongoing events with relevant experts. During specific world events, researchers could use Spaces to proactively react and provide their own perspective.
  • Games and giveaways: Spaces can be seen as an evolution of radio which allows for greater audience participation. Instead of just listening along, users can react and join in on the conversation. The Students Union and Saints Sport may want to use Spaces to hold quizzes, competitions and giveaways to engage with their clubs and societies in a new way. This is especially relevant in a time of Covid when most clubs are having to find ways of holding online events.

What are the limitations of spaces?

Like any other product, Spaces is not without its limitations. Having only launched this month, it is likely that Spaces will go through a number of iterations to improve its service and release new features. Some of the current limitations include:

  • It’s only available on iOS and Android, meaning people are only able to join in on mobile devices and not on desktop.
  • All Spaces are public, and anyone can find and listen to your Space. It is not possible to host a private Space.
  • Once a Space is finished, it is not available to listen to again. While this provides a level of exclusivity, if somebody has said something interesting during the Space or somebody who missed it wants to catch up, they can’t. It is also worth noting here that while Spaces are not saved for the user, Twitter does keep the audio file for 30 days in case it needs to be reviewed.
  • While it is possible to enable captions to your Space, this is not a default setting, making it inaccessible for some. Also, due to the nature of a live broadcast, captions have a slight delay.

What is the future of social audio?

Social audio appears to be here to stay. While Spaces was released this week, similar services like Clubhouse have already had early success with people like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg hosting events.

Other companies are investing in social audio too with Facebook, Reddit, Spotify and Slack all planning on launching similar services in the future. It looks like the market is going to become very noisy when it comes to social audio.

Technology Industry Analyst Jeremiah Owyang believes that social audio will soon expand out of social media too and become a familiar part of web pages, articles and the physical world:

“ . . . we will see live conversations embedded on every single webpage, article, and beyond. Using APIs, these social audio conversations will be available as users read articles, watch shows, play games, and traverse the physical world. Imagine reading an article, then choosing to listen to experts discuss the content in real-time or hear opinions recorded from your trusted circle. Users could leave voice messages or recorded conversations in physical locations like the geocaching community leaves physical items.”

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