Twitter announced in March that it would make Spaces, its live audio social service, available to all users in April. Spaces, following the success of the newcomer to social media audio Clubhouse, is expected to not only re-energize the platform, but also herald an era of live audio social media.
What are Twitter spaces?
Spaces are live audio chat rooms where Twitter users host a variety of conversation topics, from tech to popular culture. Hosts can decide who to invite – by choosing from anyone on Twitter, the host’s followers, or via a DM invite. Invited Twitter users join a Space by clicking the Space icon at the top of the app timeline. Each space allows up to 11 people to speak at any given time or when the host hands the mic or a listener requests the mic. Listeners can also view speaker captions, while hosts can also flag or block people to avoid harassment issues (listeners can also report a space if it breaks Twitter rules).
I joined my first Space chat, thanks to an invitation from developer Angie Jones (@ techgirl1908) and software engineer Laurie Bart (@LaurieonTech). The audio was very clear, allowing me to appreciate the voices of the speakers – people I followed on Twitter for a long time but never met in person – as if I was really in the room. The live audio experience made me realize the benefits of the Spaces and Clubhouse offering – a personalized mix of conferencing, podcasting and meeting that connects people based on shared commentary instantly – an exchange difficult to reproduce properly. in a response chain to blog posts or Tweet thread.
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Twitter vs Clubhouse spaces
Twitter Spaces is available on iOS and Android smartphones, giving it an adoptability advantage. In addition, Twitter users will soon be able to participate in the Spaces via a desktop or laptop computer. The wider roll-out of Twitter spaces can help Twitter establish audio social communities with wider participation, again giving it a leg up on the even more limited Clubhouse.
The Clubhouse app is only available on iOS, although an Android version of the app is coming soon. Joining Clubhouse is an “invitation-only” process – you must know someone with the app to enter a Clubhouse room. Thus, although limited in availability, the exclusive and underground atmosphere has enhanced the appeal of the application.
Twitter has a second significant advantage: its amalgamation of social cultures and subcultures. Twitter has been a reliable news and marketing platform for many industries, from hashtag-based gatherings, such as #Bizapalooza, a bi-monthly marketing Twitter chat, to complementary feeds of live event updates and breaking news. The informal establishment of cultural groups such as Twitter black has revolutionized the way intersectional culture issues can be displayed to inform marketing brands.
But comments from Twitter threads are subject to an algorithmic timeline, with visibility influenced by who shares and comment. This environment can make some conversations too limited, creating a self-reinforcing dialogue between users that dulls creativity, confuses or, worse, allows disinformation campaigns and trolling behavior. Spreading disinformation has been an Achilles heel for Twitter – and social media in general. Twitter has taken steps to remove agents of disinformation, conspiracy theories and intimidation from its feed so people can securely connect.
In contrast, live audio chat rooms allow people to virtually meet and talk with more organic communication without an algorithm. People can hear the tone and intent of a comment in real time rather than interpreting the intent behind a post.
Clubhouse has yet to be overwhelmed by the negative coverage other social media platforms have received. However, a few problems were noted. Moderation to prevent harassment is a concern. Wired reported how a hosted Clubhouse extended the online harassment of a New York Times reporter. Meanwhile, privacy experts have criticized the type of personal data included in Clubhouse listings.
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What will soon become of the social audio market
If spaces and other audio chats become popular, Clubhouse will be challenged to maintain its popularity. Much like Periscope’s fate with live video, the platforms easily duplicate each other’s programmatic functionality. Having an edge in a pandemic-influenced 2021 period will be short-lived compared to the days of 2011, when people were more carefree with their online behavior and programming sophistication was limited.
The platforms see social audio as a new opportunity. Discord introduced live audio chat service called Stage Channels, while LinkedIn and Facebook both have audio social chat rooms in development. The emergence of Clubhouse competitors reflects the rapid growth of audio social media. A Nielsen report found smartphone audio streaming audience penetration jumped from 50% in the first quarter of 2019 to 64% in the first quarter of 2020.
Twitter has the best chance among the Clubhouse’s competitors in part due to its current push for new services that subscribers can use. SuperFollows, a direct payment service that allows users to charge for viewing special tweet content, offers Twitter users a way to sell subscription services, books, how-to videos, and other media. These features can be combined to attract people with a consolidated platform that promotes spaces rather than the Clubhouse for their own business. April 5 Flag announced Payments, a beta monetization feature that allows everyone on Clubhouse to send payments, although currently only a few of them can receive them.
As remote work continues through 2021, social audio promotion platforms have the potential to sell other subscription-level services to screen-weary audiences, a major step away from models based on The advertisement. Twitter spaces are likely to bring a variety of creative value to people who have made Twitter a staple of their marketing strategy.
Pierre DeBois is the founder of Zimana, a digital analysis consulting firm for small businesses. It examines data from web analytics and social media dashboard solutions, then provides web development recommendations and actions that improve business marketing strategy and profitability.