As Twitter looks to make its audio Spaces a bigger element within the broader platform experience, Spaces discovery now poses a key challenge – because if Twitter’s not alerting users to in-progress Spaces of interest, it’s missing out on significant engagement potential.
Which is the key impetus behind this new addition – today, Twitter is launching a new test that will show you when someone that you follow on Twitter is listening in to a Space, by highlighting that broadcast at the top of your timeline.
Up till now, Twitter has done this when someone that you follow is speaking in a Spaces chat, but now, Spaces that your connections are even tuning into will also show up, providing another way to highlight potential discussions of interest.
Which could also freak some people out. I mean, if you came across a Space on a niche interest, or a questionable topic, you might not want people to know that you’re tuning in. Because of this, Twitter has also added an easy toggle to deactivate alerts for when you’re listening to a Space (as shown in latter two screenshots above).
Which is good, but I can tell you now, some people won’t know that this is happening, and some will be very upset when they find out that their followers have been shown that they’re tuning into questionable chats in the app.
I mean, would you want people to know that you’re tuning into this discussion? And this is a very tame example, based on a quick Spaces search.
Twitter must have deemed this worth the risk, at least enough for a live test of the function, which it probably needs to push ahead with, because again, in order to maximize the potential of Spaces, boosting discovery is key.
As Clubhouse is now finding, as it opens up to more users, optimal discovery of live audio is challenging, because more people broadcasting inevitably brings down the overall quality of the streams on offer at any time. Just like video live-streaming, while giving everybody the option to share whatever they like, in real-time, is an interesting addition to have, most people are simply not that great at maintaining audience interest.
There’s a reason why you see the same TV hosts on every live event – because it takes skill, and perceptive nous, to read the room, and to keep the conversation flowing, thereby maximizing audience interest. And while it can be learned, it doesn’t come naturally for most people, and most live broadcasts end up being not so great as a result.
As such, having more broadcasts actually leads to more discovery challenges, because now you’ve got a constant stream that you need to sift through, in real-time, in order to uncover the gems that each user will actually want to hear.
This is also why Facebook and Reddit may actually have an advantage in audio broadcast discovery, because both apps are rolling out their audio meeting options to groups and subreddits respectively. That automatically narrows the field of recommendations, because both apps can show you recommended chats based on your registered interests, as opposed to trying to pick out the best from a much larger pool of incoming audio.
The disadvantage in that approach is that you likely won’t reach as large an audience, which Spaces is probably the best option for, given the real-time nature of Twitter and the focus that it’s putting on Spaces streams. Twitter, for example, could look to highlight the most popular Spaces at any given moment at the top of its new Spaces tab – but then again, if it just ends up showing everyone a constantly revolving display of BTS-related streams (note: there are many BTS related Spaces), that’s probably not an optimal user experience.
Hence the challenge that Twitter now faces, as it looks to take the option to the next level. If it can’t show you stuff you want to hear, you’ll stop checking the Spaces tab, once it arrives, very quickly, and the option will die out faster than you can say ‘Fleet’.
Can Twitter do it? Can Twitter use its knowledge graph, based on the people you follow, the topics you’re interested in, and related info that it can track, in order to show you the Spaces that you’re most likely to be interested in at any given time?
Based on experience with Twitter’s current topic recommendations, and the tweets that it shows me in my Explore tab, I’m not confident that it’s going to get this right – but with far more insights into user behaviors and interests than Clubhouse, it seems pretty clear that Twitter is at least likely to beat out the incumbent in this respect.