No matter what you may think of Google+, Google Spaces is something a bit different — something that may well have have a place in your business. What? How? Isn't this just another experiment by Google? Although it may have been an experiment, it turns out Google created something really special this time.
What is Google Spaces? To put it simply: Spaces is a tool that allows you to have conversations about a specific topic. Whether you're on a team, a company promoting a product or service, or need a space to hold a specific conversation on a specific topic.
Some consider Spaces nothing more than competition for Slack, and it is similar. The biggest difference between the two that Slack focuses primarily on being a group messaging app (so it's more familiar to those that use SMS a lot), whereas Spaces focuses primarily on "conversation" and those who are used to following social networking-like threads will be right at home. For serious Enterprise-level teams, Slack would be the obvious choice because offers features that Spaces cannot match (such as Active Directory support at the Plus and Enterprise price levels and organization-wide reporting at the Enterprise level). But for businesses that need something user-friendly and free, Spaces is aces.
But wait. Can't we already have conversations on Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter (thanks to hashtags), and so many other services? Yes, you can. However, Spaces helps you to take control of the conversations. What you can then do with that control is create specific conversations around certain topics, control who gets to join in on the conversation, and easily delete the conversation when it's run its course.
Examples of usage
Say your company is about to release a new product and you want to offer clients a place to discuss the product. Spaces can do that. Or, say you already have products or services and want to offer a quick and easy way for people to get a bit of support for individual offerings. Spaces can to that too. Say you have a number of teams in your department and you want them to have an easy place to discuss their project. Guess what and where they can do that? Spaces.
What's the benefit?
You may be asking yourself, "What's the benefit of using Spaces?" Considering you can do all of this on other social networking platforms, why bother with yet another? The reason isn't obvious until you start using Spaces. This new platform isn't quite as "social" as you might expect. With this new service, Google has stripped away some of the bits and pieces that make social networking problematic for some businesses. Spaces works so well because the masses cannot follow you. In fact, the only way to reach a specific space within your company's Spaces is by invitation. Without an invite link, there's no way to get to it. That gives your company's Spaces a modicum of privacy and security. And because there is no element of "following", your Spaces will, in theory, be clear of trolls and remain on topic. With Spaces, you don't post something and hope ten or so percent of your followers will see what you've just added. Instead, everyone invited to the space will see the post and may join in on the conversation. There's also the added bonus that you don't have to worry about celebrities, competition, bullies, and pretty much everything that gives social networking the bad reputation it has earned.
How do you use it?
Let me show you how you can take advantage of Google Spaces. The first thing you must do is sign into your Google account. Once you've done that, head over to Google Spaces. On this page, you'll see a Create a space button. Click on that and a new, blank space will appear (Figure A).
Click on Untitled Space and then give your space a name. Click the three vertical dots and then select Customize Space. In this new pop up window (Figure B), you can select a cover image (or upload a custom cover) and select the color for the space.
With the space customized, you're ready to invite users. Click on the INVITE VIA button and a new popup will appear. From this popup, click either Copy Link, Email, or Facebook. If you click Copy Link, the link will be automagically copied to your clipboard. Click Email and your default email client will open with a compose window ready and waiting with the link. Click Facebook and a posting window will appear so you can share it on any of your Facebook pages.
When your audience arrives into your space, after loggin into a Google account, all they have to do is click the Join button and then they can click on a conversation to chime in or even start a conversation of their own within the space. Your clients can discuss a product or service, your team can chat about a project, your fans can interact with you, troll free. At any point, you can delete a discussion from a space by clicking its associated menu button and selecting Delete.
The one caveat is the user's ability to start a conversation within your space. I firmly believe it would be wise of Google to add a bit more control for Spaces, such that the admin could define if users can create a new conversation within the space.
Give it a try
Social networking 1.0 has failed us as a means for promotion and reliable discussion. Google has done something about this with Spaces. By stripping away the "social" element from our collective discourse, Google offers up a service that could be a serious game changer for companies, small businesses, and even individuals searching for a way to really connect to clients, teams, and more. Give Google Spaces a try and see if it doesn't fill a need that Facebook, Twitter, and even Google+ cannot.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.