GroupMe Brings Brands Into The Conversation

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As group texting apps like GroupMe gain popularity, people are using them to create ad hoc, private social networks among a handful of friends. But wherever people congregate online or through their mobile phones, brands will want to talk to them. Today, GroupMe is opening up its mobile group chat to brands in what is the first hint at it business model: Featured Groups.

Brands can create their own featured groups, which will show up as suggested conversation topics. When you and your friends create a group around those topics, they work like regular GroupMe chats, except you’ve also opted in to receive messages from the brand. These may include news, offers, marketing messages, or even VIP appearances by celebrities in your GroupMe chat. The first partners to take advantage of the new feature are Oxygen Media, MTV, Bon Jovi, Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival and Coachella. Oxygen will be creating suggested topics around its TV shows “Bad Girls Club” and the upcoming Paris Hilton show “The World According To Paris.” MTV is using it for “America’s Best Dance Crew.”

“Basically, we’re working with brands where there are intuitive use cases,” says GroupMe CEO Jared Hecht. “Live events (people going to a music festival together), television shows (people who watch a series with a group of friends), and artists/musicians (me and my friends love a band).”

GroupMe first experimented with suggested group topics at SXSW, where people who created a SXSW group got a map and special info about goings on about Austin during the conference. Just before SXSW, GroupMe pushed out a major new version of its app for users. Now we are seeing the business side of that.

If you and your friends go to a concert or really like “America’s Best Dance Crew” (you know who you are) and you are creating groups around these topics anyway, now you might get rewarded with “insider” info, contests, signed merchandise giveaways, or maybe even a pop-in from a band or cast member. The only way these branded topics will work, however, is if they don’t feel like marketing. And that’s always been the case with social media. Brands need to try to have real conversations with their consumers. But as we’ve seen with Twitter, Facebook, and other forms of social media, that is easier said than done.