GroupMe adds brands to group messaging

Dominating Twitter streams at the recent SXSW event in the group messaging class with 65% of the overall mentions (according to social media analytics group Simply Measured), GroupMe, the New York based mobile group chat startup, yesterday revealed its plan for bringing brands into its new business model: Featured Groups.

The new big initiative opens up the mobile group chat platform by allowing brands an opportunity to participate in group messaging conversations directly related to the brand and thus actively engage users, thereby driving up its user growth and overall usage.

Users who attended SXSW in Austin earlier this month, will already have been exposed to GroupMe’s “2.1 More Thing” release which experimented with suggested topics, allowed for broadcasting of “joinable groups” on Twitter and Facebook and allowed users to see special locations in the map view, including parties and GroupMe’s “secret plans”. The driving of the industry’s tech-savvy attendees into creating SXSW groups was a clever bit of marketing strategy that worked perfectly for the mobile messaging startup with more than two million messages were sent through the system during the conferences.

We’re now seeing the business model that has now evolved from that basic and engaging premise to monetising the service by bringing brands to GroupMe. Users will now be able to create and join groups relating to a particular brand such as TV shows, music artists and more, simply by accessing the “Featured” tab within the GroupMe app. Initial launch partners includes MTV, Oxygen Media, Jon Bon Jovi, and the Bonnaroo and Coachella Music Festival.

Furthermore, users can create now special groups with their friends focused around a particular brand topic, allowing the brands to interact with those groups by sending useful information such as news, promotions, fan memos, marketing messages, or even VIP appearances by celebrities in your GroupMe chat. By the user “opting-in” to a particular brand, the Featured Groups option is not just another advertising medium and clearly not intended for spam. The choice to receive messages from a particular brand lies entirely with the user.

For GroupMe, it’s an excellent opportunity to get new users to sign up and join. Fans loyal to a particular brand or attending say, a Bon Jovi concert, could start a group under Bon Jovi’s featured group and receive useful information pertaining to event. Perhaps, if you’re super-lucky, even backstage passes. Maintaining the GroupMe strategy of social groups, your newly created group will still retain its identity and not be part of a single large “Bon Jovi” topic-base. It will also still include all the people that you or your friends invite.

Thus far, each of the five initial partner’s all offer some exclusive and exciting benefits to GroupMe users. From the press announcement on the GroupMe blog, these include:

  • MTV’s Randy Jackson Presents America’s Best Dance Crew – Fans who are in an ABDC group will be able to receive all sorts of content directly from MTV when the new season premieres on April 7, including behind-the-scenes video clips, photo galleries, insider blog posts, and tune-in reminders. Plus, each week, a few lucky groups will be joined by one of the Crew members, answering fans’ questions directly via GroupMe messaging and conference calling.
  • Coachella – At this year’s Coachella music and arts festival in Indio, California, GroupMe users in Coachella groups will be able to receive reminders for all the festival’s best bands. Plus, with updates directly from the festival organisers, GroupMe users will be the first to know about any changes to the festival or special promotions taking place onsite.
  • Bonnaroo – The Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival is celebrating its tenth year with an amazing lineup, and GroupMe will be helping fans easily plan their journey to Tennessee and stay connected with their friends onsite. GroupMe will be fully integrated into the official Bonnaroo iPhone, iPad, and Android applications, ensuring that no matter who you go with, you’ll be able to seamlessly plan and share a perfect Bonnaroo experience.
  • Bon Jovi – Legendary rock band Bon Jovi is using GroupMe to help their fans chat about their shows, events, appearances, causes, and anything else. Groups will be automatically entered to win exclusive merchandise including photos, albums, and DVDs signed by the band. Plus, on their 2011 tour, Bon Jovi will give GroupMe users a chance to win backstage passes, upgraded seats, and more!
  • Oxygen’s Bad Girls Club – GroupMe users who are in a Bad Girls Club group will be able to receive exclusive content from Oxygen, including reminders about when the show is on, first-hand tidbits from the characters, and access to special promotions. Bad Girls Club featured groups even have the chance to be contacted directly by the Bad Girls themselves.

The overall feel of the service is focused on engagement and in sidestepping the marketing angle (opportunists and marketing zealots take note!). Of course, the brands need to have “real conversations” with their consumers and social media is often a confusing platform when it comes to determining users response to brands. Whether or not this response is positive will inevitably determine the future of GroupMe’s new and yet, somewhat subtle, brand strategy.



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