The End (Lost)

GroupMe turns to advertising, sort of

March 28, 2011: 9:00 AM ET

The group messaging startup will offer slickly branded groups promoting bands, TV shows, and concerts. In other words: sponsors. Will users love or loathe the idea?

By Daniel Roberts, reporter

GroupMe sponsored groups on the iPhone

GroupMe sponsored groups on the iPhone

At the SXSW Interactive conference in Austin this month, while speaking about the recent heavy influx of platforms that offer group text messaging, Ted Livingston, CEO of KIK, told CNNmoney, "The four big [companies] that all the blogs talk about is us, Beluga, GroupMe and Fast Society." We're not so sure, Ted. From what we've seen, and others agree, GroupMe has had the most buzz, far and away (BrandChannel called it "the belle of the SXSW ball"). But will users who swear by the young app go for its new attempt at sponsored partnerships?

GroupMe, beginning today, will be promoting musicians, concerts, events, and television programs through branded groups, which will be available under a "Featured" tab in the main menu of the GroupMe app. Say you and five friends all happen to like Bon Jovi; you can create a Bon Jovi group. Nothing changes about the way your group functions—you can still text each other all at once, and also use the group for a conference call -- but now, you're entered for the chance to win tickets, CDs, or even the opportunity to have Bon Jovi pop up in your group and text message with you. In some cases, GroupMe says, the artist or celeb may even get on a conference call with you to prove it's really them.

That all sounds good, but we can't help but think that a group of friends would have to really like Bon Jovi to care enough that they'd create a messaging group around the band. The same goes for America's Best Dance Crew or Bad Girls Club, two TV shows that will also have featured groups available. To be fair, there will also be group options for Bonnaroo and Coachella, which we could more conceivably imagine people joining for the chance to win tickets. It's not likely that users who love GroupMe will be so disgusted by sponsored groups that they abandon the app, but it's hard to say how many of them will actually create a group around one of the featured brands. More

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