Group Messaging Apps Need to Find a Marketing Solution

By christinewatson / / I might not be down in SXSW myself, but it’s clear from all sources that the real talk of the town is the rise of the group messaging application. GroupMe, CloudTalk, Beluga, Free Speech… An incredible number of startups are rising around this new trend. The functionality is solid. How often have you realized, after a night on the town, that you totally forgot to invite someone? While calling together the gang at the top of the evening, it’s easy to let a name or two slip your mind. Maybe I’m just a bit of an airhead, but I get the feeling it’s a universal problem. Now you can build a group that lets you message the whole crew. We’ve moved into an era of broadcasting our thoughts to all of our Facebook friends and Twitter followers, and it’s ridiculous that until now there hasn’t been a convenient way to bridge the gap between contacting everyone and contacting a single person. READ MORE And yet, as the buzz grows, there are certainly a few people scratching their heads about this burgeoning tech craze. With it marketed directly towards insular friend groups, integrating this technology into advertising isn’t as clear-cut a proposal as the last few major tech trends. Location-based software like FourSquare and Gowalla is fairly easy to implement, although the capabilities of those systems are still being explored. On the other hand, crowdsourced coupon services like Groupon or LivingSocial are a no-brainer, as they require cooperation with businesses to survive. Group messaging applications are a different animal altogether. In a way they’re miniature social networks with short lifespans, without the functionality for fan pages or direct advertisement. Simply: how the hell will they make any money? The easiest method towards monetization would have to be going down the path of Groupon with crowdsourced discounts, only on a smaller scale. Let’s say a major brewery launches a campaign in which you pull together ten of your friends via one of the group messaging platforms, and set the location of your weekly meet-up at a participating bar. The participants could get a good deal on the company’s beer.These specialized discounts could do a lot both to spread the ubiquity of the group messaging system and help build brand loyalty with a younger audience. Only a small handful of the platforms down in Austin will pick up steam, but it would be easy to see these products stagnating once the market and fatal kinks (cough Kik cough) weed out the lot. Diversifying the use and benefit of the apps will keep them from becoming old hat when developers start integrating their functionality into the next generation of smartphones. It’s definitely an opportunity, and I’ll be interested to see what happens next. – James T. Tynion IV