As Google quietly ramps up Disco, its still-in-beta group texting app, GroupMe is hoping to establish itself as the top-of-mind brand for group messaging.
It's also trying to create a business model. Today it announced its latest feature: a tab that promotes musical artists, concerts, events, and TV programs through a "Featured Groups" tab in its main menu, which leads to branded groups and sponsored partnerships.
The news will certainly be welcomed by brands looking to get a piece of the group messaging buzz.
Think of it like "sponsored tweets" on Twitter.
GroupMe users can simply click on the tab to tap into conversations, and can start a chat about any of the five brands (all entertainment-based, so far) on board: two cable TV networks, with Oxygen promoting its Bad Girls Club series and MTV promoting America's Best Dance Crew; Bon Jovi; and the Bonnaroo and Coachella music festivals.
For concerts and musicians, updates on show dates, giveaways, and a chance to chat with celebrity artists are on offer. "Bon Jovi could jump right in and answer questions for you," GroupMe co-CEO Jared Hecht told Fortune.
"These are essentially brand experiences that give users a great time. It's a really cool way for brands to engage real life groups of friends that are already talking about the brand anyway."
In addition to making money, the featured groups tab will show “people offers that are contextually relevant to what they like and want to do," adds Hecht.
For the TV show-based featured groups, users will receive "reminders of when the show is on, tidbits from the characters, the behind-the-scenes inside scoop and more."
As group messaging apps like Beluga, Kik, and Fast Society verge on viable business models, the question remains will users find messages in this space intrusive or worthwhile if they are based on an opt-in predilection for certain media events and information?
It may have been the belle of the ball at SXSW, but GroupMe needs to keep dancing as fast as it can if it wants to stay ahead of its competition.