ADOTAS – GroupMe was the talk of the town — the town being Austin — back in March as “group texting” was declared the biggest craze of South by Southwest 2011. Unlike the check-in fad of 2009 and 2010, however, the buzz around group messaging (which is pretty much the equivalent of mobile chat rooms) has not kept up.
But GroupMe was able to raise more than $11 million in funding in its sole year of operation and now VoIP specialist Skype has agreed to acquire the company. (Skype itself is in the process of being acquired by Microsoft). Details such as purchase price were not shared. Apparently GroupMe will continue to operate as a standalone service, although elements of its technology will be incorporated into Skype’s offerings.
Group messaging presents an interesting marketing opportunity — the ability to sponsor group chat rooms (“Hangouts” as they’re called on Google+). Niche social networks like Gaia Online have been perfecting this kind of marketing for a while — a movie studio will sponsor a room on Gaia, an avatar-based social network for teens, and users will gather to the room to watch clips from an upcoming film and converse.
With a mobile group messaging service, imagine the check-in element added in. A brand sponsoring a rock show could invite concert attendees to virtually meet and greet in a mobile branded environment while they wait for the band to get drunk enough to play.
Looking at the bigger picture, Skype and Facebook are buddy-buddy these days (same with Skype’s potential parent Microsoft), so Facebook could effectively offer brand sponsorships or other marketing initiatives along the same lines.