After spending a couple days at South by Southwest Interactive (SXSW or "South by," as the hipsters call it), my theory that there's a social app for everything is confirmed. While 99% of these social apps seem to add to the chaos of online living, one stood out as simplifying things: GroupMe. There are a lot of others jumping into this space including Mogwee (owned by Ning), Twilio, Beluga (acquired by Facebook), and numerous others.
GroupMe is a free service that facilitates group texting, or SMS, and allows users to maintain relationships in clusters as well as one-to-one communications. Download the app (it's available for iPhone, Android, and Blackberry), join a group of friends or colleagues, and you can easily broadcast text messages to your group to make plans for dinner or to meet up at a bar. It was a great tool for staying in touch with the contingent of colleagues I traveled with down to Austin.
Beyond keeping up with fellow nerds on spring break at SXSW, GroupMe could prove useful to any group situation, both long- and short-term. For instance, parents with children on a field hockey team could set up a group for the season to share game updates for those who couldn't make it or to arrange rides to and from practice.
Businesses or nonprofits hosting an event could set up a group to alert attendees of last-minute changes, cancellations, or other updates in the days or hours leading up to the gathering. Once the event is over, attendees can easily delete the group, thereby opting out of future communications.
GroupMe could also be used as a reporting tool if one person from a company is attending an event such as SXSW to give updates to the team members back in the office. For those worried about constant intrusions from partying networking colleagues, GroupMe offers ways to mute conversations, go "dark" for a while, or completely opt out of a group (you can rejoin at any time).
One potential use of the tool is as an alternative to Facebook for hosting conversations around an email campaign or blog post. If you're reaching out to VIP customers and don't want the conversation shared in the public light of Facebook, set up a private GroupMe to allow readers to chat and interact. Doing so could be a great way to get feedback as one person could build off the comments of another participant.
I'm a big proponent of trying to keep things simple and less chaotic. GroupMe is an app that helps alleviate the chaos instead of adding to it.