When you are at an event like SxSW it is inevitable that a few themes will emerge. A few years ago it was the power of social media to create dialogues rather than monologues. Last year it was the rumblings of how location based services would change the way we look at the world around us. And this year, its group chats…yes, that’s right group chats.
I recently read an article about how my generation is beginning to feel nostalgic for the ‘90s. The premise was that just enough time has passed that we are no longer looking back and saying, “what was I thinking when I embraced grunge and stayed up all night watching Bevis and Butthead?” Rather, we are longing for yesteryear and missing the days when we could tell our friends that we were “outie” and that they were are an “L 7 wieney” (What? Was that just my friends?). So is this resurgence of the group chat just a reflection that society collectively missing the days of AOL dial up and hearing “You’ve Got Mail” or is it a direct reflection of a need that was long ago passed over for one-to-one communications? My honest answer – I don’t know.
On one hand, the group chat de jour, Beluga, can be quite helpful when trying to organize a group. Not sure where you want to meet for dinner? Don’t just make one person decide, ask everyone. Are you a bridesmaid trying to figure out what to get the bride for the group gift (sorry guys, I write about what I know)? Start a group chat so that no one’s selection is overlooked. Sounds great.
On the other hand, isn’t that what email is for? Or if not email, isn’t this a functionality that BlackBerry has had for…well, ever (hello, BBM)? Maybe services like Beluga are really just a way for other smartphone users to catch up to BB users (wait, did I really just say that???)?
Like I said, I’m really not sure. But to me, this just doesn’t seem like an innovation. And really not something that a brand can logically fit into (aka something I would TOTALLY care about). But it’s a “thing”, it’s out there, people are into it. So at the end of the day, maybe it doesn’t matter if this trend is innovation or nostalgia. It’s something that’s happening and therefore something that shouldn’t be ignored.
So if you are one of the thousands of group chat users, tell me why you like it. Explain it to me. And if you’re not quite sure where this fits in just yet (those of you on my team), give me your best guess at what this trend will ultimately mean for consumers and/or marketers. I’m all ears…