GroupMe Turns Any Phone into a Collaboration Hub
I remember when Twitter was just catching on during my freshman year, I was a total dweeb and made a Facebook group encouraging my Trinity friends to sign up for the service and share their usernames. As it turns out, Twitter wasn’t the easiest thing to explain to people at the time–this is before all the celebrities took it over and CNN decided to integrate it into every story–so I always shared the same hypothetical example of how to use with my skeptical friends, and wrote it in the description of the Facebook Group.
“Imagine I’m going to Whataburger. I could send a “tweet” alerting my friends to this adventure either online or with a text message. Instantly, everyone who opts to receive my mobile alerts will see that I’m going to Whataburger, and can choose to join me. All we need to start this revolution is a minimal level of participation (Twitter will not take over your life like Facebook) from a large number of people.”
As you can imagine, I was a popular guy back then.
Obviously, this isn’t really what Twitter’s built for, but group texting seemed like a perfect service for college students that didn’t, at least to my knowledge, really exist at the time. Two years later, it seems like the tool I’ve been waiting for has finally come along in the form of the free service GroupMe. GroupMe will let you form different groups of phone numbers, and assigns the group a new number. Now any member of the group can text that number to send a message to every other member. It’s a lot easier than scrolling through your contacts list to find ten different people, especially if you don’t have a smooth-scrolling touchscreen smartphone. If that weren’t enough, you can even call the number for an instant conference call.
Beyond using this to plan a burger run with ten friends, it could also be immensely helpful for group projects. Normally if you try to text every member of your group to set up a meeting time, you’ll get responses back from everyone, but only you will see them. There’s no “reply all” button for texting, or at least not one built into every phone. Rather than dealing with this mess, you can make your life easier by taking 10 seconds to set up a disposable GroupMe number so that every text relating to the project is automatically sent to every project member. You can even have a quick conference call to boot.
You’re at a party, you’re drunk, and you want to gather your friends at the front door to catch the cab home. You could try to focus on your screen with dizzy vision for two minutes tracking down everybody in your contacts list, or you could set up a GroupMe group on the ride over to keep everyone on the same page. Nerdy? Yes. Useful? Incredibly.
GroupMe makes no mention of Google Voice integration, but that didn’t stop me from trying when I tested it out. I added my GVoice number (which is different than my actual phone number; I only use it for voicemail) to a GroupMe group, and watched the online interface as it saved and threaded every text message the group sent. I could totally see using this as an instant brainstorming session via text message. Unfortunately, my Google Number texted me every time someone in the group sent a text, so I basically got every message twice. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if this annoyance is worth it.
While it only provided a little additional text message functionality, adding a Google Voice number was incredibly useful when it came to GroupMe conference calls. When you start a conference with your cell phone, your Google Voice number will ring, and then you’ll hear your voicemail message. As soon as you hear that tone, Google will start recording the entire conference call as a voicemail, which it will save and transcribe online, basically adding an entire layer of utility on top of the GroupMe interface, for free.
Have you used any other services like GroupMe? Can you think of some more uses for the tool? Let us know in the comments.